One of the first jobs I had when moving to Los Angeles was on a show for the Sci-Fi Network called GvsE. Some of the people in my episode were Rockmond Dunbar (SoulFood), Antonio Fargas (Starksy & Hutch) and Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek fame.
I sat in Nichelle’s trailer for a minute as she shared her career highlights, including her time as a member of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek. So when news spread yesterday of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, I couldn’t help wonder how this much be affecting her and the other cast members of the iconic Star Trek series.
Leonard Nimoy had become so linked with Dr. Spock that many forget he had a career that led him to that all important moment in time. Born as Leonard Simon Nimoy in Boston, he parents were Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.
Beginning as an actor from age 8, In 1949, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb”.
He continued to be cast in little-known movies, and in a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone” before landing his first starring movie role “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. After his Army stint, he returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cab driver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He worked often television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason” before booking “Star Trek.”
Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University and later awarded an honorary doctorate from the same institution. He directed “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), (where he also helped write the screenplay). In 1991, he was seen once again as Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and was also the executive producer/writer “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”
Leonard Nimoy leaves a proud legacy as an actor, teacher, philanthropist. But who knew he once owned a pet shop in Canoga Park? Or that he teamed with Vic Morrow in 1962 to produce an indie film based on Jean Genet’s edgy play “Deathwatch.” Or that he paid for and narrated a TV special, “If The Mind is Free,” that aired only in Chicago to raise money for the city’s St. Mary High School?
Here are a few more interesting facts you may not know.
Before the end of “Star Trek’s” first season Nimoy was signed to a recording contract with Dot Records. His first album, “Mr. Spock Presents Music From Outer Space,” was released a month later. Variety’s review described his vocals on the pop selections as “pleasantly rugged.”
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the unrest in major cities, Nimoy joined with Jack Lemmon, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand and others to rally Hollywood support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s “The Poor People’s Campaign.” Nimoy spearheaded a food drive for the campaign, which held a fundraiser at the Hollywood Bowl later that year.
RIP Dr. Spock!!! You lived long and prospered!!!!