Capt. Kirk meets Greg Brady, Gilligan and the Beav in bookstores

March 19, 1994|By Sarah Lyall | Sarah Lyall,New York Times News Service

The barrage probably began in 1992 when Barry Williams, commonly known as Greg Brady, published his memoirs.

"Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg" was a rich mine of trivia, filled with delicious details about Mr. Williams' off-screen necking with Maureen McCormick, who played his stepsister Marcia; his unrequited crush on Florence Henderson, who played his stepmother, and the time he showed up to work high on pot ("Now there was no doubt," he wrote. "Greg was going to be one stoned Brady.")

Mr. Williams said in a recent interview that the book "was a turning point in my acceptance of the past," which is undoubtedly very true. But for Harper Perennial, the publisher, "Growing Up Brady," which was written with Chris Kreski, was a cash cow that sold 250,000 copies and spent 15 weeks on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list.

And its experience emboldened other publishers, who, being publishers, decided it was time to jump as nimbly as they could onto what they hoped would be a long and happy bandwagon.

As a result, former characters from "Gilligan's Island," "The Partridge Family" and "Star Trek" -- to name just a few of the shows -- have written or decided to write memoirs that may or may not find toeholds in the crowded market.

Clearly, publishers are trying to tap the public's relentless obsession with the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the era's television shows.

Many of the shows have returned to the air on nostalgia-fests like Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite, drawing in a new viewing generation.

Dick Friedman, the TV editor of People magazine, said the public wants to know what became of the actors, particularly the younger ones who fell into the post-television nether world when their shows went into syndication.

Such children's fates have always been the subject of mean-spirited speculation. Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady), for instance, was said to have died after her hair got caught in a school bus door and she was dragged through the streets; Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) from "Leave It to Beaver" was said to have turned into a hard-core porn star, and his neighbor Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) was said to have been killed in Vietnam.

"These are the kinds of rumors that went around and gained currency but weren't true," Mr. Friedman said. "You want to know where the characters really ended up and just revisit them for a while."

These days, "Star Trek" memoirs are flying out of actors' word processors at warp speed.

The first one was "Star Trek Memories," (HarperCollins, 1993), in which Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) divulges that Spock's Vulcan hand signal, a raised palm with the four fingers split in a V-shape, came from the Jewish priestly blessing and that Walter Koenig (Chekhov, the sexy assistant navigator) was hired because he looked so much like the Monkees' Davey Jones.

That book, which also tapped into a large subculture's insatiable appetite for even the most obscure information about "Star Trek," its characters, its cast, their feelings and their spin-offs, sold 333,000 copies and spent 11 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Mr. Shatner is working on a new book, for which he has been paid $1.35 million by HarperCollins, which is supposed to be filled with even more tantalizing behind-the-scenes scoops, in this case about the making of the "Star Trek" films. Scott (James Doohan), the prickly but lovable engineer, is also writing a book.

So is Sulu (George Takei), who also plans to describe how as a child, he and his family were sent to live in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. And so is Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), the mini-skirted intergalactic receptionist, whose forthcoming $500,000 book for Putnam promises to reveal details of her affair with Gene Roddenberry, the series' legendary creator.

That's not all. "Gilligan's Island" has already spawned "Mary Ann's Cookbook" (recipes by Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann; published by Rutledge Hill Press, 1993) and at least two memoirs bTC -- one by Russell Johnson, a.k.a, the Professor, and one by Gilligan himself, Bob Denver, whose book also takes in his years as Maynard Krebs on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (Dobie, Dwayne Hickman, is of course planning his own book, for Citadel Press).

Penguin USA chose this winter to release "Lassie: A Dog's Life" by Ace Collins, which reveals that the "wolves" Lassie often fought were actually dogs in disguise.

Forthcoming books include the "Honeymooners" memoirs of Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), to be published by Crown, and David Cassidy's reminiscences about life as the heartthrob on "The Partridge Family," which Warner Books scooped up.

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