February 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of “The English Invasion”, when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones arrived in the USA for televised concerts. The images of hundreds of screaming Beatles fans from their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show are part of music history burned into people’s minds. As I watched them, something has always puzzled me: Why were the girls all screaming? The answer to that question came to me as a result of watching Star Trek.
The show was scheduled against the hit show “Bewitched”, and it was not an immediate hit; at least not with me. However, after watching a few episodes, I found myself (pardon the expression) fascinated with the alien character, Mr. Spock, as played by Leonard Nimoy. Tall and thin, with shining dark hair, deeply set dark eyes, pointed ears and steeply slanted eyebrows, and yellow complexion, he was not as universally handsome as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk.
As the super intelligent ship’s First Officer (second in rank only to the captain),Spock was supposedly a member of a race called Vulcans, who considered it rude to show emotions in public, and avoided violence whenever possible. The lack of emotion meant that his facial expressions changed little no matter how difficult the situation, and could have rendered Spock a boring, uninteresting person. However, due to clever scripting and Leonard’s performance, you became aware that there was a gentle, decent, caring person, with a dry sense of human hidden underneath Spock’s facade. Suddenly women everywhere fell in love with him. I’m sure poor William Shatner was puzzled by women’s reactions to Spock, since his Kirk was handsome, dynamic, dramatic, dripping with charisma and charm; in fact everything that Spock was not. I have no clear explanation to give him, except perhaps that Spock had an sense if vulnerability due to being often misunderstood, that Kirk lacked. Together Kirk and Spock’s personalities and abilities balanced each other.
Even after the demise of the TV show, i continued my passion for Spock, reading fan-written fiction called Fanzines, where people wrote original stories using the characters. When they began holding Star Trek conventions, I went to them to buy more fanzines–but also in the hope of at some point, meeting Leonard Nimoy. Over the course of 25 years, I met nearly every cast member–and even spoke to a few of them, but Leonard wasn’t big on attending conventions.
Finally, while I was living in Philadelphia, I discovered Leonard WAS COMING TO NYC, as a guest speaker with Mark Leonard, Jane Wyatt, and Julie Newmar to promote Star Trek IV. My friend at the time drove me into the city, and the two of us were among over 1500 wildly excited people who crammed themselves into the main ballroom at the Penta Hotel to wait for Leonard to speak. I was standing 15 feet from the potium when LEONARD NIMOY walked past me and onto the stage. For 10 minutes the room was filled with non-stop screaming, and constant photo flashes. My mind blanked out, and all I could do was stand there staring at him, as I clapped wildly and smiled so hard my face hurt, hoping he would look directly at me. He was (unusual for him)smiling, and basking in the love you could all but see in the room, giving the Vulcan salute with one hand. When the screaming finally stopped, and he began speaking, I walked up to the balcony to join my friends, complete dazzled, and blinded with joy. My friends told me I didn’t say anything, just sat down smiling and they weren’t sure I was breathing. But I wanted to jump up and down, throw things or just run around the room, yelling my head off. I was so happy that If I’d been made of glass, I just would have shattered from the inside, exploding into a million pieces.
Now I get it. The girls at the Ed Sullivan show felt like I did, and not being the mature, worldly creatures that we are today, they did the most reasonable thing– they just gave vent to their joy in uninhibited screaming. I should have too! Many years have passed since then, and Leonard has done a huge body of work on other projects. I still get a twinge of the joy from that afternoon in NYC when I see him on TV, although of course with age he looks different.
One of the wonderful things about living in our current age is that we no longer have to imagine what the performances of people in the arts were like, based on someone’s ‘s review. With film and TV, we can see and hear for ourselves how what our actors and singers sounded. I can hear people out there thinking, “well, he’s no Barrymore”, and its true. But Star Trek and Leonard added something to TV that has seldom been equaled–the reason that 40 years after the first episode, they are still making new Star Trek features.
There have been only a few occasions in my life that I’ve felt the kind of joy I did that afternoon in New York City, and all I can say is: Thank You Leonard for giving me that experience.
Live Long and Prosper!!