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Writing on 'Star Trek' an Enterprise in Itself

November 11, 1994|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After all these years, Leonard Nimoy is unsure why "Star Trek" still enthralls.

"I've tried to come at that question many times," says the man who was Spock. "There are a lot of factors: hope for the future, mankind survives, the teamwork of the characters, the avoidance of pandering and talking down to the audience, the scientific credibility. It all adds up to an interesting theatrical experience."

Judging from bookstore shelves these days, the publishing industry is counting on the power of that experience to launch not only "Star Trek" novels and other tie-ins, but also cast members' stories. As the seventh "Star Trek" movie is prepared for release next week, three memoirs are competing for fans' attention as they offer views of squabbling on and off the set.

"Star Trek Movie Memories" (HarperCollins) is William (Capt. Kirk) Shatner's off-camera look at the seven lucrative flicks about the Starship Enterprise. He draws on interviews with fellow cast members, as he did in writing the earlier "Star Trek Memories."

Nichelle (Lt. Uhura) Nichols writes in her new "Beyond Uhura" (Putnam) of an eventful career, which included work with Duke Ellington and a dramatic moment when Martin Luther King urged her to continue playing Uhura because he saw the character as a positive role model for blacks.

But she also fires at Shatner: "I'd witnessed Bill change from my hero to an insensitive, hurtful egotist and had seen his callousness affect everyone around him," she writes.

George (Sulu) Takei's "To the Stars" (Pocket Books) tells of being interned as a child with other Japanese Americans during World War II and later becoming politically active in Los Angeles.

He, too, tweaks Shatner as a self-absorbed grandstander who often made it look "like some deep-seated insecurity was driving his congenital need to be the star. " In a recent promotional visit to Howard Stern's radio show, Takei joined in a snickering discussion of the different hairpieces that Shatner has worn on TV and in films.

So far, the three books appear slow to catch on; none of them appeared last Thursday on USA Today's list of the top 150 sellers in the country, although Shatner's title finished last week as one of the more popular buys in Barnes & Noble stores.

On a separate front, Shatner and Nimoy are pursuing fiction unrelated to "Star Trek."

Shatner's "Tek Power," the sixth in his series of novels about futuristic private eye Jake Cardigan, was published this week by Putnam.

Leonard Nimoy's Primortals, a line of comic books that goes on sale next week, introduces a species that escaped the Earth in prehistoric times, evolved on other planets and now returns home to interact with modern man. The boldly drawn primortals, which look like dinosaurs, reflect a creative collaboration between Nimoy and the prolific writer Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992.

"Together we came up with the idea of aliens heading to Earth who are, in fact, coming home," Nimoy says. He welcomes the chance to go back to the future by working in a medium he enjoyed as a child. As he puts it, "Comic books are a wonderful canvas to paint on."

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Backing a Winner: Villard Books publisher David Rosenthal had a winning piece of last weekend's title fight action between Michael Moorer and George Foreman, but he still emerged $100,000 poorer. That's the bonus Villard had agreed to pay for Foreman's autobiography if the 45-year-old Mack truck won the bout--"and we are gladly paying it," Rosenthal says, on top of an advance in the mid-six figures.

Foreman's unexpected return to heavyweight glory is only part of the story he plans to tell with collaborator Joel Engel. There's the inspirational angle and his work in Christian ministry.

Instead of publishing "By George" (Rosenthal's choice of a title) next fall, the book will be moved up to spring. Foreman was represented by Los Angeles attorneys Henry Holmes and Miriam Altshuler, who is better known for handling literary properties.

"As I watched the fight, I thought I'd save some money and still come out a winner, because George would still be a popular guy," Rosenthal said. "Then, when the knockout came, I realized I had a champion under contract."

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Restyled McCall's: Five months after Gruner & Jahr Co. bought the New York Times Company Women's Magazines, the best-known of the lot, McCall's, has unveiled a redesign that includes a greater proliferation of photos and the addition of 16 editorial pages.

And who better to herald the overhaul in the December issue (and help stem a decline in newsstand sales) than the ubiquitous Kathie Lee Gifford. She seems to front one woman's mag after another before starting the circuit all over again.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, McCall's announced the appointment of new Editor in Chief Sally Koslow. Kate White, who signed off on the redesign and appears on Page 3, recently left for Redbook as the successor to Ellen Levine, who had segued to Good Housekeeping.

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