Strange New Worlds Issue 10 - Oct/Nov 1993
A Little Piece of Star Trek
An interview with the "First Lady of Star Trek," Majel Barrett
by Jo Davidsmeyer
I had the pleasure of meeting Majel Barrett this past May while enjoying the sun
and warm breezes of the Caribbean on SeaTrek '93. But while partaking of the delights of
fun in the sun, my mind kept returning to a cold December twenty-five years earlier. In
the winter of '68, two small girls myself and "little" Donna Arthur
discovered the magical power of four sheets of paper to ignite the imagination. To
think that we could own a script of our favorite TV show, or hold in our hands a piece of
the actual film! In that pre-VCR culture, this was nothing short of miraculous. By
winter's end we had committed to memory the mimeographed pages of the Lincoln Enterprises
catalog. We had re-enacted each episode, trying to decide which script to purchase. We had
written our own original stories. More important to our parents, we had entertained
ourselves through a dreary Long Island winter. And this wonderful flight of imagination
began with a mere request for a photo from Lincoln Enterprises. . .
SNW: Majel, most Trek fans are well familiar with you, of course, as an actress,
but many arent familiar with you as an entrepreneur. They dont even know about
Lincoln Enterprises. How long ago did you form this company?
MAJEL: Lincoln has been in existence for probably almost a hundred years. It was
originally Lincoln Publishing and it was owned by another gentleman many, many years
before. His attorney was Leonard Maislich. For some reason or another he gave the
incorporation to Leonard. I dont know how it basically happened, but it really
belonged to Leonard Maislich until he gave it to me in the early eighties. It [Lincoln]
was merely set up for Gene to handle fan mail for Star Trek. Isaac Asimov had once
written a very intelligent question to Gene that had somehow or other ended up in the fan
mail division. In answer to the question, Isaac received an autographed picture of the
SNW: How wonderful!
MAJEL: So Isaac called Gene and Gene in a fit of rage and everything said,
"Were gonna handle this fan mail ourselves, darn it!" So he asked me if
Id take it over and thats basically how it started. Then when Desilu no longer
had enough money -- you know, they figured they had a dying show anyway -- they said
"Well, were not going to give you any more money to send out pictures."
But fans were still sending in and asking for them, so the thought was now that "Gee,
we don't have the money for this, but maybe if they want it enough, theyd be willing
to pay for it." So we would send a letter, "Thank you for your request,"
and so forth and would you be willing to do this, to pay for it, and they said YES! So we
made just a small list at first and told them how much the pictures would cost, or a
calendar, or a writer's guide, or whatever they wanted, and thats how we got
started. We also answered questions, whatever questions they had, at the same time. So
that was how it started. From there on in it got a little bit bigger and a little bit
bigger. But we were always still doing peer group promotions . . . people just like us
talking with others just like us.
SNW: Have you expanded beyond the original intent of Lincoln?
MAJEL: We havent expanded beyond the original intent, actually, but
were about to. We used to carry just memorabilia. If it didnt exist in the
show, we just didnt carry it. In other words we werent into the games and
things like that. We work with the Writers Guild so we can sell scripts exactly as they
are used in the show. They look the same, they are the same. Page for page they are the
actual script. We used to have [original] film clips which, of course, weve run out
of. They were just little film clip frames, but everyone liked them so much because they
were a little piece of Star Trek. And that was our aim, to let everyone have a
small piece of Star Trek. That was basically how we kept the show on the air.
SNW: And I think you were rather successful at that.
MAJEL: It turned out to be much better than we thought. The first year when they
did cancel us it made it so much easier to write a letter to the colleges and so forth,
saying, Hey, were going to get canceled would you write a letter and heres
what you say on it and how you do it and who you say it to. And Bjo Trimble and her
husband were very instrumental. They had a bunch of clubs organized. And so what appeared
to be one of the miracles of the century really was quite carefully orchestrated. But it
worked very well the first year. And it really did catch on. Its not like we were
responsible for every million letters that came in, but it was something that did catch
on. But then the second year when we needed the same thing to happen again we already had
a mailing list of five to six hundred thousand. So we asked them to please do it again.
And, of course, they did and, of course, we stayed on for a third year. But that was kind
of the end of it. So, yes, we [Lincoln Enterprises] feel fairly responsible for Star
Trek being here in the first place. The rest is all history.
SNW: You said you were about to move the company in a new direction. What do you
mean by that?
MAJEL: Id like to get more commercial with it. Id like to go in for
the dolls and the plates, the games and the electronic parts and so forth. In other words,
not just memorabilia, but merchandise.
SNW: Do you produce the merchandise yourself?
MAJEL: We've always produced the merchandise ourselves. When we handle the other
stuff, we wont be making the games, of course, the action figures, etc. Those we
will buy from the wholesalers.
SNW: How large is Lincoln Enterprises, employee-wise.
MAJEL: Theres only two, three including myself.
SNW: How do you go about promoting the company?
MAJEL: We have never bought a mailing list in our lives. Just people find out
about us, know about us, and write in to us. So we dont have any unsolicited names
and we also dont sell our list.
SNW: Im sure your fans appreciate you protecting that information. God
knows we get on enough mailing lists.
MAJEL: Isnt it awful! Thats why I decided, no, no! Were never
gonna do that.
SNW: Whats the most interest that your customers, clients have. Is it
photos, scripts, what?
MAJEL: Since we have the only legal place in the world to buy Trek scripts I
would say that they do want a lot of scripts. But everything varies. Theres a lot of
jewelry and the pins and the communicators and stuff that is worn; theres a lot of
interest in patterns, for example. We sell patterns to the costumes so fans can make their
own. There are places that make them, but theyre terribly expensive and weve
always kept our prices down way, way, way low because Gene felt as though he wanted
everyone to be able to have them. So weve kept it way down. We really havent
geared ourselves in all these twenty-seven years toward a profit and wed like to
SNW: Youre certainly deserving of it at this point. Is your son associated
with this enterprise at all?
MAJEL: No, no, not all.
SNW: Too busy with his school work?
MAJEL: Yes, and with girls.
SNW: At his age he should be. Any new items available through Lincoln?
MAJEL: We have a new insert were putting in highlighting all our Deep
Space Nine products: the Bajoran pin, the Bajoran communicator pin, and the Bajoran
pip thats worn on the collar.
SNW: Do you have the earrings as well?
MAJEL: We will soon.
SNW: Great. I know those are hard to come by at a lot of the conventions.
MAJEL: Theyre not difficult to make but they do have to be made up. We do
have a new item, which has just gone real well, it is like the communicator pin rhinestone
earrings theyre really, really brilliant, very colorful. And theres an
accompanying brooch that goes with them. We also have a pendant. Very, very colorful, very
interesting, very unique. Out of colored stones.
SNW: Simulated emeralds?
MAJEL: Yes. Were working on a brand new catalog, too. But I cant
promise when it will be out.
SNW: I noticed on the cruise [Seatrek '93] you had those wonderful
hats. Did you make those yourself?
MAJEL: Yes! I just had a marvelous time doing it. I saw this great hat once. I
liked it right away, and I asked how much it was. And, oh! It was far too much! I walked
away from it. It took me two more times walking past it until I said Ive got to have
one. I was looking at it, and looking at it carefully, and I said, "I can make them
cheaper than this, for heavens sake. Of course I can!" So I went downtown to
all the wholesale houses and I bought the hats, I bought the ribbons, I bought the beads,
and everything. Then I sat down to make one. Well, the first one I think took me about
eight hours. It still takes about 2-1/2 hours. Ive since found out that , no, you
cant make it cheaper than what I bought it for. Theres just no way. And, of
course, when I pushed them off on my helper, she took one look at em and said,
"Not me, boy!" All those little coins that you see on them there, those have to
be put on one by one, jump ring by jump ring, onto the loop on the braid. So I do it on
airplanes, just from one place to another. I get em done quite easily there as a
matter of fact. They really didnt have anything to do with Star Trek, but I managed
to put an insignia on em and so they became Star Trek hats
SNW: Each one lovingly made by hand.
MAJEL: Yes, consequently, none of them are the same. And all of them are way
under priced, I can tell you, for the amount of time I put into them. But its gotten
to the point of where they expect them now. And Im just not into letting people
down. So I just keep on doing it. I could kick myself every year, but I do it anyway.
SNW: Well, they were a wonderful addition to the cruise, people just loved them.
MAJEL: Thank you.
SNW: Thank you very much and it was such a pleasure meeting you on the cruise.
MAJEL: I hope you had a good time.
SNW: I had a wonderful time! Im ready to sign up for the 95 cruise.
MAJEL: I am, too! It was a ball. And I hadnt been to any of those places
either, so it was a particular joy for me.
. . . Long ago the possibilities presented to me in a four-page catalog also brought
me to places I had never been. What a particular joy that was for me and the hundreds of
thousands of other fans who also dreamed of being transported to new worlds.
In the present, that dog-eared catalog is long gone. The film clip we ordered is lost.
My companion on those flights of fancy has since grown, married, become a mother, and been
carried away by the drift of time. But the memories and the dreams remain. l
For a color catalog write toto: