The following story was performed live for Flying Monkey Arts Theatre on August 26, 2017. The theme for the evening was “Umbraphiles”.
Dear Mr. Nimoy,
I wish that I had written you when you were alive, but I finally felt it time to clarify an event that happened on Labor Day weekend, 2009 in Atlanta.
I know how it must have looked, but I swear that I’m not a rabid fan. You see I didn’t even appreciate your work until I was an adult. In fact, I resented you for a long time. It had nothing to do with you per say, but more Mr. Spock.
You see Mr. Nimoy, I grew up a Star Wars fan. I’d like to say that I was a Han Solo type: good with a blaster, could hold my liquor and was charming with the princesses, but in reality, I was a flop haired, whiny farm boy. I grew up in the country, watered coon hounds from reused pickle barrels and shoveled cow manure for spending money. Yes, I was a Luke Skywalker and not the cool grizzled, close mouthed one we’ve seen in The Force Awakens. No shots lined up at the cantina for me, only Aunt Beru’s blue milk.
Of course, at the time I was unaware of the stigma of young Luke. I was in love with the romance, the idea of knights, aliens, fast ships and light sabers. What’s that? Why am I rambling to you about Star Wars? I’m getting to it.
Unlike today, Star Wars could not be found everywhere, but guess what could be found… Star Trek. There were reruns of your show that I watched, but it was the equivalent of getting cube steak when what you really craved was bacon wrapped filet medallions. I did however like the new show, it was… good. And this Jean Luc guy was like an Atticus Finch in space. Pre “Go Set a Watchmen” of course, but luckily you passed before that revelation.
In my youth, Star Trek and Star Wars were very different religions. Think classic ideological beefs like Southern Baptists vs. Catholics, Leah Remini vs Tom Cruise or Westboro Baptist Church vs… everyone. There is no reason that a mutual love can not exist between these fandoms, but the older zealous population, my uncle included, tried to brainwash the young by indoctrination.
My point is this. In my heart I was Rebel Alliance. So, when I was in the hallways of my 9th grade school, surviving socially on a thread, I was mortified when one of the high school juniors called out “Hey, Spock! You dropped your keys” due to the fact that my house keys slipped through an open hole in my jeans pocket and the fact that when I was 14 I had a bowl cut and could have been your illegitimate son.
This was enough to make any teenager with aspirations of climbing the social ladder cringe and at the same time resent you, my doppelgänger dad.
But, Mr. Nimoy. Our journey together is not over. Years later, my appreciation for Star Wars and all things George Lucas began to wane. I started devouring more media than what my younger self would have prescribed. Doctor Who, Firefly, Next Gen, BSG, Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, and yes, even your show, the original Star Trek.
Set your phasers to stunning, wouldn’t you know it, I fell in love. I was unashamed. And then, you were back in the public eye in a way that I’m sure you hadn’t experienced in many years. Your cameo in J.J. Abrams reboot was charming and grounded the entire Kelvin timeline. To boot, thanks to a Terry Gross interview, I learned that you were an artist. A real artist, not a Jim Carey with a swinging harness and a paint brush, but a really talented photographer. Your photos of full-bodied nude women poised as objects of desire, lust and beauty was eye opening, empowering, subversive and thoughtful.
Anyway to the point at hand. It was 2009. My friend Jason had a press pass for the small, now defunct, paper in Atlanta and had been assigned to photograph DragonCon, the largest fan run sci-fi convention in the nation. Being Jason, he invited as many of his friends to “assist him” so we could attend at no charge. We now had access to officially photograph as many b-celebrities as we could stand or if we’re being honest, recognize.
The day of the con, I found out that you and actors of your cult standing were highly sought out and heavily guarded. My friends said it couldn’t be done with our small credentials, but by the end of the afternoon I had convinced your handler to let my friend and me snap a photograph of you. Several of us had made of game out of photographing celebrities. In my heart I was a collector and this was akin to scoring rare collectible Topps cards, you know, the kind that came wrapped in wax paper with brittle bubble gum paddle.
As I bent over my camera bag, making sure that everything was in order, your handler gave the signal that it was time and waved the group of photographers over. The wave was meant for me. I was the one who spoke to your handler. I was the one who waited patiently near the kiosk while the other photographers and small-time journalist shot photos of the parade and the likes of lesser celebrities. I couldn’t believe this. I rushed over to the huddled mass of cameras and nudged my way through right as your arm left Shatner’s shoulder and right as your smile faded from your face. Your face. I’ll never forget it. From warm and collegial to hard and severe in less than it take to go from impulse power to warp factor 7. You looked up, made eye contact and I can only assume that you thought was that I was an ordinary fan on the tailcoats of these professionals who had not earn the right to photograph you.
You then turned to your business manager and said WHO IS THIS, but all that I heard in my head was WHO THE FUCK IS THIS?
In that moment, my hopes fell and my arms went up. CLICK.
I slumped away feeling genuinely down on myself that I had upset you and that your impression of me was that of a crazed fan. And what was worse, I knew my photo was inferior to that of my peers. It took at least a day and a return trip home for me get out of my own head and realize that although I would never forget the interaction, that you would never remember it. And that’s the crux. It’s a fantasy. In the end, maybe all fantasies about meeting celebrities is about you becoming personal friends. I can see how this is intoxicating and to others dangerous and I’m glad that meeting you broke me of that.
In the end, I’m a collector and what I didn’t realize was that you gave me a rare gift that day. After DragonCon, my friend, the other photographers and I shared our photos of you with your arm around William Shatner. There you were, Leonard Nimoy, smiling over and over and over. I had the rare 1 in 5 photograph of you pissed. Finger pointing. If I had to caption the picture as it were a collectible trading card like the ones from my childhood, it would read, Mr Spock says who the fuck is this guy.
Mr. Nimoy, I have not always been, but I forever shall be your fan.