Interview by C.J. Bunce
One of my favorite people in the Star Trek world is Penny Juday. Not only is she a great person, she is always willing to share interesting stories about her days working for Paramount on Star Trek. As a former U.S. Navy Submarine fleet detailer, Penny Juday staffed the Navy’s sub-fleet with crew assignments. She joined the Star Trek Deep Space Nine decorating department in 1991. Penny was soon hired as the personal assistant to the production designer of Star Trek, which then led to becoming the art department coordinator of Star Trek for the next 18 years, where she also served as Star Trek archivist. During her off hours Penny attended art school at Otis Parsons and earned her certificates as designer and illustrator. borg.com is happy to welcome Penny here today.
CB: Penny, you have a pretty unique college background, studying art and design, as well as computer science and physics. And you were on your way into Intelligence in the U.S. Navy. You seem to be cut out for your role as guardian of the secrets behind the Star Trek franchise. How did that background help you move into the role as Art Coordinator and Star Trek Archivist at Paramount Pictures?
PJ: I was a submarine fleet detailer. They wanted me to go into INTEL when my tour was up but they would not agree to anything I asked for in return. In retrospect it was not such a good idea on my part, of course. I assigned submariners to their duty stations as they came out of school in Groton and kept track of all the available positions for enlisted crew for all the submarines. I had to make sure they were properly and completely staffed at all times. If one were taken ill or sadly, killed, I had to find the replacement ASAP. I studied computer science and physics while in the Navy. Another decision gone wrong. If I had stayed with that, I could have been the girl Steve Jobs! At the time computer programmers worked nights and weekends since it was still reel to reel and we worked while others didn’t. I just couldn’t do that. How it helped with my Star Trek job? You have to be extremely resourceful to get a lot of military jobs done for many reasons. My boss on Trek, Herman Zimmerman (who we called “Z”) often told just about anyone who would listen that I was the most resourceful person he had ever met. I could find just about anything we needed to get a job done, or anyone, for that matter. If a prop guy told Z we couldn’t find a particular product I would get the task. Now that’s fun and interesting. One of my favorite things was when I would call a company and tell them who I was and who I was with. Usually there was a minute of total silence because they did not believe me, of course. Then when it sunk in I was telling the truth… I can’t tell you how much I could achieve with vendors just because I worked on Star Trek. They would jump through a lot hoops to help us. And the undercover Trekkies that I would run across!
The archives–being a personnel person in the Navy I took care of thousands of records, copied thousands of pages of documents, records and cared for the same, so making an archive was cheese cake. Again finding anything… I was sent to Long Beach Naval Station to finish my Navy tour. There had been a serious lack of commitment to record keeping, and personnel records were a mess so I was sent to help redo and get it smooth again. Within days this Chief Petty Officer comes to my desk, almost in tears, very upset, telling me his records had been missing for weeks, meaning, he doesn’t get paid, can’t move forward in any capacity–remember this was before documents were scanned and kept on computer. Some info was in Washington on OCR documents but the bulk of your records were still just paper in a manila folder in a real filing cabinet. If that went missing you were in serious trouble. So Chief tells me the story… he had been in day after day, asking someone—anyone—to search for his records. “They cannot be found,” they tell him. Knowing full well how badly the records in Long Beach had been stored, mostly by young “kids” who just didn’t care and wanted to get through their tour period. I asked him his full name, was there any known misspellings, etc. I take the “intel,” go to the records room and start the search… yup, under his middle name. Chief hung his head in silence. I still cry when I think of how happy it made him. I got a letter of appreciation for that one, which is a small Navy award. My work at the station was awarded several times with a scholarship, award letters, and I was the only female side boy at the station to pipe the leaving Captain away and pipe in the new Captain. Side boys are the crew who line the plank at attention and one blows the pipes–a very great honor.
CB: You worked for several years with the Star Trek franchise but also worked on other notable films. How did your work on Star Trek compare with your project and art coordinator daily duties on other action films like The Hunt for Red October and Alien Resurrection and comedies like Naked Gun 33 1/3 and Wayne’s World II?
PJ: I have to start by saying nothing compares to Trek. Nothing. However, that being said The Hunt for Red October was my first film. Poor Anthony [Penny’s husband, Anthony Fredrickson] is tired of watching it. It is near and dear to my heart not only being the first film but they used the USS Houston, in the film known as the USS Dallas. I was the detailer who put the original enlisted crews on board all the Los Angeles class boats as they were being built. Eventually I got to see the Houston in dry dock in San Diego. All the Los Angeles class subs look a like so they could easily get by with using one for another. The first thing I saw walking on set was the missile silos. I told the decorator I didn’t remember seeing neon around the bases on the real subs. “Shuuuh,” he said. But then standing next to Sean Connery was the memory any girl would cherish, whew. Can’t believe I was still standing when he walked away.
