Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Memory of Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy was more than just Spock on Star Trek.  He was arguably, of all the characters in the single largest fandom in the world, the most influential pop culture actor, director, philanthropist, and writer.  He was an icon.

Those of you who know me and those of you who have visited my home know that I am a huge Star Trek fan. As some of you know, I even have a room dedicated to my Star Trek collection and even put up a Star Trek/nerd tree at Christmas.   I bought my first collection piece at a Duckwall's store while I was still in junior high.   I went to nerd conventions like StarFest before they were cool and  fashionable.  In the 70's, I drove to Fort Collins from Greeley to see Leonard Nimoy speak at CSU  just to see if I could see him.  I didn't.  I did see James Doohan a few months later when he came to UNC to show his favorite episode at the student center.  I suppose you could say it was my first convention.  There was no talk of a movie, then.  There were just dedicated fans who gathered in dorm TV rooms to watch Star Trek.  It is no small part why my kids are so nerdy when it comes to science and fantasy fiction.  I also quit going to Star Trek conventions when it became apparent that those conventions were becoming more about making money off the fans than being for the fans.  When we took our kids to Disneyland, we had to make one stop in Las Vegas.  It was not to gamble or see a show; it was so I could take my family on the Star Trek Experience, aVegas ride at the Hilton.  I played an on-line Star Trek chat game for about a dozen years.  When I quit the game, I had the longest running character and captain in the history of Star Trek: A Call To Duty, which when I first started playing was actually owned by Paramount.  In short, Star Trek was one of the constants of my life since the series first appeared in 1966 when I was nine years old, and I would watch it on an old black and white TV set in my parents' bedroom.

The loss of Leonard Nimoy, whose Spock is unquestionably my favorite character, is actually tough on me.  So I thought I might try and tell you how important this pop culture phenomenon of Star Trek is to people like me.  I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I am unabashedly a Trekkie or Trekker, and if you would like make fun, believe me when I tell you, I am used to the jokes, the confusion between Star Trek and Star Wars by the uninitiated, and even the days when Shatner told Trekkies to "get a life," and Nimoy wrote his first book, I Am not Spock. So to tell you the meaning of this to us in the Trek kingdom, I thought I would tell you a true story.

In June of 1982, I was working on my Masters degree at Adam State College in Alamosa. I was living in student housing.  My wife had to stay in Fairplay for work, so that means I was mostly on my own, except when I could return to Fairplay or Marilyn could come to Alamosa for a visit.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opened that month.  I went to see it by myself at the small movie theater in downtown Alamosa.  I was not about to miss the opening of a Star Trek movie, even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a long and boring disappointment to Trekkies everywhere (there wasn't actually even a term for Star Trek fans).

Since the internet hadn't been born yet, we had to rely on papery things called magazines for information.  It was well-known that Nimoy had not been happy with the making of the first movie. It had lost the feel and direction of the original.  It had become a special effects movie with its dry characterizations and overly long flybys of ships.  Rumors were rampant that he had only agreed to return for the second movie if they would, once and for all, kill Spock.  None in the Star Trek community wanted to believe this was true.

If you haven't seen Wrath of Khan, my first thought is "What's wrong with you?", and if you don't know what happens at the end of the movie, my next thought is "Where have you been living in a cave?" The fact is Spock dies at the end of the movie.  It was a devastating moment for us.  While the funeral at the end of the movie was extremely moving, it was like losing a family member. No, really, it was. Even though, looking back, it was clear that the movie had left an opening to bring back the character, the myth that no one ever dies in Star Trek did not exist.  What made it even worse was that Wrath of Khan was a great movie.  It, unlike its predecessor, had captured the true spirit of Trek that all fans had loved.

But Spock was dead.

The single image that speaks to me to this day of what it meant to be a fan occurred after leaving the theater.  Never had I seen an audience so stunned by a movie's ending. The audience was absolutely silent as we shuffled out,  but in the lobby stood the impact of this iconic character's death.  In the middle of the lobby stood a man who was clearly a biker.  He was a huge man dressed in standard biker clothes including a sleeveless leather vest or jacket with his biker club colors clearly displayed on the back.  He was over six feet tall and weighed at least 250 pounds.  He stood there with a scruffy beard and tied back ponytail with tears of grief streaming down his face.  He was inconsolable, and he didn't care who knew it.

It even took me a great deal of time to recover.  I even made a sweatshirt with the words "Spock Lives" inscribed on it.  It would be several weeks before the those papery bloggy things called magazines began to discuss that Nimoy had actually enjoyed making Khan and may be making a deal to return.  Hope lived.  Spock lived.

The loss of Leonard Nimoy for us, the legions of fans, will be like that biker in the movie theater lobby.  I hope you now understand.