BE­ING GE­ORGE

WAR-TIME INTERNEE, GROUND-BREAK­ING SPACE TRAV­ELLER, IN­TER­NET SEN­SA­TION AND PO­LIT­I­CAL AC­TIVIST – GE­ORGE TAKEI IS A TRULY STEL­LAR LGBTI HERO. ON THE EVE OF HIS LIVE SHOWS IN AUS­TRALIA, HE CHATS WITH AN­DREW CREAGH ABOUT STAR TREK, TRUMP, LUCILLE BALL AND IN

DNA Magazine - - FEATURE -

DNA: You spent the early part of your life in an in­tern­ment camp for Ja­panese peo­ple in the USA at the start of the WWII. Do you see par­al­lels be­tween that ex­pe­ri­ence and the treat­ment of im­mi­grants in the USA to­day?

Ge­orge Takei: There are as­pects that are sim­i­lar and oth­ers that are not. The WWII in­tern­ment was of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens of Ja­panese an­ces­try – not of “Ja­panese peo­ple”. We were not im­mi­grants. My mother was born in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, and my fa­ther was a San Fran­cis­can. My sib­lings and I were born in Los Angeles. We were Amer­i­cans. There were no charges against us, no trial, no due process. Just whole­sale in­car­cer­a­tion sim­ply be­cause of our Ja­panese an­ces­try. It was an egre­gious vi­o­la­tion of the US Con­sti­tu­tion for which Pres­i­dent Rea­gan apol­o­gised in 1988, more than 40 years af­ter the in­tern­ment. Where there are par­al­lels is with Don­ald Trump’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of im­mi­grants to­day with the sweep­ing por­trayal of cer­tain groups of peo­ple try­ing to come to the US as “po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists” or “drug deal­ers and rapists” and sub­ject­ing them to big­otry and ex­clu­sion by a twist­ing of the law. Don­ald Trump’s Mus­lim travel ban Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der or the build­ing of a wall be­tween Mex­ico and the US to pre­vent Mex­i­cans from cross­ing into our coun­try is the mod­ern day par­al­lel to the in­tern­ment of Ja­panese Amer­i­can 75 years ago.

What did you learn from your in­tern­ment camp ex­pe­ri­ence?

I learned that ours is a par­tic­i­pa­tory peo­ple’s democ­racy. Peo­ple can do great things but we are also fal­li­ble; that our democ­racy is ex­is­ten­tially de­pen­dent on cit­i­zens who cher­ish the shin­ing ideals of our democ­racy and ac­tively en­gage in the process of gov­ern­ing our­selves. That’s why I’m an ac­tivist. Pres­i­dent Trump is a di­vi­sive fig­ure, but it could be said that he’s unit­ing the coun­try – against him. Ex­actly. But, as we say on Star Trek, there is “in­fi­nite diver­sity in in­fi­nite com­bi­na­tions” and there is a small and shrink­ing core group of knuck­le­heads that are still de­voted to their de­ity, the Don­ald. But they re­main a small and aber­rant mi­nor­ity. You’ve said that one of your favourite Star Trek scenes in­volves you, shirt­less, sword fight­ing! Can you tell us the con­text of that scene and why it’s your favourite?

The en­tire crew of the En­ter­prise was in­fected by a virus that broke down our sense of deco­rum and un­leashed our most hid­den de­sires. Spock is over­come with long sup­pressed guilt and grief, Nurse Chapel openly exhibits her se­cret love for Spock, and Sulu re­veals his hid­den pas­sion for fenc­ing bare chested. I loved that scene be­cause, at long last, Sulu was un­chained from that damn helm con­sole. He was lib­er­ated! And so was Ge­orge Takei to swash­buckle his heart out.

You’ve worked with Richard Bur­ton, Jerry Lewis, Alex Guin­ness, Frank Si­na­tra. You must be the best din­ner party guest with all the sto­ries you can tell? So in­vite me to din­ner!

You stud­ied at the De­silu Work­shop and worked for Lucille Ball’s pro­duc­tion com­pany? Did you ever meet the leg­endary Lucille?

