The Story of the Yellow Balloon

When DeForest Kelley was in the hospital and I was serving as his personal assistant and caregiver, I sent one of his poems, “The Yellow Balloon”, to William Shatner so he could read it at an upcoming Star Trek convention at which both were scheduled to appear. Because De was nearing the end of his life and couldn’t appear, Shatner asked De to send one of his poems so he could read it for him. De sent his three Star Trek-themed poems, but Shatner said they were too long and to send something shorter, so De asked me to fax him “The Yellow Balloon.”

It took me hours to fax it over; the fax machine at the hospital was giving me fits–either it wasn’t sending, or Shatner’s fax wasn’t receiving!  I ended up just about blowing a head gasket. When it finally went, I knew I would never, ever forget De’s *%!#@*! Yellow Balloon poem!

When I got back to De’s room to let him know how relieved I was to finally be done with that chore, he chuckled. “It really wasn’t all that important,” he said.

NOW you tell me!” I shot back. We both laughed.

Just days after De passed away, I asked for some kind of divine “sign”  to let me know that he was okay now. The very next morning as I was driving the 405 freeway to Woodland Hills to sit with Carolyn at the hospital, a free-floating yellow balloon passed directly over the freeway ahead of me about thirty or forty feet in the sky! My mouth flew open. I started crying right then and there! Only an Enterprise fly-by could have been more convincing (although that would have been delusional). I had my sign!

A month or so later, my neighbor Alica Sandkamp and I were taking our routine three-mile walk around North Hollywood. Alice was well aware of the yellow balloon story and the sign I’d received. I was yakking to her about something when suddenly, in awe, she pointed.

“Kris, look!”

I looked in the general direction her finger was pointing and saw a yellow balloon floating in the air about thirty feet above us and pretty far off to our left, across the street and next to the Burbank (now Bob Hope) Airport.

I said, “Oh, my gosh!”  At which time–cross my heart!–the yellow balloon began to descend and head in our direction. We were both speechless and almost breathless as it approached in our direction, dropping lower and lower as it came.

Finally, the string hanging from it came within inches of my up-stretched fingers. I jumped to catch it two or three different times, but it floated up again…and away!  Alice, tears in her eyes, said, “You weren’t supposed to catch it, Kris. It’s De, flying free!”

I lost it again, smiling through my tears.

So that’s why, on the back cover of the first edition of my book about De, there is a yellow balloon in the foreground of the image of De and me.  In the interest of space, I had to take out some of the anecdotes that were found in the first edition of the book in order to be able include new ones, and the Yellow Balloon stories, I believe, got the axe, as did some of the stories about Carolyn and how she handled De’s passing. (I wanted the new edition to be mostly upbeat and about his life, not about his death and the hole it left in our lives.)

But the yellow balloon communications I received (and still receive from time to time) are forever a part of my heart…

And some of De’s fans–among them Billie Rae Walker–have picked up on the symbolism and have sent me “yellow balloon” bouquets or cards from time to time…

So in naming my book domain Yellow Balloon Publications, I am tipping my hat and heart to the man who launched my writing career, who blessed it by giving me permission to write about him, and who proclaimed himself (according to my landlord’s wife) my “biggest fan”.

Although very few of my books are Kelley-based, they were all birthed because DeForest Kelley believed in me and my writing abilities long before I did. His encouragement is what made the difference after I left high school. If not for him, you would not be reading anything with my name on it–and those of you who use my writing services are equally indebted to him.

De made sure I believed in myself enough to stand up, stand out, and stand tall.  Whatever legacy I leave as a writer when I’m shoveled off this mortal coil will have been influenced, shaped and blessed by the REAL McCoy, #DeForest Kelley!