Remembering the late, great Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy visited California Area High School in 1975. This photo is from the 1975 edition of Montage, the CAHS yearbook, and is courtesy of Connie Blakey Hajduk . The dark haired woman in the photograph is then high school choir director Mary Grace Bernadowski.

Leonard Nimoy visited California Area High School in 1975. This photo is from the 1975 edition of Montage, the CAHS yearbook, and is courtesy of Connie Blakey Hajduk . The dark haired woman in the photograph is then high school choir director Mary Grace Bernadowski.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 1975. Leonard Nimoy was beamed down to California High School as a guest speaker. After his speech, high school choir director Mary Grace Bernadowski invited Nimoy to visit her home and meet her daughters, who were avid fans.

Katie Beradowski Knapp, only 10 at the time of Nimoy’s visit, recalled the meeting.

“I remember that he was tall and handsome and he smiled a lot,” Knapp said. “He wore a leather jacket and shaded glasses… he looked like he stepped right out of a movie magazine. He even brought a couple of photos and signed them for me and my sister.”

On February 27, actor/director Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as the half-human, half-Vulcan “Mr. Spock” on Star Trek, passed away at the age of 83 due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Leonard Nimoy at Spock

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock

Sometimes when an actor assumes a role, it becomes more than simply a part. Sometimes, the actor and role seem to meld, especially in a franchise situation. Both the actor and the character become an icon of sorts.

That’s what Leonard Nimoy was in the role of Spock on Star Trek, an icon. During the original run of the 1960s series and in the movie spin-offs that followed, Spock soon become one of the most popular character in the Star Trek franchise, garnering a huge fan base, largely due to Nimoy’s brilliant portrayal.

“My parents used to let me stay up late on Friday nights to watch Star Trek,” said Rose Capanna, who was in the audience during Nimoy’s visit to California. “A lot of us were crazy about space and astronauts, one of the many wonderful byproducts of growing up in the 60s.”

Prior to Star Trek, Nimoy guest starred in many popular television series of the day, including Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone and Bonanza, as well as the popular spy series The Man From U. N. C. L.E.

It was during an episode of U.N.C.L.E., first aired in 1964, that Nimoy first appeared on television with future Star Trek co-star William Shatner. In the episode, Nimoy portrayed a villain from a foreign country, and Shatner played an exterminator who is reluctantly recruited by U. N. C. L.E to help thwart Nimoy’s character.

Star Trek ran for three seasons on NBC, from 1966-69, and then went into syndication where it gained a larger audience. After Star Trek, in the fall of 1969, Nimoy joined the cast of Mission Impossible as Paris, a secret agent, former magician and make-up artist.

After Mission Impossible ended its run in 1971, Nimoy continued his career with roles in various movie and television shows and on the stage. From 1977-1982, he hosted the syndicated mysterious phenomena series In Search Of… and appeared as a psychiatrist in the 1978 remake of Invasion of The Body Snatchers.

In 1979, he reprised his role as Spock in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and starred in the various sequels. Spock’s character was killed off in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but was later resurrected in 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which he also directed. He also directed 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Three Men and a Baby, the highest grossing film of 1987.

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A young, guitar strumming Leonard Nimoy

Other roles includes parts on The Simpsons, Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, and Fringe. He reprised his role as Spock on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and was Spock Prime in J.J Abrams 2009 Star Trek reboot and its 2013 sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Nimoy’s performance as Spock helped inspire another iconic performance in a different franchise 18 years later. On the DVD commentary for Ghostbusters, the late Harold Ramis said that his inspiration for his portrayal of  Dr. Egon Spangler as a “New Wave” Mr. Spock.

After Nimoy’s passing, William Shatner tweeted a photo of the two of them, with the caption: “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor and his capacity to love.”

Actor George Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, recalled during a phone interview with MSNBC a shining example of  Nimoy’s noble professionalism. In 1973, when Star Trek was being developed into a cartoon series, Shatner and Nimoy were cast to reprise their roles. However, fellow cast members Takei (Sulu) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) had been left out, which didn’t sit well with Nimoy. In the interview, Takei recalled that Nimoy called the producers and said one of the main things that Star Trek represented was ethnic diversity in the 23rd Century and leaving Sulu and Uhura out wouldn’t be true to the original series. Further, he said he wouldn’t be involved if they were left out, so both Nichols and Takei were cast as a result.

Nimoy was indeed a class act and shall be missed. Live long and prosper.
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Tribute by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

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