Sunday, March 5, 2017

George Takei – Oh My! He’s Everywhere!

The March radio show of “Schmidt Happens” is still in the works; stay tuned for air dates. All on WBCA-LP 102.9 Boston, your Community Radio Station.
Ironically, quite coincidentally, just after taping the January radio show on Democracy, where Ellen threw in the George Takei quote, we learned that George Takei himself was coming to Boston, for a Q & A session at the Boch Wang Center Friday night, February 3, 2017.

First we were treated to a complete showing of the second Star Trek movie, “The Wrath of Khan,” released in 1982. “How quaint,” I remember thinking, “they’re still using flip phones.” Oh, wait a minute, how prescient they were, to have imagined flip phones more than ten years before they were invented and marketed! As it has been said, sometimes art imitates life, and this time perhaps technology imitated art.

I was struck by a number of lines from the movie that are still relevant today:

“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.”
“Scientists have always been the pawns of the military.”
“Just words, but that’s where ideas come from.”


A question and answer session with George Takei followed after the movie, running the gamut, from Star Trek, to being gay and closeted in Hollywood, to recalling his childhood experience being interned with his family during World War II, and his life as an activist, especially in light of recent events, while balancing his public life with his private life with husband, Brad, who was also in the audience. Some of the highlights follow.

George Takei observed that although the Starfleet was supposed to be a meritocracy, he got so frustrated that year after year, movie after movie, his character, Sulu, remained at the console. “I was always an activist,” he said, in his life, for his career, and for his character. “When I saw the script for movie six,” where Sulu was finally promoted to Captain, “I was over the moon.”

He donated the Sulu costume to the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. Later, a docent commented to him, “We’re getting a lot of Trekkies here. I didn’t know they were so interested in the Japanese-American experience.” George had to chuckle.

He spoke warmly of Boston native Leonard Nimoy, and saw him as the voice of conscience on the show. Boston has always held a special place in his heart as well.

He talked about being closeted most of his life, in order to work. He seldom went to bars, but one time he went into one, and quite by chance, ran into Merrick Buttrick, the actor who played Captain Kirk’s son in the movie we had just watched. They sort of acknowledged each other, but didn’t speak. He spoke admiringly of Merrick’s talents as an actor, and of his perseverance and courage later, performing on Broadway, playing a gay man dying from AIDS, while Merrick himself was also in actuality suffering from AIDS. I guess this would be a case of life imitating art, imitating life. It also struck me, the irony – or foreshadowing, or great prescience – of the line his character spoke in the movie:

“How you face death is as important as how you face life.”

George Takei spoke of how Star Trek pushed the limits in its day. For example, they aired the first black-white kiss on television and “got into real trouble.” It was one of their first seasons. Some stations in the South refused to air it. George had lobbied with Gene Rodenberry to push the envelope even further, by adding a gay character. Gene told him they were “walking a tight rope.” They had almost gotten canceled. “We have to stay on the air to tell the stories we want to,” he told George. It’s interesting to think about how so many viewers at the time saw Star Trek as simply just a science fiction fantasy series, when it was really just the medium for telling these allegorical tales about society, human nature, culture, civil rights, and justice. We are all now hoping that these themes themself do not disappear and become merely a fantasy in our current environment.

In the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, George Takei heard that as a tribute to him, they were making Mr. Sulu gay. He tried to convince the writers that the anniversary “shouldn’t be about me, but should be about Gene Rodenberry, and his vision and determination to tell these stories, and honor his creations.” He urged the writers to create a new character, and “be as creative as Gene was, as imaginative as Gene was.” In the end, they still made Mr. Sulu gay.

George Takei has been a regular host on the Howard Stern radio show, which might seem incongruous, but he explained his reasoning. He realized that most of his LGBT activism and talks had been made for and to the LGBT audience, yet “we need to get the message to the middle; show them that we’re family; their sons and daughters.” This echoed some of my earlier thoughts immediately after the election, when I was trying to understand the election results and how demographics played into it. The cities are full of the sons and daughters of Middle America, who left their small towns and fled to the cities, to become the people they would become.

