It’s Wednsday which means it’s time for another Midweek Trivia. Since i was in Las Vegas for my friend’s bachelor party last weekend, I decided to dig into Trek’s smoothiest lounge singing hologram, Vic Fontaine.
Vic was played by James Darren. He had a large filmogprahy, including the three Gidget movies, the tv series The Time Tunnel and the series T.J Hooker where he worked alongside William Shatner.
He enjoyed playing the part, crediting Ira Steven Behr and Heins Beimler’s writing. “When I talked to Ira Behrand Hans Beimler, and they said, ‘You know you did a really wonderful job in the show,’ I said, ‘Without those terrific words to say, I could never have done it’, because they write this character so beautifully”. (Cinefantastique, Volumes 31/32)
According to Ira Behr there was some complications getting James to audtion for the part but once he did Hans Beimler knew they had found Vic. :
“Casting Jimmy Darren is a story in itself. My friendFred Rappaport, who wrote two early episodes of Deep Space Nine, and I went to the Beverly Garland Hotel in the Valley to a memorabilia show. Why? One, because we like to, and two, I always get my cousin his birthday present there. So we’re there and Jimmy Darren is there signing autographs. And Fred says, ‘Oh, look, Jimmy Darren’. So Fred goes over there and does his Fred thing, because Fred knows everything about everyone. So he’s talking to Jimmy Darren about his spaghetti sauce - Jimmy Darren once had spaghetti sauce. And Jimmy looks like he can’t believe someone is asking about spaghetti sauce. So I’m like five feet away. I haven’t gone over to the table, I’m just looking at Fred in all his glory, as I am want to do because it’s very entertaining and I see that this guy is handling Fred so well and is so smooth and so friendly and so likeable and looks so good. By now we had met with Robert Goulet and had tried to get Steve Lawrence, and Tom Jones, and Jerry Vale, so when Fred comes back I say, ‘You know, I’m doing a show on Deep Space Nine about a Vegas lounge singer and that may be the guy. I’m gonna go talk to him’. And Fred says, ‘You can’t talk to him here!’ I say, ‘What do you mean I can’t talk to him here? You just talked to him about his spaghetti sauce’. Fred says, ‘He’s gonna think you’re a mental patient!’ I say, ‘He’s gonna think I’m a mental patient?’ He says, ‘You can’t do it here’. I said, ‘I have a business card, I’m legit’. He says, ‘No, no, no, you can’t do it here. Go to work on Monday, talk to your casting guy and do it that way. So I listen to Fred. So on Monday I talk to Ron Surma. And Ron sent Jimmy the script. A few days later Ron says, ‘You know Jimmy’s been directing for fifteen years, but he’s gonna come in. We’re not gonna have a whole casting session, he’s gonna come in alone and we don’t know if he’s gonna read’. So the other writers and I go out to lunch. And sitting there at lunch, at our favorite sushi restaurant, I’m telling the guys that Jimmy Darren’s coming in. To which they want to know, ‘Who’s that?’ I say, ‘Moondoggie’. No response. ‘Moondoggie’, from Gidget. No response. I say, ‘The Time Tunnel guy’ . Nothing. ‘Remember the guy with the turtleneck in The Time Tunnel? Not really, vaguely. ‘Okay’, I yell, William Shatner’s sidekick in TJ Hooker. Oh!! Yeah!! Sure!! These people have Star Trek on the brain. It’s like it all has to come back to Star Trek in some way, shape or form. So Jimmy Darren comes in, and he’s talking about how he owns a pair of Dean Martin’s shoes, and he knows where to get the right tuxedos, at Sy Devore’s store, and all of that stuff, and he’s being great. We’re all listening to him. And suddenly he starts talking about him and Frank and Dean and gambling and making all this money, and suddenly we realize that he’s doing the part. It catches us totally by surprise. We’re sitting there with the script pages and don’t even realize it! He had gone right from being Jimmy to being Vic - without a beat. After he did that, we said goodbye and I started freaking out that he was great. But then I started to say, ‘Well, maybe we should see some other people, just to be on the safe side’ and Hans Beimler just said, ‘Are you out of your mind? What are you talking about? Vic Fontaine was just in the room! There’s no question, there’s no question! He’s the guy!’ And he was”. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Frank Sinatra Jr. was consider for the part but said he only wanted to do an alien character. Other actors considerd were Robert Goulet, Tom Jones, Steve Lawrence or Jerry Vale for the role. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
