January, 2003

A Shiny Double Bow

by George Takei

LOS ANGELES - A festive bow was tied on the final month of last year with my annual winter trip to London. This time, however, it was tied with a shiny double bow because the trip also included a Christmas party with Star Trek friends in Mannheim, Germany. It was a month filled with delights - a perfect December.

London is like opening an enticing Christmas present before Christmas. Goodies abound - great museums, fun restaurants, and, of course, the theater. At the British National Portrait Gallery there was a special exhibit of American portraits on loan from the U.S. National Gallery. "Madame De Pompadour, Images of a Mistress" was next door at the National Gallery. Somerset House, the magnificent palace on the river Thames, which became the former Royal Navy Office, and then partly the offices of the tax collector, Inland Revenue, has also become a handsome museum. The art collection of Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, was the special exhibit there. The courtyard of Somerset House had been magically transformed into a festive ice skating rink spinning with happy skaters.

The great treat of London, for me, is its rich theater offerings. Classic revivals or exciting originals, London's West End in winter is a bejeweled theatrical Christmas tree. The new hit play of the season was David Hare's "The Breath of Life," starring two brilliant Dames - stalwart Judi Dench and the fabulous Maggie Smith. They play women who had both been in love with and been abandoned by the same man. Dame Maggie had the more interesting role and she inhabited her part completely. An uproariously funny new comedy titled, "The Lying Kind" by Anthony Neilson opens on a frosty Christmas Eve. Two English policemen have the unpleasant task of informing an elderly couple that their daughter had been killed in a horrible auto accident. And from there, if you can believe it, the comedy begins! It was hilarious - an amazing comic achievement. Classic revivals are always interestingly done in London and often rise to perfection. There was Noel Coward's drama "The Vortex," Oliver Goldsmith's restoration comedy, "She Stoops to Conquer," and, the best production I saw on this trip, George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession" starring Brenda Blethyn in a towering performance as Mrs. Warren and a luminous Rebecca Hall as her daughter. This is the kind of theater that makes a trip to London more than worth the jet lag and airport trauma.

The grand treat of this trip though was an undreamed of experience - dinner with the Dickens' Pickwick Club at the historic George and Vulture. The Chairman of the Club is none other than Cedric Charles Dickens the genial 85-year-old great grandson of the great Charles Dickens himself. He was the spitting image of Mr. Pickwick. Indeed, a goodly number of the members seemed to take on a similarly cherubic Pickwickian look. The George and Vulture, founded in 1600, where Charles Dickens used to dine regularly, was festooned with holiday decorations, the air was effervescent with good cheers and the table laden with savory Silverside of roast beef, winter vegetables followed by treacle tart and Stilton cheese - a proper Dickensian feast. There were a series of Pickwickian toasts. My host, theater producer, Dennis Babcock, rose to introduce me. As I got up to acknowledge the applause, I sensed a slight breach of the Dickensian atmosphere as a few welcoming hands were raised in Vulcan salute made famous by Mr. Spock of Star Trek. There were Trekkers even amongst the Pickwickians! All these gentlemen however, exuded their love of Dickens from every pore of their bodies. I opened mine wide and happily absorbed in every wonderful moment. It was an indescribable experience. As a matter of fact, more than a few of the members asked me at the end of the dinner, "Isn't this an absolutely indescribable evening?" I agreed. This is only my feeble attempt at describing the indescribable.

I owe this treat beyond description to Dennis Babcock, an American member of the Pickwick Club. He was in town to prepare for the London opening of his comedy with music, "Triple Espresso" in January at the Arts Theater in the West End. I saw the production last summer in Minneapolis and enjoyed it thoroughly. I told him that I was planning to be back in London in February after the Starfleet Ball in Bournemouth, England, and would love to see his fun revue again. Quick-thinking producer that he is, Dennis immediately suggested that he make the night I see the play "George Takei Night at Triple Espresso." What a great idea, I agreed. Can we give my friends who come that night a break on the ticket price? He offered half off. It sounded like a good deal. We settled on the evening of February 13, 2003, for the George Takei night. So, if any of you should be in London on that Thursday night, I hope to see you there at the Arts Theater right off busy Shaftsbury Avenue. Just tell the box office people that you are a friend of George Takei to get the half-price tickets.

