I'll be honest--I'm not and never was a Trekkie. The Star Trek phenomenon just wasn't my bag, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate its rightful place in pop culture history. So when one of its stars, Leonard Nimoy, passed away yesterday at the age of 83 I was not immune to feeling a sense of loss and sadness, particularly for my fellow retro fans who did grow up watching Mr. Spock. The tributes were everywhere I was online yesterday and as it turned out, Nimoy is being remembered for a lot more than his logical, pointy-eared sci-fi character.
For starters, Nimoy was a fellow Bostonian. His father ran a barbershop in the Mattapan neighborhood, and Nimoy honed his early acting skills by taking classes at Boston College. Last year my local PBS station aired a special where Nimoy and his son returned to his hometown and Nimoy recalled his memories of growing up in the city's West End, sailing on the Charles River, and visiting his favorite haunts. If you watched a film at the Mugar Omni Theater at the Museum of Science in Cambridge, MA during the past few decades, then you would have heard Nimoy's voice as the sound check opener (he recites a few lyrics from the song "Who Put the Bomp?" and the museum stated today that they will continue to use his vocal introduction.)
Something about Nimoy's career that people may not be aware of is that he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1953 and left 18 months later a sergeant (a year later, he played an Army sergeant in the 1950s horror classic Them!)
Like most actors, he struggled to gain a steady career, appearing in several plays, TV series, and movies before Star Trek made him a household name in 1966. Years later Nimoy recalled that the show was "the first time I had a job that lasted longer than two weeks and a dressing room with my name painted on the door and not chalked on."
Perhaps that's why Nimoy always seemed patient and accommodating of the Star Trek fans that he met at conventions. He struggled at times to separate himself from his famous character (publishing an auto biography in 1975 titled I Am Not Spock...only to publish a second volume 20 years later named I Am Spock.)
|Image via KryptonRadio|
He was a multi-talented, creative man who did it all: besides acting, he directed movies (a couple of the Star Trek films and even the '80s comedy Three Men and a Baby, among others), he wrote poetry, he starred in a music video with The Bangles and recorded music of his own. How great is this performance of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, with its gaggle of elf-earred '60s chicks cavorting with Nimoy?
Mostly, though, I think Nimoy is being remembered this morning for his humanitarian efforts and how he treated other people. Ultimately, no matter how famous you are, that is what you are most remembered for when you pass away. His co-star and lifelong friend William Shatner says Nimoy was a brother to him. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that he was responsible for dreaming up Mr. Spock's infamous Vulcan salute and saying; it was partly inspired by the Jewish kohanim he witnessed during his childhood when they bestowed blessings.
May the Lord bless and keep you and may the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious unto you and grant you peace. "Live long and prosper."
He will be missed.