Five-time Emmy Award winner and Star Trek sound design artist Doug Grindstaff has died at the age of 87. Grindstaff passed away July 23 in Peoria, Arizona, his family announced.
Born and raised in Los Angeles on April 6, 1931, the youngest of five boys, the well-known sound designer began his career in entertainment after he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts and served the U.S. Army during the Korean War. One of his most notable early works came as a supervising sound editor on One Potato, Two Potato (1964), the groundbreaking interracial drama directed by Larry Peerce that starred Barbara Barrie and Bernie Hamilton.
Eventually, while working on a series called Swinging Summer at Goldwyn, Grindstaff got a call from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to come work on the new series. What followed was the creation of some of the most iconic in the entertainment industry. Those sounds included red alert klaxon, bridge doors opening/closing, heartbeats, sickbay scanners, communicator beeps, phasers firing, transporter materialization/dematerialization, Tribble coos, boatswain whistles, etc.
In a 2016 interview with the Audible Range blog, he described Roddenberry’s idea behind wanting to paint the Stark Trek with sound like you were painting a picture.
“And he wanted sounds everywhere. One time I asked him, ‘Don’t you think we’re getting too cartoony?’ Because I felt it should be a little more dignified, but he wanted sound for everything. For example, I worked on one scene where [Dr. McCoy] is giving someone a shot. Gene says, ‘Doug, I’m missing one thing. The doctor injects him and I don’t hear the shot.’ I said, ‘You wouldn’t hear a shot, Gene.’ He said, ‘No, no, this is Star Trek, we want a sound for it.’
“So I turned around to the mixing panel and said, ‘Do you guys have an air compressor?’ And they did. I fired up the air compressor, squirted it for a long enough period by the mic, went upstairs, played with it a little bit and then put it in the show. And Gene loved it. So, that’s how Gene was. He didn’t miss nothing!”
Over his 50 + year career, Grindstaff also worked behind the scenes on other projects, including Mannix, Mission: Impossible, The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Dallas and Fantasy Island. Alongside that, he served as a vice president at Lorimar-Telepictures, headed sound departments at Paramount, Columbia and Pacific Sound and was president of the Motion Picture Sound respectively.
Doug Grindstaff is survived by wife, Marcia; children Marla, Chuck and Dan; stepchildren Dean, Felicia and Eli; 16 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.