In the sixties, when I used to sit down cross-legged on the floor to watch the escapades of the Starship Enterprise and her crew, I was a fan of Captain James T. Kirk. We raised Doberman Pinschers and William Shatner had Doberman Pinschers and he was a charismatic figure.
Mr. Spock inspired less feeling for me. He always seemed something of a cold fish, and since I was a girl of many passionate opinions, I just didn’t care that much for unflappable logic of the half-Vulcan half-human man with the pointy ears.
So I never became a Trekkie (or “Trekker” as apparently they prefer) but I did, in time, get to be a huge fan of Leonard Nimoy. That started at a party, where someone had a copy of The New World of Leonard Nimoy, which contains gems like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Proud Mary,” “I Walk the Line” and “Let It Be Me.”
Nimoy was clearly a man of many gifts. Singing wasn’t one of them. This record was dreadful. And it wasn’t his first, he’d had at least three others before this one, I was told. We didn’t know if he was so tone-deaf that he didn’t know that he couldn’t sing, or if he just didn’t care. There was something appealing about that. Clearly, he enjoyed making records, his ego didn’t need for them to be good records.
Each time I saw Leonard Nimoy doing something other than Star Trek, I was charmed. He was an educated, intelligent, gracious man. He had a strange relationship with Mr. Spock, evidenced by the title of his 1975 memoir “I Am Not Spock” and also by his second one twenty years later “I Am Spock.”
Nimoy was a kind of Renaissance man for Hollywood. He wrote books of poetry, was an avid and accomplished photographer, recorded those awful records, and did film and television work that had nothing to do with Vulcans.
Like a television movie about Golda Meir. And he directed Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby and Diane Keaton in The Good Mother. He wrote and starred in a one man play about Vincent Van Gogh. He appeared in a mini-series of The Sun Also Rises. (As Count Mippipopolous. He was versatile, but Jake Barnes might have been a stretch.)
He was not a one-trick pony, certainly, but that one defining role was the one he was never able to shake.
He was gentle with his Star Trek fans though, and made frequent appearances in regards to the beloved character. He often appeared with his old friend, William Shatner, including a few cameos on Shatner’s gig for Priceline. There were talk shows, conventions, the role reprised on both television and the large screen.
He provided voice-overs for “Spock” on the Simpsons, Futurama, Big Bang Theory. When Leonard Nimoy’s death was announced this morning someone wrote “Who will tell Sheldon?”
Leonard Nimoy’s stepson signed Bruno Mars to the Warner Brothers. That might have been the extent of it, but no, there’s Leonard playing an fictive self in a ratty bathrobe in an alternate version to “The Lazy Song.” The character is really pretty scurrilous– what Leonard Nimoy might have been if he was bitter and lonely and living in the San Fernando Valley. It’s amazing he was able to keep a straight face, but I guess he had practice.
Because of course, he was neither bitter nor lonely.
In a taped interview included in the New York Times obituary, he explained how the Vulcan Salute came to be. It turns out the that the now iconic gesture– with which almost everyone greeted Leonard Nimoy (including President Obama) was one he observed during a Kohanic blessing at temple when he was a child in Boston.
Though his father instructed him to turn away, to avert his eyes, he peeked. He saw the Jewish priests’ outstretched hands in blessing and he thought it “magical.” He suggested the V-shape hand signal (it is actually the sign for the Hebrew Shin) to Gene Roddenberry many years later, and a chapter in popular culture was born. But watch the video at the link. To hear him tell the story is lovely.
Just over a year ago, Leonard Nimoy was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s a ghastly way to die.
“I quit smoking 30 yrs ago,” he tweeted to his fans. “Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP.”
LLAP. “Live Long and Prosper. ”
“Smokers, please understand,” the messages continued. “If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP. I’m doing OK. Just can’t walk distances. Love my life, family, friends and followers.”
On the 23rd of February, his last tweet was posted.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.
He probably didn’t come up with his last message on Monday. He’s had a little time to think about how to say goodbye to all those people who loved him and his character so much. It doesn’t matter when he came up with it, it is his last, most beautiful, gift to his fans.
My friend David Weinstock wrote today “Hail Spock, who made the 1970s a better place for Jewish boys with strange ears.”
It must be a very difficult time for Leonard Nimoy’s family and for his friends and for his colleagues and all of the people who knew him so well and enjoyed him so much. I know this to be true because of how his death this morning, at the age of 83, has affected the rest of us.
I admit it, I have wept.