Then, I was off to Mannheim, Germany, for the Star Trek Christmas Party with other friends of George Takei. This event, organized by Sylvia Strybuc and Roger Hofstetter, was a charity benefit for Children with AIDS. It was a joyful gathering of friends and fans from Germany and Switzerland with actors who were the German voices of the many generations of Star Trek characters. I was able to recognize almost immediately the actors that were the German vocal counterparts of Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway. Both were at once the very personifications of command authority combined with the warmth of genuinely gracious people. Of course, Father Christmas, or as we say in the U.S., Santa Claus, visited the party with presents for all. I even got to sit on his lap and serenade him with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." It was all cheerful good fun. And it raised needed funds for a vital charity. The Christmas Party was a great way to celebrate together and, at the same time, support a humanitarian cause in the true spirit of Star Trek and Christmas. After the celebration, Sylvia and Karl Heinz took us to a Christmastime tradition all over Germany - the Christmas market in the center of the city around Mannheim's historic Water Tower. The Christmas market is a festively decorated village of temporary huts selling food, drinks, and colorful folk crafts of the holiday season. With frosty breath puffing, I bargained for tree ornaments, gift decorations and other holiday crafts. Christmastime in Mannheim 2002 will forever remain a bright, sparkling memory. Thank you Sylvia, Roger, and all the friends of George Takei there.

Back in Los Angeles, Sachie Kubo of Osaka, Japan, flew in for her winter vacation on Christmas day. Having crossed the international dateline, her Christmas was extended even longer than the normal 24-hour day. I invited her to join us for our family Christmas dinner but - poor thing - she was too jet-lagged to enjoy the festivities. She dozed fitfully throughout the dinner. Jet travel does extract an exhaustingly soporific price. Still, as sleepy as she may have been, she contributed an international feel to our Christmas of 2002. We live in a wonderful world where we do truly inhabit a global "infinite diversity in infinite combinations."




George Takei Statement on Proposition 8

Andrew Koenig

Majel Barrett Roddenberry

George Takei Statement on William Shatner

Marriage Equality Comes to California

You Gotta Have Friends

George Takei on Casting of John Cho as Sulu

Second Wind

George's Statement on the Star Trek Feature Daily Variety Story

The Forty-Year Trek

Why Howard Stern?

January, 2006
The Year of Equus

Tribute to Pat Morita

November, 2005
Equality and Justice For All

Tribute to Jimmy

May, 2005
Catfish, Scholars, and a Geisha Party

April, 2005
Two Surprising Gifts

March, 2005
Measuring TV Viewers

February, 2005
Oscars: the Luckiest of the Best

January, 2005
New York, New York

December, 2004
Tsunami of Compassion

November, 2004
An Emperor, Abe Lincoln, and Four Presidents

October, 2004
Fund-raising with fun raising

September, 2004
Life Interrupted

August, 2004
Celebrating Three Legends

July, 2004
Dense Enrichment

June, 2004
Seattle: The Crucible of Imagination

May, 2004
High Times Down Under

April, 2004
Trekkin' in Japan

March, 2004
An Actor's New York

February, 2004
They Call Her Osama

January, 2004
Caribbean Seatrek

December, 2003
My Arkansas Roots

November, 2003
A Month of Glory and Fury

October, 2003
Jet Lag Reminiscences

September, 2003
Supporters and Whoopee!

August, 2003
Beaming Back in Time

July, 2003
Hawaii, Chicago, Tulsa and Kiribati

June, 2003
A Salute to Liberty

May, 2003
Renewal and Nurturing

April, 2003
The Human Spirit

March, 2003
An Anglophile Angeleno

February, 2003
NASA Must Rise Again

January, 2003
A Shiny Double Bow

December, 2002
Holiday Reflections

November, 2002
"Omiyage" Gifts from Japan

October, 2002
Historic Travels

September, 2002
Oscar-Winning Movies

August, 2002
Summer Visitors

July, 2002
Mama's "Pacific Overtures"

June, 2002
Fumiko Emily Takei, 1912 - 2002

May, 2002
Flight of Angels

April, 2002
Surviving a Texas Storm

March, 2002
Hooray for Hollywood; Boo on Secession

February, 2002
Sacramento Roots

January, 2002
Bearing Witness

December, 2001
A Hundred Million Miracles

November, 2001
Serendipitous London

October, 2001
The Aftermath

September 11, 2001
A Special Message

September, 2001
Summertime at the Hollywood Bowl

August, 2001
Voice Transporter

July, 2001
Two American Monuments

June, 2001
Luck Be a Lady

May, 2001
A Global Banquet Table

April, 2001
Joy and Disappointment

March, 2001
Two Guys Named David

February, 2001
Wisdom from a Volcano

January, 2001
Millennial London

December, 2000
Japan - From the Past to the Cutting Edge

November, 2000
Counting My Blessings

October, 2000
The Mother of an Actor

September, 2000
Hanover Expo 2000

August, 2000
Rockin' in the Northwest

July, 2000
Global Interchange

June, 2000
Sky High Challenge

May, 2000
A Month of Theater

April, 2000
Excelsior Passion

March, 2000
Alien World Right Below

February, 2000
Hawaii Connections

January, 2000
A New Beginning

December, 1999
Millennium Musings

November, 1999
Power of Ingenuity

October, 1999
Back to a Diverse Future

September, 1999
Our Human Linkage

August, 1999
Equatorial Launch to the Stars

July, 1999
Celebration of Diversity

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