Gallery: George Takei: Oh My
Like his role as Hikaru Sulu on "Star Trek," George Takei is forward-thinking, daring to go where many others have not gone before.
At 75, the Hancock Park resident is happily married to his longtime partner Brad Altman, maintains a healthy acting career and is noted for his activism in lesbian and gay rights and Japanese-American issues. Takei will be speaking about his experiences in the entertainment industry, equality and the use of social media to further social justice at Cal Poly Pomona on Tuesday.
When: 1-3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19
Where: Ursa Major Suite Bronco Student Center, Cal Poly Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave., Pomona
How much: Free, Parking is $5.
Information: 909-869-2841; www.csupomona.edu
"We were the ones who were victimized by (internment), but what was really violated was the United States Constitution, which applies to everybody. Although the internment story is about one small ethnic group, the issue behind it affects all Americans," Takei said.
"I just turned 5 and my parents got my siblings and me up very early one morning and they dressed us hurriedly. I was in the living room looking out the front window and I saw two soldiers come marching up our driveway with bayonets on their rifles. That was scary.
As a child, Takei didn't understand the severity of his living conditions. Rather, he accepted them. To Takei, the barbed-wire fence "was no more intimidating than a chain-link fence around a playground," and the sentry tower with its machine guns was merely "part of the landscape."
"I remember the searchlight that followed me when I made the night runs for the latrine, but I thought it was kind of nice that they lit the way for me to pee," Takei said.
As a teen, Takei read civics books and, inspired by the civil rights movement, he sought to reconcile the ideals of democracy with his childhood experiences. He broached the subject with his father after dinner.
"I was an idealistic teenager, and there's no one more arrogant than an idealistic teenager, I challenged my father, I said, `I would have gathered all my friends and gone to the state building downtown and protested' - all those idealistic things. My father said, `I had you, your brother and your sister, I had your mother to worry about.
The after-dinner talks added to Takei's understanding of his past, as did reading and speaking with other relatives and friends. But many Japanese-Americans are not so forthcoming.
"The Japanese-Americans of my parents' generation - and both my parents are gone now - but the generation that truly experienced the pain and the horror and loss during internment felt so ashamed and wounded that they didn't want to talk about it," Takei said.
He compares their feelings to a woman who has been raped, but can be made to feel ashamed and looked down upon. Japanese-Americans were accused of being traitors because of their race, so many are reluctant to discuss their past. But Takei has embraced this part of his heritage and feels it is important for America to be aware of it, so much so that he helped create the musical "Allegiance," based on his experiences and research. It is written by Lorenzo Thione, Marc Acito and Jay Kuo, who is also the composer and lyricist, and, after a successful run at Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, is now headed to Broadway.
"Allegiance" spurred Takei to use social media so he could build its audience. Two years ago, he started posting on Facebook and Twitter. He began by reaching out to science-fiction fans, writing about "Star Trek" and science and throwing in humor and funny memes. As his audience grew, so did the range of his topics, Takei tackled gay rights and equality, Japanese-American internment, civil rights and history. When "Allegiance" hit the stage, it opened to nearly sold-out houses, and soon people were being turned away at the box office.
Takei has chronicled his adventures - and misadventures - on the web in the ebook, "Oh Myyy! (There Goes the Internet)" (Oh Myyy!, $10). The work is set to publish in print form this spring.
Takei said his mother always knew he was a ham. He would show off to guests, singing and dancing, whether they wanted to see it or not.
"I was enjoying acting as far back as I can remember," Takei said.
His father was in real estate and got him interested in architecture by driving him around to look at construction sites on weekends. Takei studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. After two years, he knew his heart wasn't in it, so he transferred to UCLA to study theater. Takei was performing in a student play at UCLA when a casting director saw him and put him in the feature film "Ice Palace," with Richard Burton and Robert Ryan, setting the path for Takei's career.
Takei is an avid Anglophile, a passion which he inherited from his father, who named him after King George VI. His father named Takei's brother after another royal.
"When my brother was born, he was round and fat and roly-poly, as fat as Henry VIII," Takei said.
Takei's age has not slowed him down. In fact, his popularity seems to be on an upswing. He has been busy with appearances on television, such as an upcoming stint on ABC's "The Neighbors," and travels the country providing narration for symphony concerts.