Tonight at Christmas dinner I was chatting with Armin Shimmerman. After a little talk about baking cakes (me) and bread (him) I said, “Forgive me if I’ve asked you this before, Armin, but do all Star Trek people know each other?” (Armin played Quark on “Deep Space Nine.”)
“Yeah, we do,” he said. “Even if we weren’t in the same thing, we all know each other from conventions and cruises and stuff.”
He then confirmed that yes, he knew my dear old friend Robin Curtis (Lieutenant Saavik in III and IV). Blah, blah.
Then we just slid into talking about how much we both admired George Takei.
I’m not a Trek person. Nothing against it! I just never got that into it. Basically the tiny bit I know about Trek is because of people I know who are professionally connected to it, not because I was ever really a fan.
So my admiration of Takei is not due to his iconic status as Mr. Sulu, though of course that is very cool. No, the reason I’m all about The Takei is because of what a fantastic civil rights activist he is.
A native of Los Angeles, Takei did part of his growing up in the internment camps in which the U.S. government disgracefully confined thousands of American citizens during the war for the crime of being of Japanese descent. Takei has always been very active in Japanese and Japanese/American issues.
For the last few years, Takei has also been a relentless and effective activist for gay rights. His hilarious and biting YouTube videos garner stupendous numbers of hits.
I’ve always valued humor as a tool of ridicule and political discourse, and I find Takei’s activist work to be subversively clever and devastatingly pointed. He has become quite a hero of mine.
Anyway, Michael, another guest at dinner, caught wind of what we were discussing, and dropped the following little bombshell:
“Takei? You know I’m his agent.”
Very. Long. Pause.
“…really?!” I gulped.
As it turns out, Michael helped Takei pull his career out of the doldrums. He’s the one who booked Takei on Howard Stern’s Sirius radio show, which really spiked his visibility. (Visibility! Radio! Yuk yuk!) He booked him on “Heroes,” commercials, and other things. Was at his wedding, yadda yadda yadda.
When Michael first met Takei, the actor was still professionally pretty closeted. After he decided to be more frank about being gay, the same thing happened that has happened to other closeted celebrities: His career skyrocketed.
“How great was he on the Shatner roast,” I said.
“Oh yeah!” said Michael. “We were there,” his wife Jasmine said.
“Well.” I said. “Please, the next time you speak to him, would you tell him that you know someone who is a HUGE admirer of his and who appreciates the work he does for civil rights.”
Michael chuckled. “Tell him yourself. I’ll call him.”
Yeah, right. As yummy as this prospect was, I was way too polite to push it, so I let it go and let the conversation drift toward other topics – involuntary organ transplants, Serbo-Croation cuisine, fleas — you know, the usual stuff.
A few minutes later, Michael walked up to me. “Tried him, no answer.”
Wow! “Well, thanks for trying, anyway!”
A few minutes after that, he walked back up to me, phone in his ear.
“Yeah. Oh, George, I have a friend here who really wants to say hello to you.”
Handed me the phone.
I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t stutter. I am a professional.
“Hello, Mr. Takei,” I said. “I’m awfully sorry to interrupt your Christmas. But I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re one of the fiercest and rowdiest warriors we have for civil rights now, and I SO appreciate everything that you do.”
To which he replied, “Fuck off, faggot.”
No. KIDDING. Of course he didn’t say that. Don’t be silly!
What he SAID was:
“Well, I think we all do what we can do, and I appreciate what YOU do.”
I said Merry Christmas and so long, hung up the phone, had a quiet little nerdgasm.
If you are not familiar with Takei’s riotous videos on YouTube, I highly recommend you check them out. Also recommended is his very active Facebook page.