Did you know that Gates McFadden once studied mime? Or that Brent Spiner is her son’s godfather?
Did you know that Gates isn’t really her name? Well, it kind of is. Gates is her middle name. It was her mother’s maiden name. Her full name is Cheryl Gates McFadden. She was born in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, on March 2, 1949. I always used to wonder if she and Majel Barrett ever had any chats about growing up in the Buckeye State (Ms. Barrett was born in Columbus, which I think is about 2 hours away from Cuyahoga Falls). For a while, though, she used to tell people that her birthday was August 28 because she was a little worried about telling people her real birthday. I find that strange but in an endearing way since it was only the month and day she changed—not the year.
One of my aunts used to work with a woman from Cuyahoga Falls who claimed to remember a little red-haired girl named Cheryl who took private dance lessons at the local studio. I don’t know whether or not this is true, but how awesome would it be if it was? I don’t really know why that would be awesome…it just would be.
Gates started her career as Cheryl and as a choreographer. For Jim freakin’ Henson. All those dancing Muppets? They were “step-ball-changing” to Cheryl McFadden’s lead. Well, really she was the one helping the puppeteers and the actors know where to go and what to do to make their Muppety appendages a little more life-like. She did this for The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. She can even be seen in this last movie, as Dabney Coleman’s secretary. Look! There she is, with Muppets!
Even better, watch this little snippet from a behind-the-scenes documentary on Labyrinth:
She also spent most of her early career on theater stages. She was the original “Gillian” in Michael Brady’s play To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. The New York Times wrote of this play in 1983:
Is she back from the grave? Well, not precisely: with a wicked grin, she reminds her husband that she’s “very, very, very dead.” But, as written by Mr. Brady and portrayed with enchanting intelligence by Cheryl McFadden, Gillian is not just a gimmicky stage apparition. She’s as alive for us as she is for the widower whose mind she relentlessly haunts.
I’d love for someone to describe me as having “enchanting intelligence.” I think after this post the closest I’ll ever come is “freakish obsession.”
Do you know that I didn’t look up a damn thing that I’ve written here so far (well, minus the play review quote; I’m not that good)? See, this is what I meant in an earlier post when I said that I’ve spent what many might consider to be an unhealthy amount of time learning as much about my favorite entertainers as is readily available. Truthfully, though, Ms. McFadden is the only one for whom I can recite such information.
Why? Because I love Gates McFadden. Of all the actors and actresses from all the Star Trek shows I love, she is the one to whom I pledge my unwavering allegiance. And why on earth would that be the case? Well, let’s start with the obvious: Any evidence that I can find that red hair is still going to be around in the 24th century is always going to be a positive sign in my book. And she hangs out on the holodeck with a left-handed android. BONUS!
Next on the list of why she is so awesome is the fact that, of all the female leads from my favorite Trek show, hers was the one to whom I could relate the most and wanted to emulate the most. Tasha Yar wasn’t around long enough to register with me (the first TNG episode I ever saw was the one in which she is killed). Deanna Troi? Er, no. I don’t really feel a kinship with the “goddess of empathy.” But Dr. Crusher?
Ah, my reasons for my adoration are a bit too personal to completely divulge here. Let’s just say that at a moment in my life when I needed a really stable, positive role model, Beverly Crusher filled that role beautifully, both literally and figuratively. I would have even gladly called Wesley my brother—of course, look at me. I’m revealing myself to be a bigger dork than he ever was. Even sadder? I’m real and he’s not. Dammit, Jim!
So there you go. I adore Gates McFadden. I love that she’s fluent in French. I love that she knows how to ride a unicycle. I love that she was the first Trek actress to get to direct a Trek episode (I even love the episode, “Genesis,” which most Trek fans thought was a bit daft). I adore her so much that I watched Marker. MARKER, people! Starring Richard “I’m so not Johnny Depp” Grieco! She played a character named Kimba, for Pete’s sake! She is the only convention guest I have ever stood in line to meet. If she was at a convention tomorrow, I’d queue up again.
I also love that writing this post has made me incredibly happy. What a wonderful way to start a weekend 🙂 Cheers!