LANDMARK AUCTION FEATURES 500-PLUS PROPS, COSTUMES, MODELS AND PHOTOS FROM ‘STAR TREK,’ ‘CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND,’ ‘STAR WARS’ AND MORE
By Robert Wilonsky
Greg Jein was a giant among the Hollywood illusionists who created small things to fill big screens. The model- and miniature-maker never left his hometown of Los Angeles. Yet he was never earthbound: Jein spent decades introducing us to aliens who brought their motherships to Earth, and he sent us soaring time and again into space, the final frontier.
Jein, who died at 76 last year, was nominated for Academy Awards and Emmys, hailed as a magician and beloved as a mentor. Among Hollywood’s special effects wizards, Jein was heartbeat and historian, craftsman and custodian. His life’s story might have made the perfect film.
A fan first, foremost and forever, he made models when he was little. By the time Jein reached his mid-30s, he was a twice-Oscar-nominated maker of motherships, airplanes, city blocks and other models for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 1941, both directed by Steven Spielberg.
“Greg loved what he did, creating things with his hands,” says Jerry Chang, Jein’s first cousin. “He could see in his mind things other people couldn’t.”
On October 14-15, Heritage Auctions is honored to offer the entirety of Greg Jein’s vast and unparalleled assemblage, which includes his prized trove of models and memorabilia and the cherished miniatures he made. The landmark Greg Jein Collection Hollywood Platinum Signature® Auction counts among its bountiful highlights one of the largest collections of Star Trek props, costumes, models, and press and production photos ever offered, from The Original Series to every big- and small-screen sequel and spinoff that followed. They’re joined by some of the most significant pieces from sci-fi and cinema history, spanning his beloved 1940s and ’50s serials, including Spy Smasher and Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe, to 1960s TV shows such as Batman, The Green Hornet and Lost in Space to such momentous films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Forbidden Planet and Star Wars.
None of the materials in The Greg Jein Auction have ever been available to the public. Most weren’t even made to survive the passage of time, and some would not have lasted were it not for Jein, who friends and colleagues say rescued much of this material from history’s dustbin and studio’s dumpsters. He also traded with colleagues and bought props and costumes from such places as the original Larry Edmunds Bookshop, where dear friend and fellow model-maker Lou Zutavern says Jein acquired – “for a few hundred dollars, which in the late 1960s was a lot of money” – the collection of Batman utility belts and props available in this auction.
“Collecting is an act of love [whose] essence is found not in the objects themselves but in the pleasure that they provide,” The New Yorker’s Richard Brody recently wrote. Jein found pleasure – and inspiration and gratitude and wisdom – in every piece and part he accumulated.
“Greg loved this craft – loved the whole world he lived in,” says his old friend, Heritage Auctions’ Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena. “He was an inspiration. Being able to handle his collection is one of the most significant things I’ve ever done because I feel like I am the custodian of my friend’s treasures.”
More than 550 treasures, to be specific, among them models and miniatures that loom like twin suns over the pop-culture landscape.
They include the screen-matched, fully articulated Red Leader X-wing filming miniature from 1977’s Star Wars used during the riveting assault on the Death Star. In any other auction, this scorched model – with the tiny pilot in his teensy cockpit, his trusty R2 unit tucked in behind him – would be the centerpiece, the showstopper.
Yet Jein also preserved one of the few surviving Imperial Stormtrooper costumes from George Lucas’ space opera. The model and costume have been photo-matched to their respective star turns in the film that birthed a forever franchise. Jein also spared from the dustbin of history one of the most critical keepsakes from Lucas’ first entry in the Skywalker saga: the production visual effects storyboard binder from Star Wars, adorned with designer Ralph McQuarrie’s original 1976 logo.
Jein, as much student as master of the miniature craft, likewise preserved one of the only known surviving space suits from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The six-piece ensemble in this auction, including the helmet and the backpack, hails from the sequence on the moon, where the monoliths signal to the Firstborn that humans have taken another step in their evolution.
