Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy has died. Spock Lives.


He was a kind man.  I know this because he did not want me to burn my hand.

I was performing in VINCENT, a play he wrote about Theo Van Gogh, brother of the painter.  In it, Theo had to hold his hand over a flame for an extended period, and there would be no way that I could safely do it without some kind of stage effect.

I studied his video, but didn't know what to do to protect myself.  My father suggested writing to him, which I thought was a crazy notion.  But then I remembered there were always possibilities.  I write that with no coyness.  It was a A Lesson.  I thought laterally.  Another Lesson.  He was a fine photographer, and as such, had a website.  I contacted him through that agent. The agent told me that he might not respond, but that he would read my question.

Seconds later, another email popped up.  He sent it.  He described the effect in detail.

He took the time to do this because he didn't want me to burn my hand.

His book was misunderstood.  People saw I AM NOT SPOCK as a rejection of their love of the character.  No. It was simply a reminder of humility.  He was not a man who rejected people.  He was generous when he didn't need to be.  Was some of it wacky?  Yes, but with affection.  The strangest song had a benevolence to it.  A love to it.  He rejected the notion that he wear the IDIC symbol.  He had too much love and respect for the character to make him a sales ploy.  In that sense, he loved Gene Roddenberry's art too much to sacrifice it to the same man's temptation for avarice.

In looking over his art, love comes back again and again.  Books named WARMED BY LOVE and WE ARE ALL CHILDREN SEARCHING FOR LOVE are not titled by accident.  His photography of God and body acceptance were about love.  STAR TREK III is an underrated film, allowing fans to engage with these characters with a hope and generosity that only an immense security could afford. Was he beset by demons of alcohol at the time?  Yes.  Perhaps we were the beneficiaries of the love he could not give himself.

His integrity never flagged, and that was a love of the art.  (He hated the blooper reels not because he lacked humor, but because he loved the integrity of the finished product.) When he played hardball with the new regime at Paramount before joining STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, it wasn't just for money.  It was to prevent his likeness from being used to undermine the character.  It was to ensure that castmates like troubled brother William Shatner would share in the riches he was being offered, thus ending any possible rivalry.  When he directed, it was with a sensitivity to all of his fellow Trekkers.  Their fans had just as much passion as his, and by engineering moments for Walter, George, Nichelle, Jimmy, and Grace, he paid tribute to all of them.

He was the first real adult I knew of outside my family and their friends.  My father was very careful about this.  He had me watch STAR TREK for reasons other than shared entertainment.  It could teach the lessons he could not.  Its heroes could make the decisions with a resolve or bravery that no human can reasonably claim.  Fitting that its true hero, in his eyes, was only half human.  Reason and rationality were core tenants of his messages to me.  The world lacked those things.  Spock's did not. He wanted me in the wisdom of that world more than the grim pessimism of ours.  My father was right.

He chose Spock as a second father.  In that sense, he chose STAR TREK as a second home.  And the two, really, are synonymous. But Spock was only words on a page and two rubber ears.  Who was he?  Leonard Nimoy.  The nuances of mirth and wisdom are things only an actor could bring.

Perhaps with Kramer, Spock is one of the only truly original characters to ever come from television. And that's where we truly thank an actor.  That is where we see the actor's generosity.  That is where we see the actor's wisdom.  That is where we see an actor's love.

The life is over.  The prosperity is moot.  What is left from Leonard Nimoy? His love for art and wonder and for us.  That can be shortened -- simply -- to his wry, cranky, warm sense of love.

PATRICK McCRAY is a comic book author who resides in Knoxville, Tenn., where he's been a drama coach and general nuisance since 1997. He has a MFA in Directing and worked at Revolutionary Comics and on the early days of BABYLON 5, and is a frequent contributor to The Collinsport Historical Society. You can find him at The Collins Foundation.

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