The incredible outpouring of postings, comments, articles and tweets since the news of Leonard Nimoyís passing was announced yesterday demonstrates the tremendous impact he had on our culture.† Without minimizing his many other accomplishments, this was mostly due to his portrayal of Mr. Spock on Star Trek over a course of nearly 50 years.†
There are few performers who become so identified with a single character yet manage to maintain their own identity, but Nimoy managed to accomplish that with grace, gratitude and thoughtfulness.† The child of Orthodox Jewish immigrants, he never forgot his poor upbringing or his heritage.† Many actors become resentful of being typecast as a single character, even when that character makes them rich and influential, but he succeeded in embodying Spock while establishing a successful career not only in acting, but also in directing and later on in photography.† He could and did make Spock part of himself yet while remaining his own identity.
Spock is smarter and stronger than everyone else and such a character could easily be lampooned or disliked.† But, torn between his Vulcan and Earth heritages, Spock is forever the man alone, a stranger in the crowd.† He strives to be logical and buries his emotions but he develops friendships and does things that sometimes are contradictory to his logical best interests.†
Nimoy gave Spock depth and a vulnerability that attracted women and impressed men.† Nimoy may not have been consciously drawing on his Jewish background, but the parallels in being an outsider are there, going beyond his famous use of the rabbinical hand gesture used in Jewish services.† Although someone else now plays the role of Spock, he is measured ultimately by how successfully he can channel Leonard Nimoy as Spock.
I got to meet Leonard Nimoy once, on July 30, 2010.† Linda and I were with friends up in the Berkshires, visiting the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.† One of our friends, who had been in the cafeteria, came out and said that Nimoy was sitting in the cafeteria.† Just sitting there!† Unbothered by hordes of Star Trek fans!† Nimoy was at the museum that day because an exhibit of photographs from his new book was opening in the museum the next day.†
I went into the cafeteria and my friend urged me to go over to him.† I normally donít go over to well-known people that I happen to meet, and I never know what to say to them anyway.† But, on this occasion, I did.† No one else was bugging him and he was walking back to his table, where he was sitting with his wife and some friends, after having bought some ice cream.† So, taking my courage in hand, I came over to him, introduced myself as a long time Star Trek fan and commented that I had even seen him in one of his earliest appearances, when he played a Martian henchman in an early 1950s serial, Zombies of the Stratosphere.†
The man must have had an incredible amount of patience with fans after 50 years of interruptions. He smiled and thanked me for†reminding him of his ancient role and endured with good graces when I asked him if I could take his photo.†Not thinking clearly or wanting to impose too much, I didnít ask for a picture with me, but the picture that I took of him is attached."†
February 28, 2015