The special effects wizard behind 1968’s 2001 was Douglas Trumbull, who Jein worked alongside on Close Encounters. And from that film comes one of the auction’s smallest offerings and one of its biggest attractions: the mothership maquette made for Spielberg’s 1977 masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Jein can be seen holding this majestic miniature on the making-of documentary, as Spielberg discusses the inspiration (an oil refinery at night and “the lights of the San Fernando Valley, upside-down”) that led to Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual rendering.
“It was just made out of pieces of wood and wire,” Jein said. Spielberg and visual-effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull approved the design, said the model-maker, and “this was the springboard for the final design of the mothership.” That heart-stopping creation now resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
The mothership would be lost without its beacon toward home – Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, or at least the miniature version of the national monument to which Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon were mysteriously drawn. The Devil’s Tower offered in this auction was Jein’s copy, crafted from his original mold and painted to look as it did in the film. It’s such a visceral piece from one of the 1970s’ greatest films one can almost hear John Williams’ theme in its details.
Anchoring this event are the Star Trek keepsakes Jein adored like nothing else in his collection. Zutavern recalls those long-ago days when he and Jein would have to take photos or capture Super 8 films of televised Trek episodes to figure out how to make their own U.S.S. Enterprise models or phasers and communicators.
“We watched these things a million times, and we would study each frame,” Zutavern recalls. “We’d find a weird thing, and we’d work it out. It went from something we loved to watch to something we loved working on. That was a big thing with Greg.”
Jein’s Trek collection should never have lived this long, much less prospered this well. It includes among its copious treasures two of the few surviving models from the series’ initial three-year run: the more than 3.5-foot-long SS Botany Bay from “The Space Seed” episode in which the Enterprise crew first encounters Khan Noonien Singh and the Galileo shuttlecraft so popular it once had its own episode (“The Galileo Seven”) and an AMT model kit in the 1970s.
Jein had his hands in almost every Star Trek project since 1977, dating back to the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series, for which he created a Klingon battlecruiser that soars in this auction alongside its fearsome counterpart made for The Next Generation. For Doug Trumbull, Jein also led the team that built the 50-foot-long V’ger model used in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, seen in conceptual artwork and the architectural shot model featured in this auction.
From Robert Wise’s The Motion Picture comes another key offering in this event: the Surak filming miniature, which looks enormous onscreen as the long-range Vulcan shuttle docks with the Enterprise to deliver Mr. Spock to his former crewmates. The Surak, designed by Andrew Probert and Richard Taylor, remains a popular AMT model kit, given its prominence in the film and significance to its story.
Jein continued working on Trek films and TV spinoffs, including The Next Generation (he worked on the Enterprise-D model seen in the pilot), Deep Space Nine (for which he was Emmy-nominated) and Voyager. The USS Voyager concept maquette built by Jein and based on Rick Sternbach’s design is among this auction’s coveted centerpieces.
Jein loved Trek even before it aired: Somehow, so the legend goes, he acquired scripts from Gene Roddenberry’s series before it made its NBC debut on September 8, 1966. In time, he wound up befriending the series’ designers and prop masters, which is how Jein came to assemble a staggering wardrobe collection that includes almost every outfit William Shatner wore during his never-ending mission as Captain James Tiberius Kirk; the numerous tunics and uniforms worn by the command crew, including Mr. Spock (even his Vulcan robe from The Voyage Home), Dr. McCoy, Lt. Uhura, Mr. Sulu, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott and Nurse Chapel; and copious phaser pistols and rifles (including the laser pistol from the first pilot, “The Cage,” and this extremely rare Hero Type-2 phaser), communicators and tricorders (among them, this Wah Chang-built tricorder from The Original Series) used during Trek’s voyages on screens big and small.
Jein also preserved Spock’s ka’athyra, the Vulcan lute strummed in a handful of Original Series episodes, including “Amok Time” and “The Conscience of the King”; the ray generator called into duty during several Original Series episodes; and the Universal Translator that Kirk used to talk to the Gorn in “Arena.” There’s something for fans of nearly every episode of The Original Series, from the ahn-woon of “Amok Time” to the agonizer used in “Mirror, Mirror” to The Great Teacher of All the Ancient Knowledge intended to restore “Spock’s Brain.” The Trek offerings in The Greg Jein Auction are nearly as vast as the final frontier itself.
