April 20, 1937- George Takei:
“I am a Buddhist, not a Christian. But I cannot help but think that if Christ ran a public establishment, it would be open to all, and He would be the last to refuse service to anyone. It is, simply put, the most un-Christian of notions.”
Today marks the birthday of the person I dislike the most on our pretty planet, Pat Robertson. Let’s put the bigoted, demented and decidedly un-Christian host of The 700 Club on a rocket into deep space and instead celebrate the birthday of that great celestial hero, George Hosato Takei Altman, also born on this day.
It is odd for me to feel so much love for Takei, having never watched Star Trek the television series or any of its series of films and reboots, but let’s face it, until recently Takei was most famous for playing Senior Helmsman, Hikaru Sulu, of the USS Enterprise on the television and film series.
He is also a social justice activist, social media superstar, a Broadway star, and subject of To Be Takei, a documentary about his life and career. Takei’s acting career has lasted more than five decades. He has more than 40 film credits and he has appeared in hundreds of hours of television programming.
Based on his own family’s (along with 120,000 other Japanese-American US citizens) heartbreaking experience in one of our country’s shameful Japanese-American internment camps during WW II, Takei developed the musical Allegiance which had a sold-out world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2012. Allegiance has a score by Jay Kuo with a book by my friend Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione. It played on Broadway this past autumn and winter, with Takei starring in both versions. The musical garnered respectable reviews, but only had a short run on Broadway. We will see if Takei gets a Tony Award nomination. I sure hope so.
Takei shared a Grammy Award nomination with his Star Trek co-star, the late Leonard Nimoy, for Best Spoken Word Recording in 1997. He also received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk Of Fame in 1986.
Takei is thought to be the most influential person on The Facebook, with more than 10 million “likes.” He gives witty, smart Tweets and has 2 million followers on Twitter. The King (or Queen) of Social media, he also has his own site, GeorgeTakei.com. He gives a hell of a TEDTalk.
Takei’s crucial role on the bridge of the USS Enterprise was one of the first regular roles of Asian-Americans on American television. In the 1960s, simply being the only Asian-American on that spaceship opened doors for other Asian-American actors to larger, more interesting, fully drawn characters other than the usual buffoons, bad-ass Kung Fu masters, or minions of the enemy.
Takai was just five years old when his family was taken away from their home in LA and sent to a detention centers in central California and then to Arkansas. He has spent a lifetime speaking out about the human rights violations of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war. Takei is an ardent supporter of The Japanese American Citizens League, Human Rights Campaign, and he is Chairman of the Japanese American National Museum. He is most importantly an outspoken advocate for the Asian American and GLBTQ communities, speaking out and working tirelessly against California’s Proposition 8.
Takei officially came out of the closet in 2005, even though he had been out to his friends and co-workers for years.
“It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen…”
Takei married his partner of 20 years, Brad Altman, in a Buddhist ceremony at the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in September 2008. Fellow Star Trek actor Walter Koenig was his best man, and singer/actor/civil rights activist Michelle Nichols who played communications officer Lieutenant Uhura was the maid of honor. Takei claims William Shatner (Captain Kirk) was invited to the wedding, but neglected to RSVP. The Takei-Altman marriage was one of thousands of same-sex marriages that took place during that brief time when same-sex marriage was legal in California, before Prop 8 banned same-sex marriage in the state. It did not affect their marriage or other same-sex marriages entered into before it passed in November of 2008.
Takei and Altman appeared in a celebrity edition of The Newlywed Game. They were the first same-sex couple to be featured on the series. They won the game, taking $10,000 for their charity, the Japanese American National Museum.
Takei and I appear to have many things in common: we are both native born Californians, Buddhists, members of SAG, married to men, and he starred on Star Trek while I was featured as Third Tribble From The Left at my neighborhood’s annual summer block party and pageant.
Fun facts: Takai studied architecture at UC Berkley and acting at UCLA. He appeared on the 12th season of some show titled The Apprentice, hosted by a short-fingered vulgarian, which is not the same thing as a long-fingered Vulcan. Last winter, following Donald Trump‘s wish to ban all Muslims from traveling to the USA, Takei denounced him, saying:
“It’s ironic that he made that comment on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the very event that put us in those internment camps. A congressional commission found that it was three things that brought that about. One was racial hysteria, second was war hysteria and third was failure of political leadership. Trump is the perfect example of that failure. What Donald Trump is talking about is something that’s going to make his logo ‘America Disgraced Again’.”
Asteroid 7307 Takei is named in his honor. Takei:
“I am now a heavenly body. When I found out about it, I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky… just like an asteroid.”
The fact that Takai is one of the most popular individuals on that Internet thing gives me a little faith in the human race.