CB: As art coordinator for Deep Space Nine through Star Trek: Nemesis and Enterprise, you were second in command to art director and production designer Herman Zimmerman, known not only for his incredible futuristic sets on Star Trek but also work on Happy Days, The Land of the Lost, The Tonight Show and Cheers. What’s the secret to running a multiple Emmy-nominated art department?
PJ: First, I used to watch Land of the Lost all the time, even at my age it was just fun. So on a Deep Space Nine episode we had a very rustic cottage with a fairly short door. Z and a lot of us are inside, the special effects guy, Joe, comes in who was well over six feet tall. The way Joe came in for some reason Z said you remind me of a Sleestak. I said I was shocked that he knew this word. I asked him how he knew what a Sleestak was. He said, “I designed him.” I had no idea. So I was constantly learning of Herman’s accomplishments and shows, and awards, and the list goes on of things he has done throughout time, even working on one of my favorite soaps.
As far as running art departments, whew! Especially on larger shows like films. I can’t make the list long enough of what your job title is. You are the middle girl between most of the departments and the art department. You are the coordinator for just about everything the art department needs. The art coordinator is one of the first people in—meaning we are given a blank space to fill right down to the pencils. You have to get it all, the phones, the phone lines, desks, copiers, papers all the supplies, set up the kitchen, often interview or find staff to be interviewed by the art director, depending on who that is, usually my production designers know me well enough that I hire the staff and set the deals. Then research, finding things, orders, craft service kitchen, oh, boy! Talk about egos–and the special needs of each and every one of the artists. Can you say “four different kinds of coffee?” I had a set designer who constantly demanded their own office because this person didn’t want to hear others talking. Production meetings, usually keeping all the budgets for set decorating, often construction, and the art department. Time cards for all of the above. Location tours, call sheets, scripts, clearances (which I have no idea when the art coordinator became responsible for making sure everything was cleared but that happened somewhere in time). Product placement, but I have to tell you… talk about fascinating… your every minute is different. Alien 4 was one of my favorite films to work on at Fox. Huge art department, sets, budgets, construction, and a lot of people from Star Trek, however, one of the first things the production designer told us was: “I see anything that looks like Star Trek, you’re fired!” Ok, but he was a lot of fun to work for.
Sometimes things would go wrong or go missing. When we were out at Lake Sherwood for the Baku village in Star Trek Insurrection, Worf’s teeth came up missing. They were very expensive to make so there was one set at the time. So the hunt was on and of course we were still shooting Deep Space Nine at the time. That created quite the stir to have a whole lot of people searching for Worf’s teeth. So yes, they were found, but at great cost to both productions.
CB: You were able to work with the Star Trek original series cast on Star Trek Generations, and even performed on camera as an extra. What kind of interaction did you have behind the scenes with the original Enterprise crew? Any lasting impressions?
PJ: I met Mr. Kelley on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as they were walking out of the Klingon courtroom. He had had a long day but stopped and introduced himself to me, shook my hand. What a lovely, gracious man. Shatner ran past, couldn’t leave the set quick enough, which is understandable. I later met him on Star Trek Generations. We were in the Valley of Fire, north of Las Vegas. I was put in the crew van which was traveling to the site in the desert where the bridge set was. I was in charge of taking orders for the crew gift bomber jackets. He had never heard of a bomber jacket. So that was a great fun thing to do, he got a laugh out of the whole thing. Ms. Nichols, I interviewed her for Star Trek: The Magazine. Again just so warm, friendly, kind, happy to talk to me. I think I have met them all at one time or another and what an experience to meet your idols from your favorite show and then get to work with them.
CB: Part of your many roles for Star Trek included locating found props in the real world, such as purchasing furniture for sets or odd bottles to get re-dressed for use in Quark’s bar in Deep Space Nine. What were some of the stranger creations you were asked to come up with?
PJ: Wow, there are so many! I think the Borg energy packs in Star Trek: First Contact—where they are on the dish—the Borg pull out these long acrylic tubes that glow… those were bird feeders that we put fluorescent tubes in, wrapped them in the mess they are shipped in, then wrapped those in a lighting gel. When I called the company, because we needed a lot of them, they were so excited and it was hard for them to believe how they were going to be used. I think the second is all the vacuum packaging we used. If you look at the packages your cookies, candy, make-up, anything with a molded part, you will see a great deal of interesting usable shapes. We had stacks of packages friends and family would save up for us, just in case we needed something on the run. Anthony had a kludge closet in the art department where we would store found objects for instant prop and model making. Then I think the Picard family album was probably one of my favorites. I worked on that for weeks digging through flea markets, yard sales, antique shops, asking crew for items, family photos and such. I would get French newspapers and make up articles, soak them in coffee or tea then run over them with the car. So much fun!
Please come back tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with Penny Juday.