Leonard Nimoy Lived Long and Prospered
The Star Trek actor and Renaissance man died Friday at the age of 83.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015
died on Friday at the age of 83, after succumbing to pulmonary disease, will be remembered best for his star turn as Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human officer, on Star Trek. But his exploits as a hybrid character extended far beyond the USS Enterprise; in addition to acting, Nimoy was a poet, a writer, a sergeant in the U.S. army, a photographer, and a director. (Perhaps the best piece of trivia about Nimoy is that he directed the 1980s saccharine classic comedy Three Men and a Baby.)
Much like his trademark character, he was eccentric and cerebral. Even after he was already famous, as Virginia Heffernan noted in her New York Times tribute, "Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin." He could also sing a lick or two:
The son of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Nimoy acted in dozens of B movies, television spin-offs, stagings of Yiddish theater, sci-fi bombs and reboots, and provided the narration for countless documentaries.
“Guys like me were playing all the ethnic roles, usually the heavies—the bad Mexicans, the bad Italians," Nimoy told Abigail Pobegrin for her book Stars of David. "And those were the jobs that I took and was happy to get for a long time. I played Indians in Westerns many times. The first Indian role that I took was a role that a Native Indian turned down because the Indian character was so unredeemably bad. I was happy to get the work, thank you very much.”
Speaking to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, George Takei praised his longtime co-star as one of "the most thoughtful and most analytical" actors of his era. "He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being," Takei added. "His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man."
Nimoy's most enduring cultural contribution may be the Vulcan greeting, a gesture that he adopted from the priestly blessings performed on Jewish holidays. From the late 1960s on, he would be greeted with the salute seemingly everywhere he went. “During the campaign, Barack Obama gave me the Vulcan greeting at a fundraiser,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2009. “That was pretty memorable. Timothy Leary gave me the salute once, too. It’s something that happens to me quite often, as you can imagine.”
As any Trekkie knows, the salute is accompanied by a blessing, rendered above as LLAP in Nimoy's final tweet: Live long and prosper.