The Star Trek Actor So Beloved The Police Had To Get Involved

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek: The Original Series had a talented cast full of beloved actors, and fans have gone to great lengths over the years to show their affection to fan favorites like William Shatner and George Takei. However, one of the most popular actors from that early show was the late, great DeForest Kelley, who was so popular that he got mobbed by fans even after trying to retire from acting.

To this point, he once described an incident where he tried to take his wife to the movies; before the trailers even started, Kelley was surrounded by so many fans he needed a police escort.

DeForest Kelley Wasn’t Working Much

To really appreciate how wild this story is, you need to understand that DeForest Kelley wasn’t very active in Hollywood at the time because he was offered bad roles after Star Trek: The Original Series ended. “The stuff offered to me after the series ended was crap,” the characteristically blunt actor said.

Noting how he long ago learned the wisdom of setting money aside, he described how he mostly stopped acting to enjoy “living a nice normal life” with his wife and their pets, which included a cat, a dog, and even a turtle.

A Quiet Night At The Theater

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Part of a normal life for DeForest Kelley was taking his wife Carolyn to the movies, and he had a crazy story about visiting New York with her and “tak[ing] in a matinee at the Palace.” His wife went to the bathroom, and the Dr. McCoy actor waited beside an empty candy counter. He wasn’t expecting anyone to recognize him on this occasion, but he was quickly proven wrong in the most dramatic way.

A Police Escort

According to DeForest Kelley, it began with one woman asking him to sign her program, and that led to other theatergoers following suit. By the time his wife got out of the bathroom, “the lobby was packed and she couldn’t get to me.” He said that things got so bad that he had to ask two police officers for an escort to his seat.

Thanks to the police presence, DeForest Kelley and his wife were able to get to their seats without anyone else asking for an autograph. However, this didn’t keep the audience from yelling out “Bones” and “McCoy” while they were walking to their destination. Once seated, the actor thought that he was done signing autographs, but he had one last surprise waiting for him.

Reassured By Nuns

Once in his seat, nearby moviegoers began passing their own programs down for him to sign. He was seated near some nuns, one of whom mentioned how “this must be terrible” and rhetorically asked, “you can’t go anywhere, can you?” That same nun did her best to put everything in perspective for the insanely popular actor: “Just remember, Mr. Kelley, with every blessing that comes, there are penalties.”

An Important Part Of The Franchise

In many ways, the nun’s words proved prophetic: DeForest Kelley was mostly retired at the time, but a few years later, he’d return to Hollywood in a big way with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That film was successful enough to spawn five more sequels prominently featuring his Dr. McCoy character. Kelley even went on to appear in the pilot episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation, effectively passing the torch to the franchise’s latest heroes.

While it was probably overwhelming to him and his wife, we are absolutely tickled by this story of De Forest Kelley receiving so much love from an adoring public. He was an integral part of The Original Series and its subsequent films, but his contributions sometimes seem overshadowed by those of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. But Star Trek was a house he helped build, finally proving his McCoy character wrong: as it turns out, he’s a doctor and a bricklayer. 

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