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A child porn conviction and angry 'Star Trek' fans: Inside the drama around a new sci-fi museum

Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

LOS ANGELES — Sci-Fi World, a new “museum” that promises fans real and replica props, costumes and sets from popular films and TV shows, hosted its opening “gala” on Memorial Day in the historic former Sears building just a couple of blocks from the Santa Monica Pier.

More than a decade in the making, the museum has drawn the interest of “Star Trek” fans worldwide thanks to its genesis story: Superfan Huston Huddleston said he salvaged a replica of the bridge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from a discard pile outside of a Long Beach warehouse in 2011. Huddleston, known for his fanatical devotion to science fiction and horror, launched Kickstarter campaigns to restore the prop and open a museum to house it, raising nearly $163,000 in less than two years.

But now Huddleston, 54, has emerged as the nexus of questions swirling around the museum, which, despite the recent gala, did not actually open as scheduled. Some of those same sci-fi fans who were enthralled by the museum’s origin story have since learned that in 2018, Huddleston was convicted of misdemeanor possession of child pornography. He was required to serve 126 days in jail and three years of summary probation, complete 52 weeks of sex offender counseling and pay fines.

In an interview with The Times, Huddleston said he knew that any association with the museum after his conviction would be toxic for an organization that hopes to attract young fans, so he gave up control of the nonprofit and its collection of film and TV ephemera to the museum’s chief executive.

But several Sci-Fi World volunteers past and present told The Times that Huddleston remains active — if not central — in museum operations and preparations for opening. Lee Grimwade, one of the museum’s lead volunteers who quit a day before the gala, said Huddleston is “definitely 100% involved.”

“He’s the idea-guy who is laying it all out. He’s telling you where he wants things, he’s telling you where the walls should go in the museum, he’s telling you where to set up the [security] cameras, he’s telling you all of this stuff,” said Grimwade, a “Star Trek” devotee who said he spent almost every day of the last month setting up the museum and who showed The Times photographs of Huddleston onsite. “He’s basically directing the entire thing.”

 

Concerns about who was actually in charge at the museum reached a fever pitch with the recent resignations of at least two key leaders: Chief Executive John Purdy and General Manager Cory Dacy.

In an email to The Times, Purdy wrote that he’s no longer involved with Sci-Fi World “as a result of a violation by Mr. Huddleston of my contractual agreement with him and his nonprofit foundation.” Asked whether he was, in fact, in charge of the organization after Huddleston’s 2018 conviction, Purdy wrote: “Any and all actions by me were approved in advance in their entirety by Mr. Huddleston in his role as President of the Foundation.”

GM Dacy, a former Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum manager, had been led to believe that Huddleston would not be involved, but he said Huddleston was regularly onsite — a characterization that Huddleston contests.

The Times has also confirmed that “Star Trek” producer Ronald D. Moore and writer Larry Nemecek — listed as board members on a 2022 tax filing for the Hollywood Science Fiction Foundation, the nonprofit behind the museum — were, in fact, not on the board.

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