On Sunday the family, friends and fans of Majel Barrett Roddenberry came to Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills to pay their final respects to the First Lady of Star Trek. A large crowd, including many Star Trek luminaries gathered to for the official memorial. Details and photos below.
Trek fans and veterans say goodbye to Majel
Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away on December 18th and there was a small private funeral for the closest friends and family in late December. Today the Roddenberry family held a public memorial for the veteran Trek actress and widow of Gene Roddenberry at The Hall of Liberty at the Forest Lawn.
The crowd of around 300 was a mix of friends, family, colleagues and Trek fans, some of whom came in costume. Majel’s Original Series co-stars Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and George Takei were on hand, as well as many of the lead actors from TNG and subsequent series including Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, Anthony Montgomery, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Armin Shimerman, and Garret Wang. Many notable Trek guest stars were also in attendance, including Arlene Martel, Vaughn Armstrong, Max Grodenchik, John DeLancie, Gary Graham and Chase Masterson. Also paying their respects were a number of Star Trek veterans from behind the camera including Ira Steven Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Rick Berman, David Gerrold, Michael Westmore, Dave Rossi, DC Fontana, and Mike & Denise Okuda.
Photo and flowers outside the hall
The memorial itself was conducted by a number of speakers who were close to Barrett Roddenberry, each coming up to a stage ringed by flowers and large images of Barrett Roddenberry. The brief speeches were often funny and always and all very touching, with most speakers getting emotional. One of the common themes throughout was touching on Majel’s generosity, especially her love for animals and how she was constantly bringing more and more pets and strays into the family. Most also noted Barrett Roddenberry’s boisterous spirit, her parties and her frequent use of ‘colorful metaphors.’ Regular golf companion Sue Anderson got a laugh from the crowd when she noted the first time she met Roddenberry at the Bel Air Club and how she "had never heard a lady speak that way on a golf course before."
Most of the stories were of a personal nature, but former assistant to Gene Roddenberry Richard Arnold recounted stories of Star Trek past, including how Majel and Gene would fight over her getting a role on Star Trek The Next Generation and how when Tracy Torme created the character of Lwaxana Troi for the episode "Haven," Gene told him "you’ve saved my marriage" and Gene told Majel "we have the perfect part for you…and you wont even have to act." Arnold, who works closely with many of the Trek actors at events, talked about how much Majel loved to attend the Trek conventions, especially after Gene’s passing, and noted what a passionate "champion of the fans" she was even taking specific fan causes to Paramount, like keeping a fan club from being shut down in Australia. Arnold, who was on hand when Majel visited the set of JJ Abrams new Star Trek movie, recounted the event saying:
It was a really interesting moment. I was waiting outside of Stage 18 at Paramount. She came through the old Bronson Gate in an electric cart up to the front door. She stepped off the cart and they brought her in while JJ finished the scene he was directing and she watched and asked a lot of questions. JJ came over and stopped production and had everyone gather around in a semi-circle and introduced her as the woman whose husband created the show that none of them would have jobs if it weren’t for him. She got a big round of applause and was a little embarrassed by it. Later he came over and was chatting with us and she said ‘you are really wonderful with your actors and I love what you are doing here’ and he said ‘it’s not me, it is wonderful directors and costumers’ and Majel and I just looked at each other and smiled. He said ‘what?’ and I said ‘it is the Gene speech…Gene always blamed everyone else for the success of Star Trek, but it really is you.’ And I think it was wonderful that did not only did Majel know that Star Trek was in the right hands, but she got to do the voice one last time just a few weeks ago.
And speaking of that voice, the memorial was actually the first public ‘viewing’ of her new voice performance. The event concluded with a tribute video which included a number of images and scenes from Barrett Roddenberry’s long career from TV commercials in the 60s through all the various Star Trek series, to Earth Final Conflict. And capping off a number of scenes showing her work as the computer voice on various Trek shows was a short clip from the new Star Trek feature film. This was from the ‘second scene’ shown in the 20 minute press preview where Chekov was struggling to communicate with the ship’s computer. What was different is now the voice was Majel’s. Like seeing Nimoy say ‘live long and prosper,’ hearing Majel’s voice as the computer will melt the heart of any Trekkie.
The final speaker was Majel’s and Gene’s son Rod, who spoke very frankly about his sometimes trouble relationship with his mother and how he was even surprised to hear her friends talk about how proud she was of him. Rod said that he grew much closer to her in her final years and especially as she became ill and was there with her when she died. Rod ended his remarks by reading a very moving letter he wrote to both of his parents.
In addition to his comments Rod also made a couple of announcement of special memorials for his mother. Firstly, in honor of Majel’s love for animals, the family is making a contribution to the San Diego Zoo for what will become the ‘Majel Barrett-Roddenberry Tiger Maternity Ward.’ More info in this at San Diego’s cbs8.com. In addition, the Celestis Memorial Spaceflights will be flying Gene and Majel’s ashes into space in 2012, more information at the Celestis site.
The event ended with attendees offered the chance to walk by the two urns of Majel and Gene Roddenberry, which were set up at the side of the hall in front of a life-sized wedding photo of the couple, and pay their final respects and leave any flowers or other offerings they had brought along.
All in all the inclusive event was a fitting memorial to Barrett Roddenberry filled laughing, crying, drama and Star Trek. Although it is hard to say goodbye to Majel, for those in attendance, it should be a bit easier.
Marina Sirtis (L) & George Takei (R) w/ Paramount exec A.C. Lyles
(L-R) Nichelle Nichols, Chase Masterson & Walter Koenig
Rick Berman (L) & Brent Spiner (R) w/ Michael Westmore in background
Wil Wheaton and wife (L) speaking to Roddenberry.com’s Trevor Roth (R)
Garrett Wang (L) and Anthony Montgomery (R)
Vaughn Armstrong (L) and Larry Nemecek (R)
[sorry about the closed eyes Larry]
David Gerrold & Dorothy Fontana
Ira Steven Behr (L) & John DeLancie w/ wife (back to the camera – R)
UPDATE: More photos
Friend of the site and professional photographer Al Ortega was also covering the event, and he has uploaded his set at PRPhotos.com. Here is one showing the urns.
More on the passing of Barrett Roddenberry
Condolences from Star Trek luminaries (updated with comments from JJ Abrams and others)