Cloud Minder Girl

March 21, 2010

A few months ago, I watched an episode of Hawaii Five-O, “The Second Shot,” which guest-starred a little-known actress named Charlene Polite.  Who was this pretty redhead with the congenial name, I wondered, and whatever became of her?

She was born in Ohio, on June 30, 1943, and attended Youngstown University in the mid-sixties.  There she met and married the writer Frank Polite, who was probably one of her instructors.  Frank Polite, who died in 2005, became a poet of some renown and influence, especially in Ohio; of the many tributes to him that can be found on the internet, this is the best.

After graduating from Youngstown, Charlene Polite enjoyed some success in regional theater.  She went to the Pittsburgh Playhouse on a post-grad scholarship and joined the American Conservatory Theater, a company formed by the controversial young Off-Broadway director William Ball.  (Ball, a suicide in 1991, also passed briefly through television: He directed a couple of episodes of The Defenders.)

Polite made her film debut in 1968, in Bullitt; she had already done some stage roles on the West Coast, and may have followed the ACT when Ball moved it from Pittsburgh to San Francisco in 1967.  By 1969, Polite had relocated to Los Angeles and was doing guest leads on shows like My Friend Tony, Mayberry R.F.D., Cannon, and The Doris Day Show.  Like many actors, she is best known today for a single appearance on Star Trek.

“The Cloud Minders,” a late entry in the show’s third and final season, is one of those well-intentioned but clumsy political allegories for which Star Trek became famous.  It’s the story of class warfare between a race of cave-dwelling miners and the privileged layabouts who oppress them from a cloud city floating far above the surface.  Sparks fly between Captain Kirk and the sexy rebel leader played by Polite, while Mr. Spock explains his seven-year mating cycle to the cloud city princess (Diana Ewing, another ingenue who had a busy career in the late sixties and early seventies and then disappeared completely).  As “Vanna,” Polite gets to grapple in the dirt with William Shatner (twice), show off a pair of Bill Theiss’s gravity-defying gowns, and shriek as she’s tortured in an alien ray machine.

*

Charlene Polite’s career in television lasted only a few years.  A Mod Squad in 1972 and then a Blue Knight in 1976 were her last jobs.  I couldn’t find much about what she did afterward; a second marriage, stepchildren, and possibly more work in local theater.

In the late nineties, Polite became ill and moved back to Youngstown to be close to her ex-husband.

“Charlene was like my Auntie Mame,” said Khepri Polite, a son of Frank Polite by his second wife.  “She was beautiful, extravagant, and eccentric.”

Khepri added, in a note to me via Facebook, that

my favorite line from her was from Star Trek, “You sleep lightly, Captain!” I remember when she would come to visit. She would stay with my father and step-mother. My father would creep into her room in the morning and wake her up with that line. He’d have a cup of coffee instead of a dagger in his hand though. We’d laugh, she had a great sense of humor.

Charlene Polite died of cancer on June 21, 1999.

Above: Charlene Polite in Star Trek (“The Cloud Minders,” 1969).  Top of post: Polite in Hawaii Five-O (“The Second Shot,” 1970).

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21 Responses to “Cloud Minder Girl”

  1. Khepri Polite Says:

    Nice Steve, glad I could be of help.

    • Mark Malamatos Says:

      Hello Khepri. Charlene was my cousin. Please drop me an email. I have a question about her mother Irene.

  2. Winifred Says:

    You’re making me feel old! It’s so sad seeing all these lovely actors leaving us.

    My family have always ribbed me about loving Star Trek. They thought I was weird back in the ‘sixties. Now they know it!

    Kind of Khepri to personally comment.

  3. 50swesterns Says:

    Bitchin’ research, again. You make it seem so easy.

    This really has me wanting to pull out some H5O.

  4. forresttales Says:

    Having been born in the mid 60’s, I didn’t get around to Star Trek until the late 70’s. Now living in Ukraine, I’ve been watching Star Trek online, I guess, due mostly to a feeling of nostalgia coupled with a hunger for something in English. After watching The Cloud Minders, one of Roddenberry’s most prominent gems, I became curious about the exceptionally alluring woman. I was somewhat saddened to discover that she passed at the early age she did. Being too late to post a compliment for her on a fan club website, I hereby leave this small entry in her memory to be seen by her admirers and family. The next time I have a glass of scotch in hand, I shall drink a silent toast to the Cloud Minder Girl.

  5. knoItAll 2 Says:

    Charlene was also married to Ramon Bieri (actor) in the late 60s thru late 70s. They lived in the San Fernando Valley, Northridge. She worked a lot in Theater during the mid 70s. They were both a lot of fun. After 1977, and I heard she left Ramon and moved to San Diego with her step-son before she was diagnosed with breast cancer and moved back home to Ohio.

    • Gerrod Says:

      I was born in 1970. They (Char and Ray) as well as their son (her adopted son, Ramon Jr.) lived about three houses down the street from us in Northridge, CA. So i have many memories as a small child going over there swimming or to birthday parties, etc. Ray Sr. did a lot of acting bit parts and even a few bigger roles. I heard about Char’s passing a few years after the fact. My mom had talked to Ray and found out (prob in ’04 or so).

