FROM SPACESUITS TO MOTHERSHIPS, THE COLLECTION OF LEGENDARY COSTUMES, MODELS AND PROPS AMASSED BY HOLLYWOOD MODEL-MAKER GREG JEIN IS A LOVE LETTER TO ALL THINGS SCI-FI
By Mark A. Altman
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mark A. Altman has been called “the world’s foremost Trekspert” by the Los Angeles Times and is the author of the bestselling two-volume Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission (St. Martin’s Press), as well as co-host of the hit Trek podcast Inglorious Treksperts. In addition, he is a prominent television showrunner and feature film writer/producer whose movies include the award-winning Free Enterprise starring William Shatner and Eric McCormack. His critically acclaimed documentary Greatest Geek Year Ever: 1982 recently debuted on The CW.
Upon laying eyes on Heritage’s remarkable auction of The Greg Jein Collection, you might be inclined to invoke Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade, who once called the Maltese Falcon “the stuff that dreams are made of,” but as you begin to peruse the extensive and diverse array of iconic models, wardrobe and props, it’s easy to see this vast assemblage of legendary movie and television memorabilia as more akin to the immense and priceless collection of Charles Foster Kane.
Anyone who was privy to Greg’s collection over the years would recall the many treasures one could unearth if you were lucky enough to score an invitation to his own personal Xanadu. There, in an unassuming house near Inglewood in Los Angeles, one could find a gateway to galaxies near and far, from Star Trek to Star Wars, Forbidden Planet to Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999 to Logan’s Run, Battlestar Galactica to Buck Rogers.
If he really liked you, Greg might even usher you into an upstairs room where he would open up a small Max Factor box that held his holy grail – a fluffy, Tribble-like hairpiece from the original Star Trek once worn by one of the show’s principals – in the hopes of gauging a dramatic, wide-eyed reaction from his guest. As a journalist, I had an opportunity to meet Greg and see his collection up close. Equally important, my own fandom earned me a place on his annual Christmas card list, which was usually adorned with a scantily clad woman wrapped around an iconic sci-fi artifact that memorably included the robot Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still one holiday season and Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet another. “Oh, bother!”
Greg had an unerring ability to seek out and acquire the most significant items from the TV series and movies he loved most, whether it be Batman’s versatile utility belt, the ANSA (calling it NASA at the time was strictly verboten) astronaut uniform Charlton Heston as Taylor wore while traversing the Forbidden Zone in Planet of the Apes, the rebel X-wing Red One (aka Red Leader) that made an attack run on the Death Star in the 1977 classic Star Wars, or the original filming miniature of the Botany Bay, the sleeper ship that first introduced the character of Khan Noonien Singh to Captain James T. Kirk (and TV viewers around the world) in 1968’s “Space Seed.” Among his vast collection is even the iconic form-fitting, blindingly white Earth Directorate uniform once memorably worn by Erin Gray’s Colonel Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), which seemingly triggered puberty in a generation of young boys around the world in one night.
But Greg was far more than just a collector; he was a remarkable talent in his own right. He was a devoted fan and, perhaps most important, mentor to some of the most talented model-makers, designers and visual effects artists in our business, from Bill George to John Eaves.
The first time I became aware of Greg’s work was reading about him as a kid in the pages of Starlog magazine, where I soon realized what a prodigious talent he was. His legendary work included the mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Ferris wheel and German U-boat from 1941, and myriad Star Trek ships, old and new. The Star Trek models were particularly apropos given that as an early Trekkie (er, Trekker) he contributed artwork (including a sketch of the Klingon D-7 battlecruiser he would later build for the show, as well as the aborted ’70s TV series Star Trek: Phase II) to an early Trek fanzine, Inside Star Trek, in 1968, as well as the popular T-Negative. A miniature of the Phase II battlecruiser also appears in this auction.
In addition, Greg worked on building the Starship Enterprise 1701-D for the Next Generation pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint.” His re-creations of the iconic U.S.S. Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D) and K-7 Space Station from Star Trek’s beloved “The Trouble With Tribbles” for Deep Space Nine’s 30th anniversary tribute, “Trials and Tribble-ations,” were awe-inspiring. But these are only a few of the many models and props he built for such Trek shows as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as well as the motion picture series, including reuniting with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters visual effects maestro Douglas Trumbull to create much of the interior of V’ger for the epic Star Trek: The Motion Picture – this time at an incredibly accelerated rate.
But Greg’s work wasn’t just confined to deep space; you could find it deep under the sea with the brilliant miniature submersibles of The Hunt for Red October or in the eighth dimension in the cult classic Buckaroo Banzai. Now, with the ubiquity of computer-generated imagery (CGI), model-making has largely become a lost art and the legendary models in this collection represent a bygone era of filmmaking that is unlikely to ever come again.
In admiring this remarkable collection, however, it’s abundantly clear the art of the miniature is a true and enduring art form, and Greg was a master practitioner of this art. But most of all he was a dedicated collector and an uber-fan, and by preserving so many of the legendary costumes, models, scripts and props that are up for auction today, he has ensured they will continue to be appreciated and cherished by generations to come long into the 23rd century … and beyond.