He also commented on his experience as a Japanese American. He was a small child when his family was taken away to an internment camp during World War II. February 19th marked the 75-year anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Executive Order requiring that all Japanese-American citizens be rounded up and imprisoned in camps. This eerily echoed the most recent travel ban Executive Order that President Trump had just signed on Friday January 27, with the same kind of mentality, and even more ironically, on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The musical, “Allegiance,” was partially based on and inspired by George Takei’s childhood experience at an internment camp, and he performed in the Broadway production of it. In honor of the anniversary, the movie version of Allegiance was screened at 600 theaters across the country on February 19.

When asked about what he thought his greatest accomplishment was, he turned it into a question about what’s next, saying he still “has more worlds to discover.”

George Takei will be performing in the musical, “Pacific Overtures,” opening on Broadway at the Classic Stage Company Theater, starting April 5, 2017. He will also be celebrating his 80th birthday later that same month. He is clearly following Mr. Spock’s Vulcan greeting:

“Live long and prosper.”


Ironically, this salutation and the signature V-hand symbol originated from his friend, Leonard Nimoy, inspired by a Jewish prayer service he attended in his youth.


Post-Script
First, thank you to George Takei and the Boch Wang Center for the complimentary tickets to the show. While we weren’t able to fit in an interview this time, our offer stands, and you have an open invitation to join us on the show any time you are in town.

File under “Damn You Auto-Correct” – In the e-mail from George Takei’s media contact, I had to laugh when I saw the venue referred to as the “Bosch Wang.” Alas.

As we made our way to the show, we weighed our dinner options, and while we could have gone to the Panera, a very good choice, with the nice turkey chili and pecan rolls, my faves, but in honor of Mr. Takei we opted to dine at Genki Ya, the Japanese restaurant at the corner of Tremont and Stuart. Quite fitting, perfect choice, and wonderfully tasty miso soup, seaweed salad, noodle dish, and of course sushi.

While most of the audience appeared to be Star Trek fans, I have to confess I had never seen the movie, “Wrath of Khan,” before. Or any of the other twelve Star Trek movies, for that matter. I must be living under a rock, as I was also completely unaware of Mr. Takei’s signature exclamation, “Oh my!” It apparently originated during an interview on Howard Stern’s radio show. So literally, within the span of a few weeks, I went from having almost no awareness of George Takei, to be being surrounded by him, first with the quote about democracy, and then the show in town, and then, there he was on the Domino’s Pizza commercial during the Super Bowl. Oh my! He’s everywhere!

And, how about that miracle comeback by the Patriots? It ranks right up there with the Cubs’ improbable comeback, and victory in Game 7, rain delay and all. Going into the fourth quarter, just for the record, I said it: “It’s still possible. We need three scores in 15 minutes, one every five minutes. That’s doable. It’s still in the future, it hasn’t happened yet, and so it is still possible.” Certainly, this year has been a series of unexpected, improbable events, which would include the election results in November.


Next:
A return to trying to make sense of what is happening at the White House, with possibly a reference back to the “Wrath of Khan.”


Coming Soon:
·         March 8 – A Day Without A Woman
·         April 8 – I Can’t Be Quiet, announced by Milck
·         April 5 – Pacific Overtures opens on Broadway
·         April 22 – March for Science, 2 to 4 PM, Boston Common

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/march-for-science-boston-tickets-31758316981

https://www.facebook.com/events/246381619134165/

·         I have to believe the March for the Arts can’t be far behind, right?
·         HUBweek 2017 in Boston, various locations, October 8 – 15, 2017 https://hubweek.org/
·         Walk For Education, UNCF, October 14, 2017

About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:
WBCA is a low-power FM radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night.

Radio Beantown is on the air! Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.  

Beantown practice has started! Check out www.BeantownRugby.com for more details. No experience necessary; a place for everybody, literally for every body. All are welcome. Go Forward, Support!


Song For The Day:
From Jason Mraz again, this time “93 Million Miles,” which just seemed to bridge all the topics, from Star Trek, space the final frontier, to the upcoming March for Science, and our fundamental yearning for light, love, and home.


A few pics from when Jason Mraz performed at the Bosch Wang Center a couple of years ago.
   

References
Ohlheiser, Abby. 2015. The Jewish roots of Leonard Nimoy and ‘live long and prosper.’ The Washington Post. 27 February 2015.


© 2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.

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