Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015): He Who Was Spock and Lived Long and Prospered

It is with a heavy heart full of illogical human emotion that I absorb and reflect upon the passing today of Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy.

True to the philosophy of his half-human, half-Vulcan alter ego Spock, Nimoy lived long and prospered for 83 amazing years.

Although he was an accomplished and versatile actor, writer, director, and producer both on and off Star Trek – in addition to releasing music, poetry, and photography – he will forever be synonymous with Spock, whom he portrayed in the original Star Trek television series (1966-1969), the animated series (1973-1975), two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991), and eight feature films (1979-1991, 2009, 2013).

I was born four years after the original TV show ended, so I couldn’t enjoy it during its initial broadcast run, and I was too young to be aware of and comprehend the animated series. But starting when I was nine years old and beginning with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 (I missed Star Trek: The Motion Picture in theaters in 1979), my family had a blast going to the cinema to watch the new adventures of the original cast on the big screen every two or three years. Even though these actors’ exploits had begun seven years before I arrived on the scene, their continuing treks sustained me from grammar school through college.

A real highlight and thrill for me happened when, in 1997, I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Nimoy by telephone. At the time, he and John de Lancie (Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation and other Star Trek shows) were staging radio plays in the spirit of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre (famous for the infamous, mass hysteria-inducing War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938). The office I conducted the interview from was right next to the movie theater where my family saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, featuring Nimoy and his original costars, 15 years earlier.

While the new Kirk and Spock Star Trek movies are the best Star Trek movies since the original Kirk and Spock movies and continue a great tradition and legacy, they can never recapture or replace the magic of the original cast, a magic that briefly resurfaced when Nimoy returned to his classic role of Spock twice more in the latest feature films.

Nimoy was so much more than Spock and Star Trek, but we all love and will miss him because of Spock and Star Trek. To paraphrase one of Nimoy’s popular sayings as Spock from the earlier movies, he has been and always shall be our friend. And to quote Dr. McCoy from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “He’s really not dead as long as we remember him.”

May Leonard Nimoy’s katra live long and prosper, as Nimoy himself certainly did in this life.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Publications and Interviews

TV Key (King Features Syndicate); CableView; PrimeStar; DirecTV: The Guide; Starlog; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; IGN Sci-Fi (Web site)
Richard Dean Anderson; Amanda Bearse; Jim Belushi; Don Berliner; Ken Burns; LeVar Burton; Timothy Busfield; Kim Catrall; Robert Conrad; John De Lancie; Cleavant Derricks; Fred Dryer; Erik Estrada; Greg Evigan; Lou Ferrigno; June Foray; Jonathan Frakes (twice); Stanton Friedman; David Alan Grier; Mark Hamill; David Hasselhoff (before the interview, I got free tickets to his Jeckyll and Hyde Broadway show and an invitation to visit the DVD production studio before the show; I took my mom – that was a great night out); Richard Hatch (after the interview, the Battlestar Galactica star sent my mom a personally autographed photo); John Henson; Bruce Hornsby; Chuck Jones; Eartha Kitt; Stan Lee; Scott Leva (who told me that could be him in my profile picture); James MacArthur; Poppy Montgomery; Leonard Nimoy; Jerry O’Connell (also my NYU Tisch classmate); Edward James Olmos (who filled in at the last minute for James Gandolfini); Joe Pantoliano; Michael Piller; Sam Raimi; Ernie Sabella; Katey Sagal; John Schneider; William Shatner; Sinbad; Patrick Stewart; Andy Summers; Henry Thomas; Tim White; Larry Wilcox; Brian Wilson; Tom Wopat; Bill Wyman

Books, Movies, TV, Pop Culture – In Memory of Steven H. Scheuer and John N. Goudas

Steven H. Scheuer, whom I did my New York University internship with from 1993 to 1995, passed away in late May/early June of 2014. He was 88 years old.

Not long after his death, Scheuer was mentioned in an online CNN article about movie critic Leonard Maltin's final movie guide. Maltin was influenced and inspired by Scheuer, who practically invented the art and industries of newspaper television reviews and movie guides.

John N. Goudas, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 72, was Scheuer's main writer for the TV Key newspaper column, which was distributed by King Features Syndicate to over 300 newspapers across the country.

Although I worked with Scheuer and Goudas for only three years, they made a lasting impression on me personally and professionally. I still remember my “job” interview with Scheuer on a cold January morning back in 1993. We met in his New York City office in the lobby of a high-rise apartment building in the East 50s. During our conversation, he showed me that he had many of the same TV, movie, and pop culture books that I had.

There were also many other wonderful moments in that office that I remember as if they had happened yesterday, such as the time none of us were answering the phone for some reason that I've since forgotten. Scheuer, who was making a rare appearance in the office while doing some errands, quipped, “Is this some sort of holiday where nobody is supposed to answer the phone?”

We also watched the O.J. Simpson verdict live on the office television.

While Scheuer couldn't pay the interns as we all anticipated a deal with the fledgling Microsoft Network that never came through (this was the dawn of the Internet in 1995), he did treat us to many nice business lunches at fancy and renowned restaurants in New York City. I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Scheuer's gracious wife, Alida Brill-Scheuer, who accompanied us on many of these outings.

My internship at TV Key was the launching pad that enabled me to go on to interview and write about the iconic actors and musicians that I grew up loving.

I consider myself very fortunate to have known and worked with these titans of television criticism. They were giants in their field. They were also a couple of lovable and fun-loving characters.

The following links do them far more justice than I ever could. Thank you for everything, John and Mr. Scheuer.

--Raj Manoharan


Welcome to Super Raj Pop Man, my spinoff site from RajMan Reviews that will be exclusively devoted to the strange intersection of my mind where my lunatic fringe obsessions cross paths with popular culture.
This corner of the kitsch universe will exist as a repository of my pop cultural musings, rants, and raves that already have been posted at RajMan Reviews. Future entries will continue to appear there but will simultaneously be filtered here, where they will be with their kind.
Super Raj Pop Man will be unique in that where other such similar sites are concerned with recent news and other topics of timeliness, this one will be relatively free of temporal matters.
Everybody else is in the business of providing up-to-the-minute news and views. I’m the place you come to if you’re more interested in thoughtful, leisurely, and abstract rumination – if your interests remotely match mine, that is.
Sometimes what I talk about will be of obvious pop cultural impact, sometimes not so. In any event, everything I present here will have or have had some connection to and/or influence on pop culture, either now, or a few years, decades, or even eons ago (or yet).
If you end up here by accident, I hope it’s a happy accident and a worthwhile one – but definitely one you won’t soon forget.
Raj Manoharan