Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Remembering Leonard Nimoy

February 27, 2016, was the first anniversary of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. It is possibly a universal reaction to death for those of us left behind to think of the last time we saw a late friend or loved one in person. That last interaction, that last vision, is often a meteor strike to our memory leaving an indelible and permanent mark. The last time we saw Leonard Nimoy in person was during his retirement appearance on October 2, 2011, and the Creation Entertainment’s Official 45th Anniversary Star Trek Convention in Rosemont, Illinois.

Leonard’s final in-person convention appearance began with emotional words from host Adam Malin, who introduced a special tribute video that had been assembled featuring all of the seven main actors of Star Trek (2009), along with director J.J. Abrams, providing good wishes for Leonard’s retirement from both live convention appearances and acting. The best moment was in reaction to the question, “describe Leonard Nimoy in three words” when Karl Urban, mustering his best Dr. McCoy vibe, used the phrase “green-blooded, hobgoblin” as his answer. The audience roared with laughter because the affectionate joke was as much an emotional thank you to Leonard, to his character of Spock, and to DeForest Kelley - all in the same moment. More emotionally, Karl Urban also thanked Leonard for “over 40 years of absolutely magical work.”

Leonard had begun appearing at conventions during 1973 when he attended a New York City con held February 16th to the 19th that year, a surprise to the audience. When Leonard walked onto the stage for what would be his last in-person appearance almost 40 years later in 2011, there was thunderous applause, to be certain, but also a sense of palpable gratitude for being able to see him again once last time at a convention. Leonard’s family was gathered with him to enjoy the moment.

Leonard began a nearly hour-long presentation in which he shared his life story through words, pictures and even through his poetry. Images of Leonard’s life in the West End of Boston growing up and stories of how, while a cab driver, a conversation with passenger Senator John F. Kennedy provided him with needed inspiration to continue acting during his early days struggling to find work were a few of the highlights.

There was one moment that gave us something to look forward to, despite the focus on the past. Leonard mentioned something very cryptic near the end of his speech, saying that he while he was also retiring from acting, he had some commitments that he made previously, and that we may see him “pop up” again from time to time. We immediately looked at each other and thought the same thing: could that be a hint that Leonard was going to in the next Star Trek film again? We were thrilled to eventually see that with Leonard’s important cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness he was indeed trying to telegraph a message to fans that October day that endings are never really such a thing: there are always possibilities.

When the time arrived for Leonard to leave, he did so with grace and quietly, while fans in the sold-out room held up a sign that said what everyone was feeling, “We love you Leonard.” Creation Entertainment had made a cake in Leonard’s honor, and in a kind gesture, Leonard asked that the cake be shared with the audience of fans as he signed autographs.

To be certain, Leonard Nimoy wasn’t done giving to the world despite that retirement appearance. He would eventually share his struggles with COPD during his retirement, even making fans like us his honorary grandchildren on Twitter if they promised never to smoke or to quit. He made priceless, funny commercials with Zachary Quinto and humorous music video appearances for family members. A man so talented and unique as Leonard Nimoy could never truly retire. He cared too much about the world and the people in it to not continue having effects.

But, that October, 2011, day would be the last time most fans would get a chance to see Leonard in person, not on Skype or a movie screen. It was a special day during which we got to thank him for all that he gave us; and he got to thank fans for supporting his visions and artistry. It is the moment we first think of whenever we think of Leonard Nimoy now. An intimate gathering with 2,000 friends and the man who brought us all together. We more than miss you Leonard. As the sign we all held up in 2011 said, “We love you.”

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Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at jtenuto@clcillinois.edu or mjtenuto@clcillinois.edu.

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