So how did the character come around? From Ira Behr...During season four, I decided I wanted to bring a character onto the series played by Frank Sinatra Jr. to be a guy like Yoda who would show up periodically. Not in every episode, obviously, but occasionally like in the teaser or something, where we’d find one of characters coming to this Vegas nightclub in the early 1960's and asking for advice about life, love and the opposite sex. He would be dispensing this advice, and we would be wondering, ‘Who is this guy and how does he know so much? So Robert Wolfe and I wrote a scene. Now Frank Sinatra, Jr. is a big fan of Star Trek, so Ron Surma got in touch with him and we sent him the scene. When I spoke to Frank, he thought it was very funny, but he said that he did not want to play a singer, he wanted to play an alien. And so it did not happen. The following year while we were writing “A Simple Investigation”, Rene Echevarria said, ‘Let’s put the scene with the night-club singer in here. And I said, ‘We’re not gonna get Frank Sinatra, Jr. but maybe we can get Steve Lawrence or someone. So Rene wrote a scene, and that’s when the character became Vic Fontaine. But the show was too long and we heard that Steve Lawrence wasn’t available, so it never really made it beyond the first draft. And that was the end of that. Until one day. Then one day I was driving in my car. You know, it’s not a very long trip between my office and home, but I do tend to think a lot in the car. And I suddenly realized that we were in the midst of year six. And that in terms of Deep Space Nine more had gone behind us than was in front of us. I thought, ‘Time’s running out!’. And I said to myself, ‘I want to do everything that I ever wanted to do on this show! We’re doing Vegas baby, and we’re not doing one lousy freakin’ scene of it, we’re doing the whole show about it. And we’re going to have music! And we’re going to have song! And we are going to consummate the relationship between Odo and Kira! That’s what the show going to be about”. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Nana Visitor was a fan of the character. “He was terrific [....] I think he’s going to be a character that will [...] maybe even have the capability of walking around the station. He was that good. I wouldn’t be surprised.” Ira Behr explained, “Vic is enormously popular here, not only with the writing staff but with the entire crew. There’s a lot of fun to be had [with the character].” (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, pp. 52-53 & 59)
Sadly, we did not get to see him leave the holosuite but that idea would be explored on Voyager with the holo-emiter that allowed The Doctor to leave Sickbay.
So how did the name come around? According to Ronald Moore, Ira simply liked them and wanted to put them together. “I asked Ira this very question not too long ago, and he said that both ‘Vic’ and ‘Fontaine’ were simply names that he’s always liked and wanted to combine them.” (AOL chat, 1998)
According to Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 608), the hologram was based on a 20th century human of the same name.
n 1999 Darren released the album “This One’s From The Heart” with songs he performed as Vic Fontaine on Deep Space Nine, his first album after twenty years. The link goes to a YouTube Playlist with the songs from the album. The album included the following seventeen songs:
- “The Best Is Yet to Come”
- “Come Fly with Me”
- “That Old Black Magic”
- “All the Way”
- “It’s Only a Paper Moon”
- “I’ve Got the World on a String”
- “You’d Better Love Me”
- “Sophisticated Lady”
- “Just in Time”
- “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
- “The Way You Look Tonight”
- “Here’s to the Losers”
- “You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Loves You”
- “Dancing in the Dark”
- “Night and Day”
- “I’ll Be Seeing You”
- “Satin Doll”
There we have it, some facts about one of Trek’s most swinging and grooving lounge singin’ fool the show ever had. He wasn’t just a goofball though, he played an important part in helping Nog get past his issues surrounding his injury from battle in “It’s Only A Paper Moon” one of my favorite episodes. I you all enjoyed this little bit of trivia goodness and I will see you next week for another Midweek Trivia.