Leonard Nimoy's... Elbow
By David McDonnell - March 04, 2014
Leonard Nimoy's elbow jutted out into my space---and just 12-16 inches from my awestruck face. This truly was 3-D!
Except, of course, it wasn't. Nimoy was on stage, in character, leaning on the railing directly in front of me, and I was there with him, especially thrilled to be part of the background, a live, on-stage audience of non-actor, collegiate spectators. This view offered a real, close-up look at Nimoy acting. I could see him sweat.
Here's how I got there: It was 1977 and I was in New York City, a tourist up from my then-Pennsylvania home, and had to fill time before rendezvousing with a college pal late that night (so we could attend a fraternity get-together early the next day). And Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy was on Broadway, playing the psychiatrist in Peter Shaffer's Tony Award-winning drama Equus. What could be better than that?
So, I scurried mid-afternoon to the Helen Hayes Theatre on 46th Street (just a block away from where I would work 30 years later). And the box office clerk gave me an appraising look. "Are you a student?" she asked. Yep! Pleased, she offered me the special college student admission price: a mere four bucks! The only caveats to this amazing deal: I must report to my seat no later than a half-hour before showtime and that seat would be on-stage. What could be better than that?
Off I went to kill more time before the performance with a hot pastrami on rye (Russian dressing) and a sojourn to my fave Manhattan bookstore, Coliseum Books (sadly now long-defunct). I wobbled back to the theater with my overnight case and a shopping bag bulging with newly-purchased SF and mystery paperbacks---carrying all I owned in NYC. Despite my "bag lady"-like appearance, I got ushered on-stage, one of the first folks there. I was instructed to take any seat except those marked with pillowy cushions (where Equus actors would sit among us). So, I scooted in the wooden bleacher arena's front row and sat, literally, at center stage, bags at my feet, looking out into the middle of a theater slowly filling with eager patrons. I had arrived on Broadway! In a manner of speaking.
Now, I knew little about Equus other than it concerned horses and an ultra-troubled boy who's treated by a semi-troubled psychiatrist. This was the first Broadway production (1974-7); the later, 2008 version starred Harry Potter's Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe and Star Trek: Voyager's Kate Mulgrew. Nimoy was taking the lead role late in the run following Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton (who then played it in the 1977 movie), Psycho's Anthony Perkins and Frenzy's Alec McCowen. And, just as you would expect, Nimoy was terrific! Seeing him act---and so intimately---in his prime. What could be better than that?
Bemusing sidenote: I was totally unaware of the play's plot twists. I had noticed a beautiful blonde alighting on a pillow to my (I think) right just before curtain (though I don't believe there was an actual curtain). Soon, she got up and joined the action---she must be an actress! Then, I was flabbergasted as she proceeded to take off all her clothes and have a naked love scene with the troubled youth on stage directly in front of me. Holy cow! What could be better---never mind. And, yes, I could see them sweat.
Anyhow, I eventually joined Starlog, where we featured Nimoy solo or with others on the magazine's cover numerous times in 33 years---and our writers (Steve Swires, Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier, Marc Shapiro, Ian Spelling, Bill Warren, etc.) interviewed him on countless occasions. Early on, I recall writing a small piece on Vincent (the one-man play which he adapted for film, directed and starred in as Theo van Gogh, the legendary artist's beloved brother), prompting a thank you note from Nimoy. And I edited the Official Magazines devoted to the two Treks he directed, The Search for Spock (two different publications) and The Voyage Home (three!). Nimoy was a friend of the Starlog family, close to co-publisher Kerry O'Quinn. I even met Nimoy twice briefly---at a California Starlog Festival and a Pennsylvania SF convention (where he graciously inscribed a photo to my brother Russ).
Years later, at an Oklahoma con, Tulsa Trek, I got to see him perform live once again---this time as Spock---in a witty, enjoyable debate with John de Lancie as Q called Spock vs. Q: Armageddon Tonight. This was a new entry from their co-owned company Alien Voices---a series of radio show-like, audiobook dramatizations of past SF classics (Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, etc.) starring notable Trek veterans (Nimoy, de Lancie, Mulgrew, Armin Shimerman, Ethan Phillips, Nana Visitor, Roxann Dawson, Andrew Robinson and even William Shatner).
I was especially thrilled because it was the first time I had seen any of the Alien Voices live convention performances---and as a pal of de Lancie's, I had actually (I'm proud to say) come up with the name for their whole venture, Alien Voices. So, afterwards, de Lancie ushered me into Nimoy's presence and mentioned the whole "Dave titled Alien Voices for us" scenario. Leonard Nimoy shook my hand and smiled. What could be better than that?
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