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Today, the world of pop culture lost a great and multi-talented entertainer when Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83 from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The man who came to be equated with the phrase “Live long and prosper” did just that, and his 60+ year career was celebratory for fans of nearly every artform and genre. Nimoy was a true renaissance man. Or renaissance Vulcan, if you will.
One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t appreciate the Boston-born thespian’s work and achievements, and so we’ve put together five reasons why everyone loves Leonard Nimoy. Is five too limited a number? Perhaps, but each reason is the culmination of many years’ worth of effort, so we hope he would approve.
Star TrekRarely has an actor been so tied to a role as Nimoy has with the Vulcan Enterprise officer Mr. Spock, and he exuded little of the jadedness that actors often develop when they’re largely known for one thing. His love for the character shone through in just how many times he reprised the role. His initial performance on the original 1960s Star Trek series was followed by Star Trek: The Animated Series, the first six Star Trek films, a guest spot in Star Trek: The Next Generation, both of J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek movies, and a whole host of Star Trek video games. If he didn’t truly enjoy playing Spock, he would have been the most miserable person in the world after all that. But the actor never stopped smiling in real life.
In Search Of…While it seems like the only way television currently knows how to deal with life’s mysteries is with baloney like Ancient Aliens, Leonard Nimoy gave the world the epitome of curiosity-inspiring programming with the 1977-1982 docu-series In Search of…. Nimoy took on hosting duties when original host choice Rod Serling passed away, and expanded the latter’s goals of bringing strange phenomena and controversies to wide audiences. This was back in a time before science and the Internet debunked and/or explained many of the things that the show covered, but its format and approach to left-field education remains second to none, and Nimoy’s gravitas was a huge part of that. He also narrated Ancient Mysteries and a couple of History’s Mysteries episodes, but those shows weren’t quite the same.
Always Willing to Guest Star and Poke Fun at HimselfLeonard Nimoy’s post-Spock years have been full of guest appearances on shows, some self-mocking and some high on Star Trek references. For instance, he recalled his In Search Of… days for a sci-fi-tinged episode of The Simpsons (in his second cameo on that series), he voiced his own head in a jar for Futurama, made a surprise Weekend Update appearance on Saturday Night Live, and provided some voice work on the Spock-loving series The Big Bang Theory. (He also lent his dulcet tones to a Star Trek-themed episode of Duckman.) When you take into account all of his joyous talk show appearances – with his Daily Show spots as memorable as any – it’s obvious that the actor’s personality went a long way in drawing such fan fervor.
His Charity WorkWhile some celebrities are content with raking in the dough and living lives of luxury, Nimoy has spent a large chunk of his later life fundraising for various causes and organizations. He and his second wife Susan Bay Nimoy founded the Nimoy Foundation in 2003, a nonprofit with a focus on raising awareness and generating grants for visual arts and artists. He also frequently worked with the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and Belt T’Shuvah, which has the Susan & Leonard Nimoy Career Center that helps recovering addicts and alcoholics find jobs that fit their skills. Upon his death, his granddaughter Dani Schwartz announced that she would be selling “Live long and proper” shirts through this website, with all proceeds going to COPD medical research. You know you’ve done something right if your generosity outlives you.
Everything ElseIf the earlier list items somehow didn’t convince you, what about everything else that Leonard Nimoy did in his illustrious career? Beyond being an accomplished poet, he brilliantly depicted his mental ties with his Star Trek role in the two autobiographies I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock. He released a handful of albums showing off (or whatever you want to call it) his musical skills. We actually can’t go forward without listening to Nimoy tackling Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” because duh.
Nimoy’s non-Star Trek acting career included roles on Mission: Impossible, Marco Polo, Gunsmoke, Becker, The Outer Limits, and, of course, his Emmy-winning role as Dr. William Bell on Fringe. (And who can forget his suitcase-gun wielding KAOS villain on Get Smart?) Remember Three Men and a Baby? He directed that, as well as the third and fourth Star Trek films. And he also lent his voice to video games such as Seaman, Civilization IV and a couple of the Kingdom Hearts games.
The world is an emptier place without you, Mr. Nimoy, and entertainment will never quite be the same.