Leonard Nimoy Talks Trek, TV & More, Part 1
Leonard Nimoy is back – not that he really ever left. The Star Trek legend not too long ago announced his retirement. Though he’s not (yet) attended another convention, Nimoy seems to be as ubiquitous as always, giving talks, providing the voice of Spock on The Big Bang Theory, being on hand to welcome the space shuttle Enterprise to New York following its final journey, posting frequently on Facebook and Twitter, and even shocking Fringe fans with a surprise
appearance in last week’s episode.
Upcoming on the retiree’s dance card: another turn as William Bell in this week’s Fringe season finale, a speaking engagement this fall at the ceremony celebrating Walter Koenig’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he’s also helping his granddaughter, Danielle Schwartz, launch her retail website, Shop LLAP. Shop LLAP offers a variety of Nimoy- and/or Spock-centric items, including autographed tee-shirts and tote bags, while the StarTrek.com Store, starting today, will offer new Nimoy-authorized Vulcan-face tee-shirts. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Nimoy for a breezy, wide-ranging exclusive conversation in which he discussed all of the above, and more. Part one is below, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
Let’s start with Shop LLAP. How did that come about?
Nimoy: The whole story is really about my granddaughter, Dani. She’s an art person. She studied art and design. She saw some of these photographs that I had done a while back for a series call "Secret Selves," and she was quite convinced that they’d look good on tee-shirts. I said, “OK, I give you the license. You can go ahead and put those images on tee-shirts.” She said, “What you have to do is open a Twitter account and build up some followers, and then we’ll tell them where they can go to buy these shirts.” I said, “OK,” and I did that. Suddenly, I’m tweeting on Twitter.
You’re laughing as you say “Tweeting on Twitter…”
Nimoy: I’m laughing because the whole thing would have totally passed me by if it weren’t for her, this whole tweeting and Facebook thing. Anyway, it started with that. I opened a Twitter account and Dani opened a shop on a site called Etsy, where you can have a page. You sell stuff on it and they take a small percentage of each sale. So it started with that and she started selling a lot of tee-shirts. Then she said, “We have to have our own website.” So she opened Shop LLAP and she started expanding the merchandise. What we’re trying to do is keep the merchandise we’re offering as personal as possible. It isn’t all just generic stuff. It’s about stuff we personally have created and care about. At the moment we have a tee-shirt that says LLAP, which is very popular. We have a tote bag which says LLAP, and I sign the tote bags.
The newest item is a Vulcan-face tee-shirt that you are signing…
Nimoy: Dani commissioned and designed that, and a young fellow named Josh Zingerman did that wonderful design, which I love. I think it’s one of the best designs of the Spock image that I’ve seen in all of the history of Spock. So, we’re offering those. That’s where we are and how it all came about, and Dani has this great business running. And I have to tell you, it’s more about staying in touch with fans and offering them something that they don’t get anywhere else than it is about anything else. Dani is a wonderful young lady who works for another company doing Internet site work. She does this as a side thing, and it’s very personal for her and for me.
Actually, we’ve already run out of one item and we have to do some more of them. We’ve created a tee-shirt where I draw, by my own hand, the Vulcan sign on the shirt. I do a drawing, a very rough drawing, but there it is. It’s the Vulcan gesture on a tee-shirt. Dani came to the house with a bunch of shirts and I drew them. They were gone in a second. People wait for them. They say, “When are we going to have some more.” The unsigned Vulcan face shirts are on StarTrek.com. A lot of fans really do want them unsigned because they want to be able to wear it and wash it.
What else will be added to the Shop LLAP line?
Nimoy: We’re talking about various items. We’re talking about some kind of a wristband or bracelet that says LLAP. There will be more. We don’t intend to be a gigantic operation, though. We don’t want to be. We want to keep it very person, very simple and make sure everybody gets a good deal. We’re also giving away stuff every once in a while. Sometimes we’ll run a special and we’ll say “Get a signed Spock card along with your shirt.” Also, and this is really interesting, I have quite a library of product that has been produced over the years – Star Trek products, Alien Voices products and so forth. I gave Dani a bunch of that stuff and I encourage her to, every once in a while, just on a whim, drop one into a package as a surprise gift. So people might buy a shirt and end up with a recording of one of the Alien Voices shows signed by me as a surprise. We also have a button that says LLAP, and that’s going out with the shirts as well.
Since we’ve got you on the line, let’s touch on some other things. You mentioned Twitter and Facebook. You are very active on them. It’s like you’re the new George Takei…
Nimoy (laughs): It snuck up on me. I had no idea. I love it. It’s a great world out there and it’s a great way of communicating with a lot of people in a very quick way. I enjoy it. I’m on Twitter fairly regularly. I don’t do an awful lot of tweeting. There are some people I see that tweet all day, every day. They start in the morning and say, “Good morning,” then are on it all day. I don’t do that. I pop up. I try to tweet when I’ve got something really interesting to say or some idea that I think is meaningful. I don’t tweet when I go to the drug store.
There’s so much out there right now – iPads, for example – that are unmistakably Star Trek tech becoming reality. What from Star Trek has not been realized yet that you hope to see someday?
Nimoy: Well, I’d love to be able to do a mind meld. That would be very helpful. But the technology has really, astoundingly, followed some of the Star Trek items that we used. (Early) cell phones were like communicators. There are the tablets, iPads and all of that, and they have so much of the information that we used to get on the tricorder. And we’re awfully close to a lot of those items that were so wonderfully imaginative 40, 45 years ago. They’re in the culture now.
You surprised everyone by appearing on Fringe again last week. What intrigued you about how/why they brought Bell back?
Nimoy: This is such a creative company. The William Bell character has been re-conceived and it's a fresh acting opportunity. This season finale is a stunner.
How open would you be to returning once or twice next season to help put the proper capper on the show and the character's arc?
Nimoy: Next season is an open question. I love the show. I admire the people who make it. We’ve become friends. I think they’re wildly imaginative. If they contact me, I answer the phone. I don’t avoid them. I try to be helpful. I try to make a contribution.
The radio-play-style recordings you did with John de Lancie for your joint company, Alien Voices, are finally available in the digital format. What does it mean to you that more people, younger people, can hear those recordings now?
Nimoy: That’s great. John and I are very good friends. I really loved doing that with him. I admire him and he’s a hardworking, very talented guy. We had a great time doing those recordings, and we did some of them in person, at conventions, and they always got a great audience reaction. I’m delighted that they’re available for download now and that more people can enjoy them. I really look back fondly on those shows that we did.