03.21.14 // Meeting Denise Crosby at GeekGirlCon ’13

Written by Sarah ”SG-1″ Grant, GeekGirlCon Copy Writer

I found out that Denise Crosby wanted to come to GeekGirlCon ‘13 a few weeks before it was announced to the general public last year. As the primary Copy Writer working on the programming book, I was asked to keep a very firm lid on it before the announcement was made. I couldn’t even tell my mom.

Image courtesy of Denise Crosby

Image courtesy of Denise Crosby

Those were some of the longest weeks of my life.

As a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan from its beginnings in 1987, I was excited beyond belief! I had attended Star Trek conventions from 1988 through 1994 (and now you know how old I am!), but I had never attended a convention with Denise Crosby as the featured guest. I think I assumed I never would, as I had stopped attending conventions.

When Denise walked onto the stage for her panel at GeekGirlCon ‘13, I felt the same thing I had felt at every other convention: heart-pounding excitement! I like to think that I’ve grown as a person since those early days, when I would see a celebrity and nearly pass out. As it turns out, not so much! I listened with rapt attention as she was interviewed by GeekGirlCon returnee and KUOW news reporter Jamala Henderson, and I learned quite a bit more about Denise Crosby than I ever knew.

Denise Crosby came from a show business family which includes her father, Dennis Crosby, and her grandparents, crooner/actor Bing Crosby and actress Dixie Lee. She ran away from that business when she was younger; it’s a very tough business to be in. Denise said in her  panel discussion that, “You can be a great actor, but suck at the business.” Denise wanted to be a journalist; she wrote for her school paper, and she continues to be a news junkie. But she tried out for a school play in college on a whim, loved it, stumbled into getting an acting teacher, and there was no going back. She discovered that what most fascinates her about acting getting to go into worlds and paths you know nothing about, doing it safely, representing a person or character, and being able to come back to her normal life.

Jamala asked Denise to complete a sentence: You know you have to be an actor when… Denise replied, “You have no other skills.” We all laughed at that for a while, and then she said more seriously, “When you walk on a stage and it’s empowering instead of frightening.”

As Lt. Tasha Yar; image courtesy of Denise Crosby

As Lt. Tasha Yar; image courtesy of Denise Crosby

I had always heard that Denise quit in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation after a fight with Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, about her ever-shrinking cast role. However, Denise explained that the decision to leave the series was part of an evolving discussion with Gene regarding the direction of the storyline in the series. Gene’s idea was to run The Next Generation as he had run the original series: all about the captain and his friends. In the original series, that meant Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, and Doctor McCoy (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley); in the The Next Generation, the main trio was split into a quartet: Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Lieutenant Commander Data, and Dr. Crusher (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Gates McFadden). All the other characters in both shows were merely supporting characters whose stories were told briefly, and then dismissed as the development among the main characters became paramount. Gene agreed with Denise that her part wouldn’t offer her much future growth, and he supported her decision to leave to seek other opportunities.

Later in the series, Denise and then-producer Rick Berman thought up a way to bring Lieutenant Yar back, and both Denise and the fans were thrilled with the results. (See ST:TNG episodes “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, “The Mind’s Eye”, “Redemption I”, “Redemption II”, and “Unification II”).

During the interview, Denise spoke about the steady acting work she has had, both in television and movies, since she started working as an actor in the early 1980’s. She has had guest spots in television shows like Days of Our Lives, LA Law, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, The Drew Carey Show, The X-Files, Bones, Mad Men, and most recently, Ray Donovan (Showtime). She has also starred in feature films like Curse of the Pink Panther, Pet Sematary, and Deep Impact, along with many TV movies and short films.

One of the other questions Denise was asked regarded how aging has affected the parts being offered. She said something that I wrote down word for word, because it had such an impact on me: “The culture we live in breeds insecurity, especially if you base your worth on your looks.”

Denise’s age certainly hasn’t affected the way her fans admire her. Those of you who attended GeekGirlCon ‘13 probably saw that Denise had her own table in the dealer’s room, closest to the rest of the meet-and-greet area. I walked past that table quite a few times both Saturday and Sunday of GeekGirlCon ‘13, and she was almost always speaking with someone, taking pictures with fans, or autographing pictures and memorabilia. I finally got up the nerve to go meet her toward the end of the day on Sunday, and she was charming, funny, and very sweet. I asked her if she had been enjoying her time, and she answered very enthusiastically that it was her best convention experience ever. I told her that, as a copy writer, I don’t have a lot of say in who we invite, but that I would love to see her back again. Denise said, “I’d love to come every year! I could be the Wil Wheaton of GeekGirlCon!”

Dear readers, Denise Crosby, someone I always admired as an actress, secured her place in my heart that day. I really hope she comes back to a GeekGirlCon in the future!

Who do YOU want to see at GeekGirlCon ’14?

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