Leonard Nimoy, who enchanted generations of audiences with his depiction of Star Trek’s human-alien philosopher and first officer Mr Spock, has died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.
The actor died on Friday morning of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Bel-Air, his wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, told the New York Times. He had been hospitalised at UCLA medical center with breathing difficulties days earlier.
Nimoy’s last tweet, sent on Monday, suggested he knew the end was near: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”
“Live long and prosper” was the Vulcan salutation which he made famous as Spock, and which he and fans carried into real life. Tributes to the actor, director, photographer, writer, poet, musician and teacher agreed he had indeed done so.
“I loved him like a brother,” William Shatner, who starred alongside him as Captain Kirk, wrote on Facebook. “We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”
George Takei, who played Sulu, said the world had lost a great man. “And I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to ‘Live Long And Prosper,’ and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways.”
Even the US president took a moment on Friday to appreciate Nimoy’s most famous character. “Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy,” Barack Obama said. “I loved Spock,”
Nimoy announced last year that he was battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and attributed it to smoking, even though he gave up the habit long ago. With typical humour he tweeted last week: “I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP.”
He enjoyed an enduring and eclectic career in the arts and in film behind the camera but it was as the pointy-eared, relentlessly logical sidekick to William Shatner’s Captain Kirk that Nimoy will be best remembered.
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, called Spock its “conscience”, a quizzical, alien and yet also humane moral sense which pervaded the original NBC series as well as subsequent big-screen outings, most recently in the rebooted films directed by JJ Abrams.
The actor, born in Boston to Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews, embraced the figure of the lone alien on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, exploring the universe with more emotional, fully human characters.
His first autobiography, I Am Not Spock, published in 1977, said that as the Vulcan he found the best of both worlds, gaining public approval while still being able to play an other-worldly character. He published another biography, I Am Spock, in 1995.
“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Nimoy noted. It was not a complaint. “Given the choice, if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”
Tributes flooded Twitter.
“RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of us at NASA were inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go…” said the US space agency @Nasa.
“He created a role that nobody else could play. Multitalented writer, actor, director. A terrific & sweet man,” tweeted the talkshow host Larry King.
Zachary Quinto, who plays the younger Spock in the rebooted films, said: “My heart is broken. i love you profoundly my dear friend. and i will miss you everyday. may flights…”
The music producer @kaskade tweeted: “Rest easy Leonard Nimoy. First guy to make being so weird so cool.”
The son of a barber, Nimoy’s origins were hardly exotic. He started acting in primary school and continued through community college and during a stint in the army, where he served as a sergeant and participated in shows at Fort McPherson in Georgia.
Discharged in 1955, he moved to California and worked as taxi driver, cinema usher and drama teacher before achieving notice on TV shows like Rawhide and Perry Mason before landing the role of Spock in the original NBC series, which debuted in 1966.
Nimoy was also an unlikely sex symbol. According to the Los Angeles Times, when he spoke at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University in the 1970s, a young woman asked: “Are you aware that you are the source of erotic dream material for thousands and thousands of ladies around the world?”
“May all your dreams come true,” he responded.
Spock made a rare foray into sensuality in episode 24 of the original series when aphrodisiacal spores on the planet Omicron Ceti III loosened his human side and a longing for Leila Kalomi, played by Jill Ireland.
The Vulcan salute, which Trekkers used at fan conventions and film screenings, Nimoy adapted from a gesture he remembered from attending an Orthodox synagogue in childhood.
Men chanted prayers at an altar with their arms raised and fingers parted between the ring and middle fingers and thumbs stuck out – a representation of the Hebrew letter shin, the start of Shaddai, a term for God, Nimoy said.
He embraced roles reflecting his Jewish heritage. In 1982 he appeared as the former husband of the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda”. He also played a Holocaust survivor in the courtroom TV film Never Forget.
His photography book, Shekhina, pictured nude women, including a cover shot of a woman wearing Jewish ritual objects traditionally worn by men. Nimoy shrugged off complaints and said his his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah. “I’m not introducing sexuality into Judaism. It’s been there for centuries.”
Only the most dedicated Trekkies embraced his forays into music, such as kitsch covers covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” He titled his first album Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.
Nimoy is survived by his older brother, Melvin, his ex-wife, Sandi Zober, their two children, Adam and Julie, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
NBC cancelled Star Trek after three seasons, citing low ratings, but its sci-fi adventures, optimistic world view and campy humour won a growing army of devotees who turned Spock and Kirk, plus Dr McCoy, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov, into pop culture legends.
Nimoy branched into directing, including two of the Star Trek features, and the 1987 hit comedy Three Men and a Baby.
His sonorous voice narrated the History channel’s Ancient Mysteries and provided the voice for numerous animated characters. In addition to his autobiographies he also published books of poetry and photography.
Flowers were due to be placed at his star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Via: The Guardian