As strange as it may seem, there’s a common thread that ties Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and Star Trek together. Here’s everything you need to know about this unexpected connection between true crime and television history.
Melvin Belli Was an Actor & Lawyer
After Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination of JFK, Oswald was murdered himself. The man who killed Oswald was Jack Ruby. The man who represented Ruby at trial? He was a lawyer, but he went on to appear on Star Trek. The lawyer who represented Jack Ruby was Melvin Belli, and you can catch a glimpse of him in the Star Trek trailer above, around the 36-second mark.
Belli played Gorgan in the Star Trek episode And the Children Shall Lead. Gorgan was a non-corporeal being, capable of driving corporeal beings to madness, or even death. Also referred to as an angel in the context of the episode, Gorgan ultimately proved to be a danger to human life, and dissolved away once the children he had tricked learned about his true nature.
1998’s The Star Trek Interview Book featured a quote from Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger on page 164, which revealed one perspective on Belli’s performance: “He wasn’t the greatest actor in the world, but was very cooperative,” Freiberger stated. “He was fun to work with.”
Belli was, by all accounts, a colorful character. When Belli passed in 1996, the AP reported that Belli’s last will left $10,000 to his four dogs.
SF Weekly described Belli as a “showman” in the courtroom. He was the type of lawyer who would use props to interact with the jury, wih the publication noting an incident where the lawyer famously “tossed an artificial leg to a startled jury, so that they might better ‘feel the pulse’ of his injured client.”
In addition to appearing on Star Trek, Belli’s IMDB page shows he was a regular guest on late night TV programs of the 60s and 70s, and even appeared on an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Belli himself has been immortalized as a character on film. The 2007 movie Zodiac features Brian Cox as Belli.
Belli Also Had a Weird Connection to the Zodiac Killer
Belli was also tangentially involved in the Zodiac Killer case. On the occasion of the retirement of radio and talk show legend Jim Dunbar, SFGATE reported on the time Dunbar and Belli attempted to speak with the Zodiac Killer. Dunbar, who was the host of A.M. San Francisco, was played by actor Tom Verrica in the Zodiac feature film.
As SFGATE recounts: “A man called police claiming to be the Zodiac serial killer. He agreed to call Dunbar on A.M. San Francisco if either Melvin Belli or F. Lee Bailey were there…by morning Belli was in the A.M. San Francisco studio along with every news outlet in town.”
While the identity of the Zodiac Killer was never discovered, it was a testament to Belli’s fame that he was requested by the mysterious caller.