In a cosmic case of bad timing, a brand new Kickstarter debuted two weeks ago for the new RENEGADES: OMINARA fan-produced film starring NICHELLE NICHOLS…at the same time a GoFundMe campaign launched to cover the cost of a lawsuit involving elder-abuse of the beloved Star Trek TOS actress.
First things first: the two campaigns are COMPLETELY unrelated. RENEGADES is a fan-run project from SKY CONWAY, who got involved with Star Trek licensing shortly before GENE RODDENBERRY passed away in 1991. Sky became close friends with Gene and his wife Majel and eventually went on to become a manager for various Star Trek alumni actors, including Nichelle Nichols.
In 2006, Sky wrote and produced—along with TIM “Tuvok” RUSS, who directed —the first “mega” Star Trek fan film to feature multiple big-name veteran actors from the franchise…including Nichelle, WALTER KOENIG, GARRETT WANG, J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, CHASE MASTERSON, ALAN RUCK, and others. He would later go on to produce STAR TREK: RENEGADES and the sequel “THE REQUIEM.”
Meantime, there is a tragic and highly disturbing story (read more about it in this Newsweek article) about a man named GILBERT BELL who entered Nichelle’s life in 2010 (years and years after Sky Conway did) and presented her with a feature film idea. Nichelle would be the co-star, and profits would be split evenly between her and Bell. But the project never happened…if such a thing ever existed at all.
But Bell nevertheless took over as Nichelle’s new “talent manager,” collecting fees from her many convention appearances (usually about $10K per appearance and paid in cash). Meanwhile, Bell convinced Nichelle to allow him to move into the second house on her property (where he still lives), locking in a ridiculously low rent in perpetuity while Nichelle paid all of his utilities. Had it stopped there, things would have been bad enough. But the story gets MUCH worse.
In 2013, Nichelle was in a very weakened state following a hospitalization for pancreatitis. She was later transferred to a Los Angeles area rehabilitation center and nursing home. Diagnosed later with dementia, Nichelle was (according to the Newsweek article) surreptitiously removed from the facility against medical advice by Bell. That same day, Bell convinced Nichelle to sign both a directive naming Bell as her primary agent for health care decisions as well as documents handing General Power of Attorney to him. The next day, Bell also allegedly arranged for new bank accounts to be opened at Wells Fargo, granting him direct access to Nichelle’s assets.
But wait, it gets even worse…
In 2017, Bell deeded Nichelle’s personal residence into his name, which apparently stuck poor Nichelle with a huge property tax reassessment that quickly drove her into substantial tax debt. Nichelle’s children all lived out of state and were mostly powerless to fight these shenanigans until the transfer of Nichelle’s house to Bell. The resulting tax penalties constituted a legal breach of fiduciary responsibility by Bell and allowed Nichelle’s son KYLE JOHNSON to petition for conservatorship. Kyle has since moved back to Los Angeles from New Mexico (where he’d lived for 22 years with his wife) to care for his aging mother, now forced to live in a house right next to the man who allegedly scammed, defrauded, and took advantage of our dear Lady of Communications.
For Bell’s part, he claims that he was acting only as a concerned “best friend,” coming to Nichelle’s aid when she was feeling alone and most vulnerable, offering his care and protection. According to Nichelle’s younger sister, MARIAN SMOTHERS, Bell added to Nichelle’s fear by telling her that her family wanted to take her house and were going to try to put Nichelle into a nursing home. This all happened back in 2013 during the most pronounced period of Nichelle’s dementia before she was able to recover from the debilitating mental effects of the surgery.
Bell has since filed suit against Nichelle and her family in an attempt to keep the title to the home he had once rented and later had transferred into his name, and where he still resides. The family has counter-sued to recover damages, and things have gotten both ugly…and expensive. Legal costs for discovery, trial, and of course, the huge debt created by Bell’s actions have left the family struggling financially. And so they have launched a GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $200K. They are nearly halfway there at $98K from 3,000 loyal and loving donors after only a couple of weeks.
To donate to help Nichelle, please click on the link below…
And if you’d like to donate to Renegades: Ominara, likely Nichelle’s final film performance, produced by Sky Conway and Atomic Films—which has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Gilbert Bell—that Kickstarter campaign ends this evening (Wednesday at midnight Pacific Time). You can donate to that fan project at the following link: