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August, 2002

Summer Visitors
by George Takei

LOS ANGELES - The pleasant days of summer combined with people's urge to travel seem to be the convivial mix that brings far flung friends and relatives together. A second cousin of mine from Japan, Shunichi Takei, whom I hadn't seen in over a decade, dropped in. He works for Hewlett-Packard Japan and had crossed the Pacific for a meeting at its Silicon Valley headquarters in California. A Fourth of July family get-together at the home of my Orange County relatives, James and Midori Uyeda, followed this.

Flying in from New York were Stan Honda and his wife, Ann Levin, whom I had visited in Manhattan earlier this year. He is the photojournalist who took some of the shots of the World Trade Center horrors that have now become iconic. One of his photos, of a dust-coated and dazed businessman, still carrying his briefcase, became the cover of Fortune Magazine. Another, of a stunned African American woman also completely covered in dust, appeared in newspapers all over the world. The Japanese American National Museum is planning an exhibit of Stan's works in September 2003.

The museum was the attraction for many visitors. A long-time friend, Sarla Joy of Dayton, Ohio, where I had performed in a concert production of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" in June, came to Los Angeles for her first visit to the Japanese American National Museum. She went back to Dayton, not only impressed with the exhibits, but also enthusiastic about lobbying the Dayton Art Institute to invite one of our traveling exhibits there. Another visitor to the museum I was delighted to welcome was Mr. T. Kubota, a representative of the influential Association of Japan Corporations, known in Japan as the Keidanren. He joined us for the festivities surrounding the opening of our newest exhibit, "Passports to Friendship," about the exchange of dolls between the children of Japan and the United States.

Interspersed through the month were travels of my own. One was to San Francisco for a speaking engagement and another to Minneapolis for a Star Trek convention. There was a comedy review titled "Triple Espresso" playing at a nearby theater. I'm an addict - not of coffee but of theater. "Triple Espresso" - what hilarious, high-caffeine nonsense! I laughed 'til it hurt. There, I met its producer, Dennis Babcock, who had also produced Leonard Nimoy's play "Vincent" that toured the country. Dennis told me that he is a member of the Charles Dickens' Club of London and that he was going to be there in December. What serendipity! I, too, am planning to be in London in December, I told him. I now seem to have inveigled myself an invitation to join Dennis as his guest at their December dinner gathering to meet the club's honorary chairman, Cedric Dickens, the great grandson of the great Dickens himself, Charles. I thought surprising happy events like this happened only in Dickens novels.

For my summer Hollywood Bowl concert night, I invited local friends that I don't see often enough to share a box with me. My guests were Lynn Arthurs, former chair of East West Players, Tim Dang, artistic director of East West Players, Brian Arthurs, and Darrell Cummings. It was a wonderful summer evening with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the guest flutist, the incomparable James Galway.

Back on a plane again to gather with friends at another Star Trek convention, this time in Las Vegas. A unique enhancement of this convention was a tribute to Leonard Nimoy - Creation Entertainment's Lifetime Achievement Award. There are many accolades given to people who have been successful in their careers. But this one to Leonard was so fitting on so many levels. Certainly, Leonard has been eminently successful as an actor and a director. He has been the recipient of standing ovations, rave reviews, and career honors galore. Leonard and I share a Grammy nomination in the "Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording" category for our work together on a Star Trek audiocassette. He has published his poems and other writings. But a little known aspect of Leonard that is highly deserving of recognition is his civic spirit and quiet generosity. He and his wife, Susan, have been great philanthropists to many institutions that have enriched the Los Angeles community. The Japanese American National Museum has been a beneficiary of their generosity, as has the Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles. The historic Griffith Park Observatory, now undergoing enormous renovation work high up in the Hollywood Hills, has been a major recipient of the Nimoys' vision and bigheartedness. The new theater that will be a part of the expanded observatory is to be named very appropriately the Leonard Nimoy Theater. This observatory shall truly "live long and prosper."

While in Las Vegas, I got together with old friend Pat Morita and his delightfully witty wife, Evi. The restaurant was abuzz with excitement - Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kid having dinner with Captain Sulu of Star Trek! In the middle of the Nevada desert, fine wine flowed, bottle after bottle. We were the last ones to leave the restaurant. The next morning, I missed my regular sunrise jog.

I returned to Los Angeles just in time to greet my new friend from my "Pacific Overtures" run in Dayton, Ohio, actress Kay Bosse. She played my sweetly conniving murderer mother who poisoned me with her concoction of chrysanthemum tea. I enjoyed my stay in her city, Dayton, so I wanted to reciprocate by showing her how vibrant my hometown, Los Angeles, can be. Of course, the first stop was the Japanese American National Museum. Then, to the birthplace of my city, El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles Sobre el Rio Porciuncula. This historic state park includes the charming Mexican shopping street, Olvera Street. The thick walls of the Avila Adobe, the oldest adobe structure in Los Angeles, fascinated Kay. We crossed the street to our great mission style art deco railway station, Union Station, to catch the newest subway system in the nation, our Metro Rail. Along the way to Hollywood, we stopped off at our spectacularly restored Central Library. We stopped for drinks at the trendy rooftop lounge of the newest boutique hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the Standard Hotel. Then, back on the Metro Rail to Hollywood to see the original Star Trek casts' handprints and autographs in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater and to the new home of the Oscars, the Kodak Theater next door. Dinner was at The Grill, a new restaurant in the spectacular Hollywood and Highland complex.

Kay's final evening in Los Angeles was a very Hollywood event. The American Cinematheque was celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" with a screening of the film followed by a panel discussion with its producer, Harve Bennett, director Nick Meyer and two actors, Walter Koenig and me. The historic Grauman's Egyptian Theater, the new home of the American Cinematheque, was filled to capacity. They had to schedule a second screening to accommodate the demand. After the screening, Kay was caught in the crush of Star Trek autograph seekers. She was bumped and shoved ruthlessly as the determined fans tried to get to me. But I suspect she was thrilled by every uncomfortable second of it. As I write this, she is now winging her way back to Dayton. I think she is already planning her next visit to Los Angeles.



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