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Quote:Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83

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Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing the character Spock in the Star Trek television shows and films, died at 83.

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

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As part of the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project, Leonard Nimoy explains the origin of the Vulcan hand signal used by Spock, his character in the “Star Trek” series.

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some primitive special effects by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including — besides Mr. Nimoy — William Shatner (as Capt. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura) and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast — including Zachary Quinto as Spock — he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, singing pop songs as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances — to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew, who was both one of the gang and a creature apart engaged at times in a lonely struggle with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

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He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch University later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science-fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career — the other three were for his “Star Trek” work — although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; and six grandchildren; one great-grandchild, and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the syndicated series “In Search Of...,” which explored mysteries like the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs. He also narrated “Ancient Mysteries” on the History Channel from 1995 to 2003 and appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life” in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a
television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”
Quote:Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978.

Distance education.....the final frontier!  Back in the oooooold days, Antioch was one of the new non-traditionals.  I don't know if Nimoy did his program by correspondence, but I bet he wasn't sitting in any classrooms in Austin while he was making TV shows and movies.  Who knew Spock could habla the ol' español?   ¡Fascinante!
And Antioch gave him an honorary Doctorate a few years later, thereby rendering him Dr. Spock as well.

I'm intrigued when celebrities go back for an academic degree that they clearly don't need, they just want. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Shaquille O'Neal also come to mind.
(03-02-2015, 08:09 AM)JohnBear Wrote: I'm intrigued when celebrities go back for an academic degree that they clearly don't need, they just want. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Shaquille O'Neal also come to mind.

In the context of your post you likely were considering “need” in terms of employment requirements, such as “needing” a PhD for a teaching job at a major university, as compared to “wanting” a PhD to impress your friends and confound your enemies.  But is what any individual thinks he “needs” really anyone else’s business, any more than what one “wants”?  It seems wholly subjective and thus wholly outside the realm of authoritative scrutiny.

I’m always leery of this need/want distinction and those who make it because statists and their ilk frequently preface their confiscatory schemes with such nonsense as “Who needs a 30-round magazine?” or “Who needs a Cadillac health plan?”  If somebody (famous or not) wants an education or just wants a magic piece of paper to put on the wall, why should anyone else care, much less decide if he really “needs” it? 

If we are going to scrutinize things, let’s see who is concerned for all the working class kids who think they are going to get good jobs and move up the food chain if they get an expensive education, only to discover that all the jobs in their field have left the country or that employers are only hiring H-1B visa foreigners for the same work at dirt cheap wages.
Thanks for introducing the classic “want vs. need” model, which surely is relevant here, and can open the gates to hours or months of interesting debate, applied to degrees, chocolate chip cookies, or ‘most anything else.

I think there’s an important distinction between scrutiny [authoritative or non-authoritative (and isn’t that a continuum anyway)] and regulation.

I don’t object to folks, authorities or not, scrutinizing schools, from Northcentral University to the Kepler School of Medicine, and offering opinions and advice. It’s done on this forum, in my books, and many other places.

Regulation is, for me, another matter. Basically I agree with Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s “I don’t care what people do, as long as they don’t do it on the street and frighten the horses.” Get a degree from Northcentral or Kepler or any of a thousand others, and use it to get a job, a salary increase, respect from your friends, or a warm fuzzy feeling, and no one should tell you that you can’t. Shouldn’t, maybe, but not can’t . . . unless you frighten the horses. I testified against the jerk who bought an M.D. from Kepler, then took a young girl off insulin, and she died. If, heaven forbid, I were in charge of things, I’d have regulated Kepler out of existence and pounded them into the ground.
(03-03-2015, 10:14 AM)JohnBear Wrote: I testified against the jerk who bought an M.D. from Kepler, then took a young girl off insulin, and she died. If, heaven forbid, I were in charge of things, I’d have regulated Kepler out of existence and pounded them into the ground.

When Michael Jackson died did you want to pound Meharry Medical College into the ground?

Kepler had no more to do with that girl's death than Meharry did with Jackson's.  Practicing medicine without a license is already illegal. 

In fact, many properly licensed doctors with degrees from outstanding schools kill innocent people every day with their negligence, stupidity and incompetence, but I don't see you getting excited about that.  Obviously you are just making these cheap, transparently emotional appeals because you have no real facts or logic to back up your point.
Meharry has a large modern campus. Kepler was run entirely from a small New York hotel room. Apples and prunes.

The matter of whether the undeniably fake schools have any responsibility for the actions of their alumni is interesting to me. Of course anyone can open an office with a sign on 
the door declaring that he or she is a medical doctor. So why would they pay for a diploma from a school they cannot have believed was real? (Another fake MD, now imprisoned, bought his MD for $100 from Metropolitan Collegiate in London and for $100 more they made him Chief Intern at their nonexistent Kensington Hospital.) 

So the question is, did the availability of the fake degree somehow inspire people to decide to act badly? Would the high school dropout in upstate New York who bought a Ph.D. 
(by return mail) and then opened a sex therapy clinic have done so with a self-printed diploma? Might make an interesting Master's thesis topic.  
(03-07-2015, 02:13 AM)JohnBear Wrote: Meharry has a large modern campus. Kepler was run entirely from a small New York hotel room. Apples and prunes.

So by that logic, if Kepler had a better campus would they cease to be at risk for pounding into the ground?  And if a med school has a really, really nice campus can all their grads kill patients with impunity?

(03-07-2015, 02:13 AM)JohnBear Wrote: So the question is, did the availability of the fake degree somehow inspire people to decide to act badly? 

The concepts that seem to be eluding you are free will and individual responsibility.  One of the attributes defined for psychopathy is "failure to accept responsibility for own actions."  Fake diplomas and similar inanimate objects no more cause people to act badly than guns cause people to shoot others or cars cause drivers to plow into crowds at bus stops.  You might as well blame Slender Man.  
Smith: So by that logic, if Kepler had a better campus would they cease to be at risk for pounding into the ground?

Bear: By me? Probably. I am not my brother's pounder.

Smith: And if a med school has a really, really nice campus can all their grads kill patients with impunity?

Bear: The Sufis say that before acting, ask "Can I? May I? Should I?"
Can they? Sure. Free will and all.
May they? Depends on whom they ask. Oregon Death With Dignity office: sure. The Pope? Nope. I remember quite liking the book "Kill As Few Patients as Possible" by Oscar London, MD.
Should they? It's individual responsibility time. Should I have killed Hitler on Nov. 8, 1938, l'll get back to you on that.
(03-10-2015, 08:29 AM)JohnBear Wrote: Should I have killed Hitler on Nov. 8, 1938, l'll get back to you on that.

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