      • Gail Hurt Says:

        Thanks for sharing. Do you have any specific memories of her you can share? Any pictures? I feel such a loss and I never even knew her except through her acting. I really want to hear more about her life!

  6. Gail Hurt Says:

    Hi,
    I saw the episode of “The Cloud Minders” when I was 14 years old. I am now almost 51. I thought Charlene Polite was the prettiest and best actress I’d ever seen on tv ever. I tried to write her a letter through the Screen Actor’s Guild hoping they could forward it to her, but never got a reply. To this day, about once or twice a year, I search her name in hopes I will find something out about her. I am both happy to find this, yet saddened beyond words to learn that she passed away. If anyone here who knew her or is family could tell me anything else about her. I always admired her and thought just maybe someday she would show up at a Star Trek convention like some of the other stars have. The picture above from Hawii 5-0 shows she is even more beautiful than she was in The Cloud Minders.

  7. wil Says:

    Out of all the actresses who appeared on Star Trek, she was the most beautiful. She also had the sexiest pair of legs I’ve ever seen, even by today’s standards. Shocked and saddened that she is no longer with us. It’s about time the human race found a cure for cancer. This has been going on long enough!

  8. Wade Says:

    As darling and wonderful as she was, …xxxxxxx, I pray she came to Christ before she crossed over into eternity!
    “For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
    John 3:16

  9. Tom Mininger Says:

    I got into Star Trek reruns in the spring of 1972 when I was 14. They were more popular in syndication at that time in Philadelphia, than they ever were during their original run.

    Vanna was the second most inspirational character of the series to me after Spock.

    I’m so sad to hear of Charlene Polite’s passing.

  10. GRAHAM Says:

    i WAS SADDENED AFTER WATCHING THIS RE-RUN OF STAR TREK TO LEARN THAT SHE HAD PASSED AWAY — LIKE OTHERS I WAS INTRIGUED BY HER PRESENCE AND SEARCHED ON LINE TO SEE WHERE SHE WAS NOW !! HOW SAD THE CLOUD MINDER GIRL WENT SO YOUNG !


  11. I lived with her when I was in middle school when my parents were going through a nasty divorce. She had a great appreciation for the arts. She loved the theater and poetry. She was a true child of the 60’s who saw life as a lesson from the spiritual realm. She believed that our purpose was to learn by being open to receiving that which gives you growth in knowledge and your ability to share your talents or abilities. She was dedicated to her step son and gave up her career to become his one true mom. Her intentions were sound until her health took a tole on her. She worked hard as a single woman later in her life. But, in the late 80’s, she was completely out of her element when she wasn’t feeling well and she and all of us couldn’t figure out why. She just wasn’t herself and it was a mystery to her as it was to our family who tried to console her when her energy wasn’t right. Later, we lost touch in the last decade of the 1990’s because, I was starting a family of my own. Sadly, the same year she died my brother was passing away from cancer. R.I.P. Charlene. You were a woman who let me know that its OK to have passion and that you have a right to express your feelings. That freedom of expression is not always confrontation. That being vulnerable is not a weakness. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you were passing away or I would have held your hand hoping you’d have some knowledge that you made a lasting impression on me.

    • Gail Hurt Says:

      What a bittersweet story. You are so lucky to have known her. Do you have any pictures of her when she was young? I spent years trying to find her….she became my favorite actress when I saw her on Star Trek, I was 14 then, and I’m 52 now. It is so sad she went so young. I wish I had had a chance to know her somehow. I tried to write her a fan letter, but doubt it ever got to her. Please let me know if you have anything you can share, pictures, etc. Also sorry for the loss of your brother, also.


      • I can tell you that I have no pictures of me with anyone before the year 1992 and that was the last time I saw Charlene.

      • Gail Hurt Says:

        Laura, thanks for answering and for sharing your story. Again, also sorry for the loss of your brother. It is good to know Charlene was a dedicated step-mom and friend, and I’m still sad that she passed away so early. My dad died from cancer at age 58, so I know it takes many people too soon.

  12. nat Says:

    Apparently I’m not the only one to find this woman captivating! I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a kid in the early 80s watching it on syndicated reruns, which is where I know her from (as do many others apparently). Every year or three I go back and watch the series start to finish, last night’s episode was the Cloud Minders. I decided this time around to utilize this great resource called the Internet and a great Trek resource called Memory Alpha (free plug for whomever runs the site) to see what I could dig up on this incredibly captivating and, uh, hot woman. The piece above is a great tribute to someone who seems to have touched many people through television (and a big heart, apparently). Loved the anecdote about “sleeping lightly” quote. This is a perfect example of quality over quantity in an acting career. Her performance in the Cloud Minders completely overshadows those of her fellow co-stars (the woman who played Droxine and that administrator dude). I’ll have to go seek out that Hawaii 5-O episode. It’s disheartening to learn people like her have passed before their time. Despite our ~30 year age difference, I would’ve loved to have met her.

    I’ll join “foresttales” from above in that toast. Charlene Polite, rest in peace. We salute you, and my hat’s off.

  13. Robbie Valentine Says:

    I was thinking of Charlene Polite today, finding this site. Thank you. Caring, thoughtful work. I’m a long time, Star Trek fan. I also grew-up in Hollywood, too. May I be part of this discussion? I am so sadden by her lost, finding out years later.
    Robbie (Robert) Valentine


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