When one sees a current picture of Sandy Gimpel, it’s hard to believe she was once one of the scariest creatures in science fiction history.
A fourth degree black belt holder who has been a karate instructor,
Gimpel appeared in the first Star Trek pilot and then, more famously, was the salt creature in the first episode of Star Trek that NBC broadcast 50 years ago.
This year’s Starbase Indy will have a representative of each Star Trek television series, including Gimpel. It will be her first trip to Starbase Indy, she said.
In “The Man Trap,” the first aired episode of the of the original series, Gimpel is the M-113 creature, more commonly referred to as the “salt vampire.” The creature could change its shape to appear as anybody, but in its natural form was the “salt vampire, which Gimpel suited up to play.
In an interview, Gimpel said her involvement with Star Trek began because she “was a dancer and got a call from central casting to go on an audition for the show to work in costume because I could move well and got the job.”
Gimpel’s first Star Trek part was as a Talosian in “The Cage,” creator Gene Roddenberry’s first Star Trek pilot. NBC rejected it, but “The Cage” was later incorporated into the first-season, two-episode “Menagerie.”
It has been 50 years since the first episodes aired and after three seasons it was canceled despite efforts by its fans. But Star Trek wasn’t due to just fade away.
“I had no idea that Star Trek would become so great,” she said. “We just work, go in and do our job and go home, never thinking ‘OMG I just worked on an amazing show.’”
Despite going where no one had gone before, she didn’t appear at her first Star Trek-related convention until this year.
“Actually, the 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas last August was the first one I have ever been at as a guest or visitor,” Gimpel said.
According to IMDB.com, Gimpel has 115 stunt performer/coordinator credits and 34 credits as an actress in what is still a very active career. It is one role, however, that fans want to know about.
“Most of the questions are about the salt vampire costume and was it hot or heavy to wear,” she said. “The fans are incredible, so nice and amazing to talk with. They are so interested in what I do for a living and very gracious.”
At Starbase Indy, she will be signing pictures for fans and taking pictures with fans. She’s also scheduled to participate on several panels where she’ll talk about the salt vampire and the Talosian characters.
Recently, Gimpel has appeared in an “Agent Carter” episode and has a stunt involvement in the soon-to-be-released “Why Him” film, which stars Zoey Duetch, Bryan Cranston and James Franco. She’s also working on a Disney television show and other TV shows.
In some fans’ minds, “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” were competing science fiction shows, but she appeared in “Lost in Space” first. And that’s where her stunt acting career began.
“I went on an audition to stand in for Bill Mumy on ‘Lost in Space’ and because of my dance background, they asked if I would like to do the stunts for him, if I would go to the gym and train with stunt coordinator Paul Stater three days week.
“Of course, I said yes and did the show for 2-1/2 years and have never stopped doing stunts since.”
Stunt working can be quite hazardous, but she hasn’t suffered major injuries, she said.
“I have been very blessed not to have major injuries, only a couple of broken ribs and ACL replaced on my knee,” she said. “Cuts and bruises don’t count.”
Asked if she prefers acting or stunt work, she said she loves doing stunts, but has been “very blessed lately to be able to do the stunt acting role along with the stunt.”
In addition to “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space,” Gimpel has been involved as an actress or stunt performer in a long list of shows including “Airplane,” the original “Battlestar Galactica,” “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” “The Truman Show,” “My Name is Earl,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Criminal Minds,” “Reno 911,” “CSI” and “Six Feet Under.” This year’s Starbase Indy will have a representative of each Star Trek television series, including Gimpel.
“I think the Girl Scout fights in Airplane may top them all as an acting and stunt role,” she said. “I can’t forget the live event for the BAFTA (British Academy Film and Television Arts) Awards with Sasha Baron Cohen and him pushing me off the stage in a wheel chair in front of every big actor in the business and no one knew it was no one knew it was not real.”
For more information about Starbase Indy, go to http://www.starbaseindy.com