Friday, March 06, 2015

Harrison Ford Shines Light On Leonard Nimoy

Harrison Ford's recent brush with the final curtain (I'm happy to hear he's safe, and wish him a speedy recover) put into perspective a few of my feelings about the late Leonard Nimoy.

There was a moment in the late-70s, early-80s when Ford offered an aspirational image to a late-adolescent boy. As a Star Wars besotted teenager I understood myself to be in league with the whiny-bossy, perpetually clueless Luke Skywalker. I also understood that Luke envied, admired and had a "won't you be my older brother?" crush on Han Solo, because I had the self-same crush.

I took fashion cues from Ford's "Decker" in Blade Runner.

I also slouched.
I knew Ridley Scott dressed him up, but Ford wore the clothes -- so I frequented Goodwill stores and scoured the bargain racks at the back of Le Chateau, taking my best stab at the look.

I cheered when Ford strode across the silver screen again as Han Solo in the first movie entirely devoted to the role: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. And for a few years following, if Ford was involved in a project, that fact alone was enough to generate interest.

But, after a while, that stopped being the case.

There were a number of reasons for my growing antipathy, and his public persona as someone who, at the very best of times, could be prickly and often worse certainly didn't help matters.

It's easy to understand and even sympathize with Ford's attitude -- shut up with the Star Wars, already. It's more difficult to understand where Leonard Nimoy's even-keeled equanimity came from.

To say nothing of his good posture.
Did Nimoy ever have a "get a life!" moment? It's possible, even probable. Still, it's telling that Shatner was the one who jumped at the chance to play it for (very nervous) laughs. In the same SNL skit, he also claims the show was "something I did as a lark." Again, coming from Shatner, it's convincing. Nimoy could never pull that off, because the truth was evident from the start: he took the show, and his role in it, very seriously.

He appeared to parlay that seriousness into a cautiously-tendered respect toward the show's fans. No easy feat, that, but I think the fans reciprocated in kind. Nimoy's non-Trek related ventures could be pretty flaky at times -- endearingly so, because, hey, we're kind of a flaky bunch ourselves, aren't we? Then there was the rigorous conceptualism of his photography. The man's artistic yin-and-yang seemed just as dramatic as his signature role, and just as winning.

I have a friend who encountered Kim Cattrall when Sex & The City was in the ascendant, and Catrall's star had gone super-nova. He surprised her by complimenting her work in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. She, in turn, surprised him with story after story about what a mensch Nimoy had been on-set. For her (then for my friend, and finally for me) Nimoy was a surprisingly open, fundamentally decent guy -- the sort of person we'd like to be remembered as.

Anyway, the best piece I've read so far is Matt Zoller Seitz' careful parsing of Spock's (yes: Spock's) subversive Jewishness. Reading MZS, one does flinch somewhat at McCoy's "green-blooded hob-goblin" barbs, much the way we now flinch at Sinatra's on-stage "watermelon" joshing with Sammy Davis Jr. It's worthy thought-provocation, even if at times MZS's prognostications ("as if Wagner had momentarily been claimed for the chosen people") stretch credibility.

But then, what do I know? I am not Leonard Nimoy, a self-described "secular Jew."

I just aspire to be.

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