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August 27, 2014

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Star Trek’ sale a study in pop culture, fandom … and medical influence

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John Katsilometes

Dr. Tony Alamo (left) finds himself on the wrong end of a Vulcan mind meld, enacted by Luis Valentine.

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A Romulan uniform baldrick.

Some visuals are to be expected at a warehouse sale of “Star Trek: The Experience” memorabilia.

A Borg alcove, for example. Racks of Romulan costumes. A giant, plastic Starship Voyager replica. A person wearing pointy, rubber ears and a polyester costume, dressed as a Vulcan ambassador to Earth.

But a prominent Las Vegas physician from a celebrated Las Vegas family who has served on the state Athletic Commission and is currently a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission?

He’s here, too.

Dr. Tony Alamo Jr. was among the 500 or so Trekkers to descend on (or, if you will, beam into) a 26,000-square-foot storage facility on Spectrum Boulevard off Stewart Avenue near U.S. 95 on Saturday.

“I’m dating myself, but I was a big fan of the show as a kid, and grew with it in every incarnation,” Alamo said. “I was interested in Captain Kirk, first, but my father told me to focus on Bones (he was the doctor on the USS Enterprise, for the uninitiated). He said, ‘Dr. McCoy is always in the idle of the action and giving medical care. He’s a confidant of Captain Kirk. He’s trusted by everyone.’ I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was putting the thought of a medical career in my head, even then. It led to my entire career, everything that has happened since was because of ‘Star Trek.’ ”

Alamo’s father, Tony Alamo Sr., is inarguably Vulcan-wise, especially in his rise to prominence in Las Vegas. He moved the family to city in 1974, and first worked as a shift manager at Circus Circus. He also ran the Desert Inn for Kirk Kerkorian, and later opened the MGM Grand. The elder Alamo was at Monte Carlo for a decade before retiring in 2005 when Mandalay Bay was taken over by MGM Mirage.

Alamo Jr. has been a Las Vegas physician for about two decades. He has never practiced the Vulcan mind meld, but was on the receiving end of such by a costumed Luis Valentine, formerly a strolling character actor at Quarks bar and restaurant at the Las Vegas Hilton who was dressed as Vulcan Ambassador Soval.

Both seemed unaffected after the experience, which is good news for Dr. Alamo’s Las Vegas patients.

But nothing lasts forever, even in the Trek galaxy. “Star Trek: Experience” closed in 2008 after 11 successful years at the Hilton. Assets from the attraction, including the Quarks gift shop desk, signage, chairs and tables and assorted “Star Trek” props and effects, have been stored since the attraction went dark.

It has been expected for more than a year that there would be a formal announcement that a new version of the attraction will open at Neonopolis on Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. CBS, which owns the licensing for all “Star Trek” assets, has contract with developer Rohit Joshi at Neonopolis for the attraction, but there has been no official date or announced plan put in place for the next “Experience” in Las Vegas. Those in the neighborhood, chiefly Downtown Cocktail Room owner Michael Cornthwaite, of flatly stated they doubt “Trek” will ever resume as an attraction at Neonopolis.

Regardless, the stuff for sale Saturday would not likely have been used in any new “Star Trek: Experience” theme park. A lot of it had been too badly scarred and worn after more than a decade of use at the Hilton to be considered salvageable as set pieces. Items ranging from Enterprise bridge pieces to rubber Vulcan ears to “Trek”-designed wall panels to Borg jumpsuits to “Exit” signs were offered for cash. Prices ranged from $25 to $500.

Lording over the sale was the movie and TV prop company Propworx, which deals in the marketing of set memorabilia and stage items from such brands as “Stargate” and “Battlestar Gallactica.”

A larger “Trek” asset sale, which will include a live auction, is scheduled for Aug. 8, at the end of the annual Star Trek convention at the Hilton. This sale was to be an under-the-radar affair, but once the Trekkers learned of it (first through an online report at the popular fan site TrekMovie.com), they showed up in waves. Dozens volunteered their time during the week to help clean up the warehouse and arrange the vast array of props offered for sale.

Two Trekkers, visiting from Los Angeles, came away with what they termed was quite a steal: A Borg recharging station panel for $400.

“A lot of people just walked by it,” said Ben McIntosh, who bought the piece with his companion, Randi Cohn. “They had no idea what it was.”

Imagine that. McIntosh and Cohn gladly packed the piece into the trunk of their Hyundai Elantra for the return trip to L.A.

Interesting story here, too. McIntosh is a 27-year-old graduate research assistant at USC who is working toward a PhD in electrical engineering. He’s part of a team helping develop a prosthetic retinal implant – a bionic eye, in effect.

Yet another “Trek”-influenced medical person. This franchise is facing a universal challenge to keep one warp ahead of those it has inspired.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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