De­silu Stu­dio was owned by Lucille Ball and her hus­band, Desi Ar­naz. Later, Lucy bought out Desi’s share and be­came the owner and Pres­i­dent of De­silu. Star Trek was a De­silu pro­duc­tion and Lucy was our ul­ti­mate boss. She dropped in on our sound­stage pe­ri­od­i­cally to check up on and su­per­vise her stu­dio’s show. When she was on our stage, she was the un­ques­tioned boss lady and a dom­i­nat­ing pres­ence. You and part­ner Brad were the first gay cou­ple in West Hol­ly­wood to ap­ply for a mar­riage li­cense – yet an­other men­tion in the his­tory books!

Yes, we were the first cou­ple to get our mar­riage li­cense in West Hol­ly­wood. But, to be frank, it was not by hap­pen­stance. We knew the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of West Hol­ly­wood and they wanted Brad and me to be the first to file for our mar­riage li­cense in West Hol­ly­wood.

You and Brad have now been to­gether 30 years – con­grat­u­la­tions!

We’ve been to­gether since 1986, back in the 20th cen­tury, so this year is our 31th an­niver­sary. We had been to­gether 21 years when the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme

Court ruled for mar­riage equal­ity. So we up and got hitched. We’ve been le­gal now for nine years.

Are you sur­prised that Aus­tralia – home of Dame Edna Ever­age, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert and the speedo – has taken so long to le­galise same-sex mar­riage?

We are as­tounded! We love Dame Edna and only an en­light­ened so­ci­ety could have pro­duced such a fan­tas­ti­cally witty so­cial com­men­ta­tor. And your leg­endary Mardi Gras pa­rade in Syd­ney is renowned through­out this planet! We hope you have won­der­ful news wait­ing for us when we get there later this year. Do you get in­vited to a lot of LGBTI wed­dings these days?

I wouldn’t say a lot but I have been the of­fi­ciant of a few – in­clud­ing one for the pro­ducer of our Broad­way mu­si­cal, Al­le­giance.

What song will al­ways get you out on the dance­floor?

Any­thing by Nat King Cole.

You have, in the past, run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice but on one oc­ca­sion had to with­draw from the race be­cause of Star Trek… can you ex­plain what hap­pened there? Yes, I have a che­quered past! I’ve run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice, a seat on the Los Angeles City Coun­cil, but I have never with­drawn from any race. When I threw my hat in the ring, Star Trek was run­ning daily on one of our lo­cal TV chan­nels. There were 14 can­di­dates run­ning against me for the coun­cil seat. The lo­cal chan­nel ran an episode of Star Trek in which I was on screen ex­actly 17 min­utes. Ev­ery one of my op­po­nents claimed “equal time” based on those 17 min­utes. That poor sta­tion had to give free time to all 14 can­di­dates for a night of bor­ing po­lit­i­cal speechi­fy­ing for 17 min­utes as them­selves on their is­sue po­si­tions based on my 17 min­utes play­ing a fic­tional Sulu say­ing words writ­ten by scriptwrit­ers. Be­cause of this grossly un­fair so-called law I can never run for pub­lic of­fice. Af­ter that, the chan­nel with­drew Star Trek from air­ing dur­ing the cam­paign.

You went boldly into the un­known world of so­cial me­dia and con­quered it. Were you sur­prised at the so­cial me­dia world’s re­sponse to you?

I’m from Star Trek in the 23rd Cen­tury. If I can han­dle the com­plex­i­ties of driv­ing the Star­ship En­ter­prise, deal­ing with an­cient 21st Cen­tury com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy is a piece of cake. And the re­sponse of the so­cial me­dia world was de­li­cious.

Did you re­alise you were so loved?

I love my fans and the fans love me back. We have a galac­tic love af­fair go­ing.

Hu­mour seems to be an in­te­gral part of your ge­netic make-up. When events and cer­tain peo­ple make mere mor­tals hop­ping mad, you re­sponse with hu­mour and grace. Does that take in­cred­i­ble strength?

