1931 – 2015
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” – Leonard Nimoy
I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. Surprising, isn’t it? It’s really one of the biggest misconceptions about me. People have always assumed I was into Star Trek. I’m always getting Star Trek stuff given to me, which I quickly regift or shamelessly put up on e-bay. I suppose the reason people assume I’m a Star Trek fan is because it is so entrenched in pop culture lore, and it goes hand in hand with the geek culture that I am immersed in. However, despite the fact that I’ve never really been much of a fan, I have seen my share of it and I respect the massive legacy of the cult sci-fi series, as well as the phenomena that is the fandom. Star Trek IS pop culture.
So, with that in mind, I gladly paid over a hundred dollars to see Leonard Nimoy speak in Toronto during the summer of 2002. Even at that time paying that sort of money to do a Q & A session with an actor was considered a lot, but you were guaranteed an autograph photo and it was during a period where Nimoy was claiming he was retiring from the autograph show and sci-fi convention circuit (he would come out of retirement a few years later and appear at many more shows). At the time I figured it’d be the only chance I’d have to ever see Leonard Nimoy and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness one of the biggest legends in pop culture history.
Now it was a different time back then and I was a different person. I was younger, more cynical, more hard hearted. PCA did not yet exist and I hadn’t even started writing professionally and, although I had been collecting autographs and having celebrity encounters for a few years, I had not yet done a celebrity interview.
I was ushered into a small convention hall (much smaller than the ones they use today at massive comic conventions) with approximately two hundred Star Trek fans. It was exactly what you’d expect to be like. There were Vulcans and people in Starfleet uniforms, and one guy in a very detailed Klingon costume and another guy who was cosplaying a pretty mean James Doohan. There was a buzz in the air as we all waited for the appearance of our hero Leonard Nimoy.
Well, we didn’t wait long and with a thunder of applause Leonard Nimoy took the stage. Even with my seat near the back of the hall, peering through my dim eyes, did I notice how old Leonard Nimoy looked. He was dressed casually in a dark button up sweater, much like one that Mr. Rogers would wear. He thanked us for the warm greeting and then, to all of our surprises, launched into a rambly speech about whales. That right. Whales. At no point did any of the organizers tell us that we were paying over a hundred dollars to hear Leonard Nimoy talk about whales. I can’t say that it was very interesting, but hey, it was Leonard Nimoy talking in that distinct serious baritone of his which was enough to give any geek goose bumps. It was what it was I guess and, well, I was guaranteed an autograph picture at the end of the presentation. So the audience listened politely as Nimoy talked about whales for forty five minutes of the hour that we had with him. Then, once he was finished, he opened the floor for questions.
Two hundred hands went up.
Leonard Nimoy picked someone in the front row who asked a questions about Star Trek. You could tell Leonard Nimoy was a bit annoyed having expected a question about whales. I don’t remember what the question was, but he politely answered. Then he asked for another question.
One hundred and ninety nine hands went up.
Leonard Nimoy said “Yes….you in the back…..in the hat.”
I looked around for the guy in the hat. Leonard Nimoy said “Yes…you in the black hat. You.”
I pointed at myself in disbelief. Leonard Nimoy said “Yes, what is your question?”
I stood up to get some leverage and to allow my voice to carry across the convention hall. “Hi Mr. Nimoy” I said. “Thanks so much for coming to Toronto.”
“I’m glad to be here” Leonard Nimoy said to me.
“Yeah” I said, looking at him.
And then that’s when it got a bit surreal. I was looking at Leonard Nimoy, and he was looking at me. I was talking to him, and that distinct voice of his was answering me. Suddenly I sort of blanked out and I thought back to that old Mego Mr. Spock doll I had as a kid, and wondering whatever happened to it. I then became aware that all the eyes in the room was on me. A camera from Space: The Imagination Station was pointed at me and, most of all, Leonard Nimoy was staring at me and waiting for my question.
Well I had a question for Leonard Nimoy in mind but, to this day, I don’t remember what it was. I do know whatever it was, it wasn’t about whales. But instead of what I was going to ask I decided to ask the question that I knew all of us REALLY wanted to ask.
“Well Mr. Nimoy,” I said meekly, “I was on the computer and I found a video of you on a beach singing about The Hobbit surrounded by go-go dancers in Spock ears.”
“Did you now?” Leonard Nimoy said with a smirk.
“Yes I did,” I said, “Well….what the fuck Mr. Nimoy? What the fuck?”
The whole convention hall burst out in laughter. Leonard Nimoy stood on the stage, half annoyed and half amused.
“You found this on the internet?” he said to me.
“Yes I did sir” I said.
“Somebody get me my lawyer” Nimoy replied to more laughter, and then I knew that my moment was over.
Today I’d never speak to a performer so uncouthly as I did Leonard Nimoy, but I was impressed with the way that he handled my question. I’d never say I met Leonard Nimoy as much as I’d say we had a brief encounter. A small moment in time where we looked at one another and exchanged a few words. It wasn’t my finest hour but I’ll admit that I did ask the one question that burned in me the most.
Behind the desk that I write this is an autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock that I got that day in Toronto. It is a keepsake from my brief encounter with one of the true giants of the pop culture journey.
Speed be with you Leonard Nimoy as you boldly go where no man has gone before.