“We all have our favorites, and Star Trek was Greg’s – it was his true passion,” says Maddalena. “Over half the auction is Star Trek. There are seven Captain Kirk tunics and outfits, which was so Greg. It’s mindboggling when you think about it: This auction features command tunics and the more casual wraparounds from Season 1 and Season 2 of The Original Series, the formal uniform from ‘Space Seed’ and ‘Court Martial,’ the metallic gold vest from ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ the uniform only worn in The Motion Picture, the jacket from The Wrath of Khan. You’d be lucky to have one of those; he had all seven. That’s Greg Jein.”
Jein’s résumé extended well outside of Trek’s orbit, as he spent decades working on a dizzying array of cult favorites and blockbusters. Among their beloved ranks: Lynda Carter’s first spin as Wonder Woman, Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Hunt for Red October, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar for Christopher Nolan, HBO’s adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America and Mulan, his final film.
His body of work spanned over five decades and myriad genres, beginning with Flesh Gordon, the (rather tame) porn parody that launched numerous Emmy- and Oscar-winners’ careers, including makeup master Rick Baker. So, of course, this auction features Jein’s first big-screen miniature ship: Dr. Flexi Jerkoff’s rocket, a playful homage to Hans Zarkov’s beloved rocket from the Flash Gordon serials that starred Buster Crabbe in the 1930s.
Here, too, is another of Jein’s earliest models, the titular Dark Star from John Carpenter’s 1974 directorial debut of the same name. Years later, while working on Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 Starship Troopers, Jein made another starship that would bear its creator’s name: This auction features the extravagantly detailed battle-damaged transport ship called the Greg Jein. And for Spielberg, who served as executive producer of 1987’s *batteries not included, Jein made the five adorable Fix-Its offered here – those living robots who stole the film from legends Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
Jein’s second collaboration with Spielberg, and his second Oscar nomination, is represented here with several items from the manic World War II comedy 1941. One is the Curtiss P-40E Warhawk “Flying Tiger” prototype filming miniature, which serves as a reminder of Jein’s model-building childhood: The plane flown by John Belushi’s Wild Bill Kelso was cast from the molds of hobby-store models. The hyper-realistic miniature bait shack featured in the Ocean Park Pier sequence, which famously features the runaway Ferris wheel, underscores Jein’s mastery of tools as basic as wood, metal and a paintbrush.
Jein’s collection grew to such epic proportions it was housed all over Los Angeles, in friends’ workspaces and in houses where Jein stored – and restored – ships, helmets and other props from such TV shows as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Space: 1999, Battlestar Galactica (including a Colonial Viper hero filming miniature) and V. All of that is here, as well, alongside other treasures and trophies from the films and shows helmed by the filmmakers whose work was inspired and influenced by the man for whom this auction is named, including Charlton Heston’s ANSA flight suit from Planet of the Apes.
“Greg didn’t collect things for their value,” says Jerry Chang. “He collected because he enjoyed these things.”
And the thing he enjoyed most of all was the double-decker bus filming miniature from 1943’s The Dancing Masters, made toward the end of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s big-screen careers. Zutavern says Jein was desperate to get his hands on the large model, which 20th Century Fox was storing at its “ranch,” which, in 1974, was acquired by California and turned into Malibu Creek State Park. The studio was demolishing its storage facility, Zutavern says, at which point Jein made Fox a deal: “They said, ‘For this amount of money, you have this many days to get this stuff out of here.’ Greg just wanted that bus, but everything else he saved, too” – including material from Lost in Space, such as the miniature all-terrain chariot, and Land of the Giants – “right before they leveled it.”
What studios too often saw as trash, Jein revered as invaluable treasures – links to the past, paths to the future. This auction is possible only because Greg Jein saw the enormous value in Hollywood’s most minuscule things.
“Greg was the ultimate custodian, keeping intact this massive archive never for profit, never for financial gain,” Maddalena says. “This is who he was. This auction is a testament to Greg’s perseverance and his passion.”
ROBERT WILONSKY is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.