TV URBAN LEGEND: Was Denise Crosby fired from Star Trek: The Next Generation because she posed nude in Playboy?
While posing nude in Playboy has launched the careers of a number of actresses, like Jenny McCarthy, Carmen Electra and Pamela Anderson (although a strange turn of events had already made Anderson popular in Canada, as I featured in an old Football Legends Revealed), it can also cause problems when they audition for "family" programming.
In the May 1988 issue of Playboy (which would have been released around March 1988), there was a nude pictorial spread of Denise Crosby, who played Lt. Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation, then in its first season. Yar's character was killed off in an April 1988 episode. Reader Drew G. wrote in to ask:
One legend I heard, many years ago, that I have always wondered about, and maybe this was covered already and I missed it, was that Denise Crosby's Lt. Yar character was killed off in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation because she had appeared nude in a Playboy magazine. While I thought it unlikely that Gene Roddenberry would have done this it wouldn't be unprecedented.
So is it true?
No, it is not.
First, while Crosby appeared in the May 1988 issue of Playboy, the spread was a reprinting of a pictorial that she had done for the March 1979 issue, early in her career as a model, with the selling point being "Here's Bing Crosby's granddaughter ... nude!" So she had already posed nude when she was hired for the series. (Playboy reprinted the photos nine years later without letting Crosby know. She told People magazine at the time, "It's a bit exploitative of Playboy to do that, I suppose. But I'm not bitter about it.")
Secondly, and more importantly, Crosby wasn’t fired from Star Trek: The Next Generation; she quit the show. She spoke about her decision to leave the show on StarTrek.com last year:
I was miserable. I couldn’t wait to get off that show. I was dying. This was not an overnight decision. I was grateful to have made that many episodes, but I didn’t want to spend the next six years going “Aye, aye, captain,” and standing there, in the same uniform, in the same position on the bridge. It just scared the hell out of me that this was what I was going to be doing for the next X-amount of years. I think you have to take your chances. I was really young. I didn’t have to make house payments or put kids through private school or support people. I was free to make those kinds of decisions. I’d been in acting school really dreaming of playing all kinds of different things. Whether it’ll happen or not, you don’t know, but you’ve got to give yourself a chance. God forbid you go through your life thinking, “What if?”
She said as much to People in 1988: "I didn't want just to say, ‘The frequency's open, sir,' for five years."
Crosby specifically recalled, however, that she left on good terms with Roddenberry, explaining to StarTrek.com:
There was no animosity. I don’t know that anybody really wanted me to go. I think it stirred up a lot of things in all the other cast members. I’m not exactly sure what, but you’ve got to question your own commitment or your own place, what you’re doing there. I think it stirs up stuff. However, Gene and I were very clear about what was going on. He said to me, 'I don’t want you to go, but I get it. I get why you’re leaving. I was a young writer at one time and I was hungry and I was frustrated, and I get that.'
Crosby returned to Star Trek: The Next Generation for a few episodes, both as Yar (including the acclaimed time-travel story "Yesterday's Enterprise") and as Sela, the half-Romulan daughter of Yar (via time travel and alternate timelines; think the X-Men's Rachel Grey's relationship with Cyclops and Jean Grey).
The legend is ...
Thanks to reader Drew for the suggestion!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!