Under the Space Needle--which was dressed in flashing neon lights to make the round top appear to be a flying saucer--gathered Romulans, Vulcans, and blue faced fish creatures.
The Star of the show, announced a loud and excited MC was SULU! Huge shouts and applause, as Sulu walked onto the stage. Star Trek, the TV show, had been canceled years before, but the story had so captured the imagination of young Americans that they would not let it die. In the future were Star Trek movies, TV remakes, endless reruns, DVD sales, and the name of the ship from the show was used for a real space ship, the SS Enterprise. Star Trek was destined to transcend fiction and touch reality.
At this time, though, all that was mostly still in the future. Back then, Sulu (who was really George Takei, an excellent actor who would forever be identified with his character) said he was grateful to be making a living on personal appearances, and he thanked the audience at the UFO convention for the support, with a touch of irony in his voice.
Sulu was to pick the winners of the costume contest. He commented on the great costume designs most of the audience were wearing (and there were many beautifully authentic costumes) and then said with a combination of amazement and humor, "Your costumes are amazing --much better than OURS ever were!"
Then he picked the winners, all of whom rushed to the stage to accept their trophies from Sulu with as much excitement as if they were receiving Academy Awards.
What happened next was one of the funniest bits of stand up comedy I have ever seen, although I do not think it was taken that way by the audience. (I am certain that such encounters were the inspiration for the screenplay of the Star Trek parody movie "Galaxy Quest".)
SULU! SULU! chanted the audience in hysterical joy at having one of their sacred heroes appear in person. These people were serious. It was question and answer time.
"Sulu, what was the red button for?" asked a teenage Klingon complete with forehead ridges, scowling expression and a too-real looking Klingon fighting sword.
"The red button?" asked Sulu.
"You know--the one between the yellow and the green buttons on your console. You never used the red one."
"Well," answered Sulu. "It was never written into the script, I guess." Sulu looked confused.
"But what if it WAS, what if it WAS??" demanded the Klingon. "What would the red button have DONE?"
The chant spread among the audience. "THE RED BUTTON!! THE RED BUTTON!"
"Look," said Sulu, patiently. "You all understand. This was a TV show. This was not real--"
"THE RED BUTTON!! THE RED BUTTON!!--"
"LOOK," said Sulu, now with a touch of impatience in his voice, "the red button did nothing, OK? It was CARDBOARD! The entire set was cardboard. It was not REAL. You guys DO get that, right?"
But to no avail. The same kind of questions continued, until the MC, maybe realizing that Sulu was getting frazzled, announced the Alien Dancing Contest would start.
He took other questions, and amid thunderous cheers and applause, he left the stage. The Star Trek theme blasted from the speakers and wild costumed dancers took the floor.
A little while later, coming around a corner behind the stage, I almost ran into Mr. Takei. And he was kissing a man!
He was most concerned that I may have been a reporter, and explained to me the disastrous consequences such an encounter, if published, would have on his career. His normally dressed, kind-faced 'friend' looked on with concern.
Just then two snake-faced orange velvet robed Aliens with long tails danced by. They were far too involved in each other and their amazing costumes to notice us. We turned to watch them. Ironically, their elaborate costumes made it impossible to tell if they were male or female Aliens. "I don't think you have much to worry about with your fans at a UFO convention," I told him. He laughed and agreed.
I assured Mr. Takei I would keep his secret. He looked very relieved. We talked a few more minutes, and then I walked away.
Thirty years later George Takei "came out." As I predicted, no one really cared. The world had moved on and times had changed. Although gay rights are still controversial, those rights are also far more widely accepted. The future awaits. Although 'Sue-Lou' was still in the closet on Star Track, he WAS there. . . on the control deck . . . alongside a Russian co-pilot and a Black female communications officer and a Green Alien commander with pointed ears, all working together to explore the universe.
Perhaps the unused red button stands for Creative Art and its constant inspiration for the progress of mankind. Push it and we are transported into people with the imagination to become the kind of human beings who can truly learn to live in peace and love our neighbors. Whoever or whatever they may be in the future.
Nylene Schoellhorn lives in Nevada, where she is an activist for saving the wild horses from cattle ranchers and government control.]