In 1977, Leonard Nimoy was acting on Broadway. Star Trek had been off the air for nearly a decade and Star Trek: The Motion Picture was still a couple years on the horizon. This time, the only character with pointy ears would be a horse. Nimoy was the adult lead in Peter Shaffer's Equus, a play that would continue to provide new avenues to former sci-fi idols such as Daniel "Harry Potter" Radcliffe. The former Spock was taking over the role after Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Perkins and Richard Burton. Those are big actor shoes to fill.
Still, it's rather funny in hindsight to read the first sentence of People magazine's profile of Nimoy from the July 25, 1977, issue: "For 26 years Leonard Nimoy has struggled to establish himself as an important American actor." Try telling that to the people lined up that summer for the Star Trek America convention in the New York Hilton.
At the time, Nimoy was 46 years old. The article paints him as a professional who is paradoxically still striving to make it big while avoiding becoming a has-been. The pressure of nailing his role in Equus led to Nimoy rehearsing all day — even in his sleep. The piece offers loads of juicy biographical details that even some Trekkies might not know.
It starts from the very beginning, when an 8-year-old Nimoy played the lead in a production of Hansel and Gretel. Here is more trivia that fascinated us.
• At 17 he decided to become a famous actor to "get revenge" on jocks at his school.
• He saved up $600 by selling vacuum cleaners so that he could travel across the country and study at the Pasadena Playhouse.
• The Boston native struggled so hard to lose his accent that he developed a stutter.
• As a young struggling actor, Nimoy supplemented his income by working in a pet shop, slinging drinks at a soda fountain, delivering newspapers, filling vending machines and driving cabs.
• Nimoy pressured Star Trek screenwriters to explore Spock's yearning for love.
• In the late 1960s, Nimoy received 10,000 fan letters a month from Trek fans, mostly from women, the bulk of it "torridly erotic."
• The stress of working on Star Trek led to Nimoy seeking therapy.
• He earned $7,500 per week working on Mission: Impossible.
• He agreed to appear in a Star Trek motion picture but not a proposed television revival.
• He said he reached "professional menopause" in the early '70s and got into gardening, photography and poetry.
• In 1975, he went back to school at Antioch College and earned a masters in Education.
• He started taking roles in regional theater for as little as $300 in pay. He played 13 roles in 27 American cities.
• Spock rubbed off on his personality. He admitted, "Playing Spock helped me personally to become more cerebral and objective."
Oh, how we deeply miss him.
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