Klingons and Vulcans bid 'Spock' adieu in Rosemont

Through conventions, Trekkies live long and prosper together

The Official "Star Trek" Convention faithful flocking to Rosemont this weekend for the 45th anniversary celebration are on a mission to boldly go where countless fans, dozens of cast members and this tired "boldly go" cliché have gone again and again and again and again.

What started on Sept. 8, 1966, with a TV show about a space crew on a mission to "boldly go where no man has gone before" has spawned a cultlike enterprise that includes six television series, 11 movies, hundreds of books, thousands of souvenirs, an army of actors, an encyclopedia of pop culture references and a nation of loyal fans.

The actor who portrayed Mr. Spock in the original TV series, 80-year-old Leonard Nimoy, is making his final "Star Trek" convention appearance today at the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont.

While Nimoy will pose for photographs, sign autographs ($75 a pop) and answer questions about "Star Trek", he's perhaps more interested in talking about his museum-worthy photography and video project with fans who bought $199 tickets to his screening and accompanying lecture about the aesthetics of fine art and conceptual photography. Featuring photographs and interviews Nimoy has conducted with people portraying their hidden, fantasy alter-egos, the project is dubbed "Secret Selves."

Marc Malnekoff's "secret self" is his job managing a Walgreens in Naperville, but at "Star Trek" conventions he's Marok, a warrior Klingon.

"Most Klingons will tell you that we don't care what anybody else thinks," says the 47-year-old Darrien man, who attracts attention by arriving at this convention in his battle costume complete with the eye-catching forehead ridges of the alien warriors.

So how long has he been doing this?

"Conventions? About the last 20 years, the last two as a Klingon," says Malnekoff, who notes that he met his wife by mail through a "Star Trek" role-playing game in the days before the Internet, saw her in person for the first time at a "Star Trek" convention in 1996 and married her the following year.

"Last year, when I came dressed in a Starfleet costume, all the Klingons were giving me dirty looks," says his wife Julie Malnekoff, who sported the telltale look of a "red shirt," a bit character destined to be killed, probably by a Klingon.

"Since we're married, you're a Klingon," her husband says, glad her HipDoq ("That's Klingon for red shirt") days are behind her.

"It's fun," explains John Lang, a 48-year-old McHenry man who works for a large Lake County health care company but is dressed as Capt. Kirk from the original TV series as he reunites with convention buddies Todd Shoemaker, 36, dressed as a captain from a later TV series, and Shoemaker's girlfriend Amanda Calloway, 34, dressed as a commander. They drove in from Kalamazoo, Mich.

The power of "Star Trek" to bring people together and continue to grow as a franchise with endless spinoffs surprises even the actors who have helped build it.

"I wouldn't have thought that," says Connor Trinneer, who spent four years as Cmdr. Charles "Trip" Tucker III on the "Star Trek" TV version "Enterprise" and is still recognized and adored by fans. "I mean Joanie and Chachi didn't quite make it after 'Happy Days.'"

Fellow "Enterprise" actor Dominick Keating, who played Lt. Malcolm Reed, credits the "Star Wars" popularity for adding all things "Star Trek" to the space-themed "feeding frenzy."

While landing other acting roles and voice-over work since their show was canceled in 2005, Trinneer and Keating still make money off the residuals of their "Star Trek" shows, appear at conventions, such as this one produced by Creation Entertainment, where they draw laughs and cheers in the grand ballroom, and even go on cruises to Alaska or Hawaii with fans. And they say they enjoy it all.

"We walk into a hotel for a convention and we're Brad Pitt for a weekend," Keating says.

Doing Q-and-A sessions with fans at the convention, Keating and Trinneer don't wear costumes or pretend to be their characters.

"The fans really want to meet you," Keating says.

The thousand or so fans who hail from far-flung states and foreign nations collect autographs, buy souvenirs, compete in a costume competition and trivia contest, watch "A Klingon Christmas Carol" performed in the made-up language of Klingon with English subtitles, buy vibrating, chirping Tribles and soak up the Trekkie vibe.

"I had no idea this existed," says vendor Judith Daniels, president of Advanced Hair Restoration, an Arlington Heights company that treats baldness, makes wigs for people who lose hair due to cancer treatment, and helps restore hair for people with traumatic injuries. "I just used to sit in my living room and watch the show."

Several years ago, she was online trying to find information about a "Star Trek" movie when she stumbled upon a "Star Trek" forum with someone asking, "Does anyone know where I can buy a Klingon wig?"

"Yeah, I've got 12 of them," thought Daniels, who now sells plenty of handmade Klingon wigs (extra space for forehead ridges) at conventions where she is known as Capt. Jude of

Our nation's acrimonious political climate, with conventions such as this weekend's nearby TeaCon 2011 in Schaumburg featuring the outspoken and controversial Glenn Beck, can't match the unified quest for living well and prospering voiced by this diverse crowd of Trekkies, be they Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans or humans.

"I've seen people I know from last year and from Facebook," says Lang in his yellow Capt. Kirk shirt. "It's a lot of fun."

Stereotypical jokes about Trekkies being losers living in their moms' basements don't bother the Malnekoffs, who admit that they have "more than enough" "Star Trek" goodies on display in their home.

"It's just a lot of fun," Marc Malnekoff says, adding that each of his elaborate homemade costumes probably cost him less than some people might spend on a weekend of golf.

If people think he's weird for dressing up like a Klingon, so be it, Malnekoff says. "My other hobby is model trains and people say the same thing about trains."

  You can stock up on Spock accessories at the Official Star Trek Convention at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont. JOE LEWNARD/
  Judith Daniels, who lives in Streamwood and has an Arlington Heights hair restoration business, sells “alien hair” during the Official Star Trek Convention at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont. JOE LEWNARD/
  Marc Malnekoff, who lives in Darien and works in Naperville, came to the Star Trek convention dressed as the Klingon Marok. JOE LEWNARD/
  Rebecca Julick, left, and Jim Graham of Walton, Ky., are among those lined up to purchase studio still photos during the Star Trek convention at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont Friday. JOE LEWNARD/