It takes be­ing Ge­orge Takei.

Is com­edy good for one’s men­tal health?

Hu­mour makes our fal­li­bil­i­ties seem so ridicu­lous and the laugh­ter is great for hearty breath­ing and fill­ing our lungs with health­ful good air. Com­edy is good for both men­tal and phys­i­cal health.

You’ve been called “the fun­ni­est man on Face­book,” what makes a great Face­book post?

Truth put in the con­text of fal­li­ble hu­man be­ings try­ing to be some­thing they are not al­ways makes a great Face­book post.

I’m from Star Trek in the 23rd

Cen­tury. If I can han­dle the com­plex­i­ties of the Star­ship En­ter­prise, 21st Cen­tury com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy is a piece of cake.

Many LGBTI peo­ple are trou­bled by trolls on so­cial me­dia and could use your ad­vice on how to deal with them. Would do you sug­gest?

We have in our midst, alien life forms filled with envy or jeal­ousy or anger who in­flict their hate­ful evil on oth­ers un­der the cover of anonymity. I sug­gest the only way to deal with these cow­ardly trolls is to com­pletely ig­nore them. They will even­tu­ally go away for lack of re­sponse. You have mil­lions of so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers. Do you feel that comes with some re­spon­si­bil­ity?

Most cer­tainly. Those fol­low­ers have given me the gift of an am­pli­fied voice. With that gift comes grat­i­tude and the ac­cep­tance of re­spect and ac­count­abil­ity for my state­ments.

Who do you enjoy fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia?

My hubby, Brad Takei.

You’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity in life – racism and ho­mo­pho­bia – do find you are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ageism?

I my­self have not been on the re­ceiv­ing end of ageism, thank God, but know of in­ci­dents where se­nior cit­i­zens have ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of their age. Pres­i­dent Barak Obama said, “Jus­tice grows out of the recog­ni­tion of our­selves in oth­ers.” The fact is, we are all on the same road to even­tu­ally be­com­ing el­derly. Ageism is the stu­pid­ity of not recog­nis­ing one’s own fu­ture.

You are still mak­ing film and tele­vi­sion and do­ing voice-overs – do you love your job?

I pas­sion­ately love act­ing and feel blessed to be able to con­tinue work­ing. In the per­form­ing arts there will al­ways be roles for “old codgers.”

Is it true you can do 100 push-ups?

Two weeks ago, I had a hip re­place­ment op­er­a­tion and have been mak­ing good progress get­ting back on my feet. I work with my phys­i­cal ther­a­pist con­sci­en­tiously and look for­ward to get­ting back to my daily 100 pushups and 50 sit-ups.

What can we ex­pect from your live shows when you come to Aus­tralia?

In show busi­ness, we never give away our act be­fore the per­for­mance. Stay tuned and hold your breath. You’ve seen some pro­found so­cial and cul­tural changes dur­ing your life. What do you think are the most re­mark­able?

The elec­tion of an African-Amer­i­can as the Pres­i­dent of the United States; the le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­riage for LGBT peo­ple in the US; the el­e­va­tion of Scott Bakula as the first white, male Cap­tain of the USS En­ter­prise with a full head of hair.

Fi­nally, what kind of un­der­wear would Sulu have worn? Briefs, box­ers or maybe ther­mals? Star­ships look a bit cold!

Do you know what Scots­men wear un­der their kilts? Yes.

Do you know what “go­ing com­mando” means?

Yes.

Do you know what “none of your busi­ness” means? Yes! Thankyou Ge­orge!

MORE: Catch Ge­orge in Aus­tralia in The Ge­orge Takei

Phe­nom­e­non: Mel­bourne Nov 16, Syd­ney Nov 20, and Syd­ney Cock­tail Party Nov 18. Go to Tick­et­mas­ter to book.

MR SULU, WE LOVE YOU! GE­ORGE IN THAT FA­MOUS STAR TREK FENC­ING SCENE!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.