Veteran Trek Stuntman Rusty McClennon remembered

Michael Dorn fondly remembers 'Rusty' in a Star Trek.com interview and pays tribute to his memory.

As was recently reported in Star Trek.com, it is with great respect and honor that SciFi Pulse must  also report the passing of veteran stuntman and stunt coordinator Leon Rusty McClennon, who was known professionally as Rusty McClennon, and passed away this past May.

Rusty McClennon had dozens of movie credits to his name such as Gone in Sixty Seconds, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Jingle All the Way, Predator 2, Training Day, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. However, within the genre of science fiction, Rusty will perhaps best be remembered for his outstanding work as Michael Dorn’s stunt double for action and stunt scenes which involved Lt. Worf during several seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as Star Trek Generations.

Star Trek.com has recently contacted Michael Dorn, who was kind enough to say some kind words about Rusty, while also respectfully sharing a memorable behind the scenes story of their early meeting on set.

Dorn began by saying, “Rusty was a good guy, a good man, and I’m sorry to hear the news. We’d been through a few stunt people on the show doubling me as Worf, and we were at that point that sometimes happens, where the person doing the doubling doesn’t resemble the person they’re doubling at all. One stuntman was probably 60 pounds bigger than I was. There was another guy who was built completely differently than I am. It was just ridiculous. Rusty was the only guy that was close to what I was. So that was around the second or third season.

Now, I have to tell you a funny story,” said the veteran Trek actor. “They’d run two or three stunt guys in and out, and you’d always see them in the makeup trailer getting more makeup applied. These were black guys. They’d say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be doubling you,’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s great,’ and we’d go on about our business. If you’d ever seen Rusty, he was very light-skinned — really light-skinned. So I walked in the trailer the first time Rusty was working, and they said, ‘Oh, Michael, here is your stunt guy, Rusty.’ They had the head on him already and the head was very dark. So I’m looking at this and it looks like a white guy is getting made up as Worf. Now, I’m a child of the 60s. Black Power, and all that stuff. So I’ve always had this thing about there being a lot of black stunt guys around, and it may take a couple of more minutes, maybe a half-hour, just to call and find that stunt guy. Sometimes they don’t do it. This had never happened to me, where they’ll paint up a white guy to double a black guy. That, to me, is like putting a guy in black face.

The funny thing that happened with Rusty was that Jonathan (Frakes) was the instigator. He’d caught me outside and said, ‘Go in there and see who your stunt guy is.’ I went in there, came out and said, ‘Oh, Jonathan, man, I can’t believe it.’ So we’re both outside getting all worked up. Jonathan said, ‘We can’t take this.’ I said, ‘You’re right!’ He said, ‘We should call (the producers)!‘”

Michael Dorn apparently did indeed call the Next Generation producers along with Jonathan Frakes, and pointed out the fact that a caucasian man was in fact getting make-up applied so as to double for him. Dorn also pointed out  that there were indeed African American stuntmen currently working whom Dorn personally knew of as they had actually doubled for him in the past.

I basically said, ‘This can’t happen’, and the producers were like, ‘Michael, we’d never do that. We don’t think that’s really what’s happening. If it’s true, we’re going to get on it.’ When I got off the phone, the first assistant director, who was a black woman and must have known what was going on, said, ‘Michael, he’s OK.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘He’s one of us.’ I said, ‘Really?‘”

Dorn then continued, “And that was the story. Johnny (Frakes) and I still laugh about it, because he was just as upset as I was. Later, Rusty told me that he could see the look on my face when we first met. He said, ‘Man, I knew what you were thinking.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah?’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, I saw that look on your face.’ But I liked Rusty a lot. We had a good time and he did a really good job.

While Rusty McClennon’s age, exact date and cause of death have not been made public, a memorial service was held in his honor on June 20th, 2015.

Thank you for your memorable work on such an important piece of Star Trek history Randy and rest well!

Tye Bourdony is the co-owner of scifipulse.net as well as the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. Tye is also a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, a mediator, deep space traveler, and the lead interstellar reporter for the Galactic Enquirer. He is also a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art. Tye currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the staff Family Mediator and has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine. You can visit Tye on facebook and at www.thelightersideofscifi.com or send your thoughts and story/article ideas to tyebscifipulseditor@aol.com.
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