We’ve all taken our seats at the Mugar Omni Theater at Boston’s Museum of Science and settled in as the lights dim. The first thing we always hear is an explanation of the amazing visual and audio effects with its 180 screens and 360-degree speakers. It begins “this is a test” and during the three-minute introduction we listen to a familiar voice, that of Boston-born Leonard Nimoy. His voice has been testing “who put the bomp in the bomp, she’bomp, she’bomp” since the theater opened in 1987.
Nimoy grew up in Boston’s West End, an area between Beacon Hill and North Station. It was just three blocks from the museum, but sadly his childhood home is no longer there. His neighborhood of Italian and Jewish immigrants was razed to give way to urban renewal in the last half century. Nimoy speaks lovingly of his neighbors and friends and in a commencement speech at Boston University, he recalled trying often to find the spot where he lived on Chambers Street, but to no avail. It’s impossible in this new neighborhood of hospital buildings, parking garages, and high rises.
Nimoy moved to California long ago taking some acting classes at Boston College and deciding that acting was what he wanted to do. Nimoy’s father, a Jewish barber, believed that his son needed to fall back on a skill other than acting. However, Leonard moved to California long ago after taking some acting classes at Boston College. His passion led eventually to his role as Spock in the three seasons of the original Star Trek series.
While I was never a Star Trek aficionado, I was once married to a Trekkie or Trekker and hence, my daughters were raised on Vulcan milk, so to speak. Reruns of the original series (1966-1969), the six Star Trek films (1979-1991), and all 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation were constantly on our television sets. Some of our pets were named after Star Trek characters (Klingon) or actors (Whoopi Goldberg). Starship Enterprise ornaments always hung from the branches of our Christmas trees, and we always teased one of our daughters about her Spock ear – a little sharp point at the top of one of them.
I sometimes blame my non-Trekkie tendencies on the fact that I could never give the Vulcan salute, (with its sentiment “Live Long and Prosper” – that of the four fingers of either hand separated by the middle and ring fingers into a V shape. I always figured this was a gift that one was born with – like being able to roll one’s tongue (a genetic trait). It certainly is evidence of manual dexterity, and even some of the actors in Star Trek did have to preposition their fingers in the Vulcan salute because, they, like I, can’t seem to manage it.
That said, I soaked up Star Trek episodes through osmosis – either by walking through the room where Star Trek episodes or movies were playing – or by being too lazy to get off the couch when episodes were always, inevitably tuned in. I always had great respect for Spock, half-Vulcan and half-human. Emotionless, yet logical and grounded, Spock had great respect for us, and us for him.
What I never knew about Leonard Nimoy, until his death at the age of 83 this past February 27, was that he was also a poet, a photographer, a film director, an author and a recording artist. A search of the Minuteman Library catalog for Leonard Nimoy results in over 172 hits or thousands of items. These include all of the varied Star Trek movies and TV series, two autobiographies, voice-overs in various documentaries and movies, and his celebrated photographic series, “The Full Body Project” published in 2007. In addition, he wrote several books of poetry and sings baritone on his five pop albums that feature songs like “I Walk the Line” and “Proud Mary.”
I didn’t realize that in addition to directing two of the Star Trek films (III: The Search for Spock in 1984 and IV: The Voyage Home in 1986), he also directed Three Men and a Baby (1987) and The Good Mother (1988). Before creating his role as Spock in, he acted in television shows that include the gamut of popular television in the 50s and 60s: Dragnet, Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Get Smart, Man from U.N.C.L.E. and dozens more. He did voice overs for half a century, and after he had retired from Spock, he continued acting in television series such as The Fringe and The Big Bang Theory.
In 1975, Nimoy wrote his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock. It was partially an attempt to separate himself from the Spock role. In his second memoir, I Am Spock published twenty years later in 1995, he explained that he loved playing Spock and was very proud of it.
Nimoy’s long and productive life is to be admired. After taking those summer classes at Boston College after high school, Nimoy studies photography at UCLA. He earned a master’s degree in education at Antioch University in Austin, Texas. Boston University and Antioch College both conferred Nimoy with honorary doctorate degrees. He wrote and spoke fluent Yiddish. Nimoy was much beloved by his five grandchildren. In 2009, another beloved Boston resident, Mayor Tom Menino, proclaimed November 14, 2009 as Leonard Nimoy Day in the City of Boston. He will always ‘live long and prosper’ in the hearts of Trekkies everywhere, especially in his hometown of Boston.