A Hampton Girl’s Trek to Love
Life was very good in 1974. I was ten. The clothes were funky and colorful. Television sitcoms were funny, and music still had harmony and melody, which I was learning to appreciate from my first- and third-grade teacher, Belle Simon, Paul Simon’s mom. There were limited media outlets for news reporting, and children still went outside to play instead of staring at screens all day. My dad was working as a civil engineer and my mom was teaching English at the “Fame” school of Performing Arts in Manhattan. Best of all, we spent our weekends and holidays away from New York City, at our newly built home in East Hampton. My mother had discovered this exquisite beach community in the early 70’s after hearing about it from a friend. After purchasing land and having our home built, we became die-hard Hamptonites years before it became known as, “The Hamptons.”
East Hampton back then was not what it is today. It was charming, quiet, affordable, and unspoiled. Traffic actually flowed (imagine that) and one could easily find a spacious spot on the Main Beach. Long before Tiffany and Coach found their way to Main Street, East Hampton shops were small, many family-owned and several sold local crafts and produce. One of my all-time favorites was Victoria’s Mother…oh how I miss that store! I spent most of my Hamptons summers at the beach when I was not ushering at Guild Hall. In my evening off hours, like so many other kids, my window on the world was television. My favorite show from the 60’s was, and continues to be, Star Trek, which I loved because it was set in outer space and I could watch it every night on WPIX-TV. I often imagined that I was a crew member aboard the USS Enterprise and dreamed of kissing the handsome starship Captain, James T. Kirk, played by the dreamy William Shatner.
One night at home in East Hampton, when I was awake later than I should have been, I saw a television commercial for something called a “Star Trek Convention,” which was being held at New York City’s Commodore Hotel, which is now the Grand Hyatt, and begged my dad to take me there.
And my wonderful father did take me there—all the way from East Hampton to that Star Trek convention in Manhattan, where there were all kinds of fun things going on—simultaneously! There were science fiction author panels in one room, futuristic art in another, Star Trek episodes playing all day in yet another, and the “Dealer’s Room,” that magical place where they sold everything from a pair of pointed Vulcan ears that fit over your own ears, to adorable plush furry reproductions of the loveable alien creature known as a Tribble. But the Grand Ballroom was where the actual cast of the show came to speak, and that’s where I wanted to be.
The convention host, a 19-year-old named Steven Lance, was on stage and he immediately caught my eye because I thought he was adorable and resembled the late actor Freddie Prinze. The highlight of that day for me was seeing the real Captain Kirk – in person – on stage. There he was, talking, smiling, laughing and sharing stories of working on the TV series that was cancelled after only 79 episodes. This was it…my chance to finally meet…and maybe even kiss Captain Kirk! So before William Shatner’s next appearance on stage I approached the convention’s host without an ounce of hesitation.
While I was setting up for the next program, I noticed the top of a head poking above the end of the stage. “Sir,” a voice asked. “Sir? Hi. My name is Lisa Wartur. Can I meet William Shatner?” I smiled, and tried my best to not hurt this adorable child’s feelings but my stage sarcasm kicked in and I just blurted out, “I’m sorry little girl. There are 3,000 fans here today and THEY ALL want to meet William Shatner. He’ll be signing autographs later in the Dealer’s Room, so you can go get on line there to meet him.” A little dejected, she walked away and I went back to coordinating the seating arrangements for the dais.
This same scenario played out a couple more times with this tenacious tot asking, “Can I meet him now?”
Now I’m not exactly sure if it was her confidence or those big brown eyes, but I gave in and went backstage to clear it with Shatner. “Bill, there’s a very persistent little girl out there who desperately wants to meet you. Can I bring her back here to say hello? Then with that familiar Kirk hesitation he said, “Okay. But just her–don’t bring anyone else back here.”
I remember Steve taking me backstage to meet William Shatner…I even got to sit on his lap and kiss him on the cheek! After we got back to the ballroom, I told Steve that I wanted to be his assistant, and with my dad’s permission, I became the youngest “Convention Cadet,” a role I joyously filled for the next six years. Steve and I kept in touch for a while after I went away to college. He got married and I grew up, went to college and grad school, and also married.
No matter how many places I have traveled to, visited and settled in over the years, East Hampton has always been where I have always felt the most grounded. I used to sit on a large rock at Flaggy Hole Beach in Springs, which I liked to call my “thinking rock.” My parents and I, along with our miniature schnauzer, Puddins also had many good times on the Sound on our boat, affectionately christened, “Love Boat,” which we moored in pretty much every marina along Three-Mile Harbor Road over the years.
Star Trek remained a constant familiar thread in my life and when the “new” film intended for the younger generation was released on May 8, 2009, I thought of my old friend and Star Trek mentor and was able to find him online. I wrote Steve an e-mail to see if he still remembered me after 30 years. Much to my surprise and delight, he answered back later that same day, “Of course I remember you.”
While I was mostly doing corporate narration, and voicing radio commercials, it was nice to have someone I could talk to and relate to. . . not just about Star Trek, but show business in general. We were just good friends, but life got in the way and we lost touch.
Then, on the evening of September 8th last year, I received an e-mail from Lisa wishing me a “Happy Star Trek 50th Anniversary,” and decided to phone her. “You know, even though I had hosted nearly a dozen conventions for eight years, and even appeared as an alien crew member in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, not one member of my family, friends, or even any of my fans called or wrote to me on this really momentous occasion…all except you that is,” I said.
We naturally spoke about Star Trek for a while and reminisced about those convention days when she was ten and I was 19 and then turned to more personal matters. “So, you know I’m divorced,” I said, to which she responded with, “Huh? Wow—so am I!” I then said, rather off-handedly, with no real forethought, “So, why don’t we get together?” “Okay!” We have been together ever since.
I have already introduced Steve to my parents, but equally, if not more, importantly, I have introduced him to East Hampton, which he just loves—how could he not! Steve and I have walked the Main Beach, attended the art fair in Amagansett, toured the Pollock-Krasner House, chilled out in Sag Harbor, and dined on the finest seafood EH has to offer. We spend as much time as possible there and are now making plans to settle in East Hampton near my parents. Alas, the thinking rock of my childhood has long since sunk below the sand and sea, but I still find myself drawn to that East Hampton beach whenever I need to find solace and I am still able to think better there than anywhere else…and now I have someone very special in my life to “think there” with me– even without my special rock. Steve and I plan to have a Hamptons wedding here next year and I like to fantasize about William Shatner presiding. The date? September 8th, of course.