Leonard Nimoy Addresses the Star Trek America Convention (1977)
|Title:||Leonard Nimoy Addresses the Star Trek America Convention (1977)|
|Medium:||aural, latter transcribed and printed in a number of zines|
|Fandom:||Star Trek, fandom in general|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The remarks were from Leonard Nimoy's appearance at Schuster Star Trek Conventions/1977 (September) New York City Schuster Star Trek Convention, and they address the subsequent turmoil regarding negotiations and the proposed new Star Trek television series and the first Star Trek feature film.
Some Topics Discussed
- William Shatner's salary negotiations
- threatening letters by fans, fannish hate directed at him
- Nimoy's recounting of his insistence that his co-stars recieve credit and billing in the Star Trek Animated series
- Nimoy's very critical remarks regarding Star Trek: TOS's third season
- Nimoy's appearances, both paid and unpaid, at conventions
- Nimoy's experience at Pittsburgh Star Trektacular, his unpleasant dealings with one of fandom's "demi-goddesses"
- Paramount's cluelessness and lack of appreciation of Star Trek: TOS as anything more than money-maker
- fandom and profit
- fan entitlement
Hello, my friends, I didn't expect to be here until about a half-hour ago. I'm glad I came and I'm glad that you're here. I have some things that I must say to you. I'm sure that there are some questions that are on your minds about what it's all about with me right now. I happen to be in New York doing a play. I was not invited here for I'm sure what are good and healthy reasons. I'm sure I'm not talking about that. I came uninvited because I do want to talk to you and I do have some things I want to say.
I am here because my heart is broken. Did you hear that? I'll say it again. I am here because my heart is broken. (Audience, 'Why?'). Hell, just give me a minute and I'll tell you. It's my time now, right? As I was waiting to be brought in here, I heard somebody say, 'The dealer's will be angry.1 and I said why, and he said, 'Well, they won't do any business for a while because all of the people will be in the ballroom, and maybe that's why I'm here. Maybe I'm here because Louise Stange, the President of my fan club, who has done a fantastic job and has kept in touch and helped me to keep in touch with thousands of wonderful people has been badly hurt here, by some fan gods or goddesses who set themselves up as people who will judge who should do what with their lives, and who will get their negative judgement if the decision simply does not fall in line with what they think a person should do with their lives — regardless of the circumstances; not knowing the circumstances.
And then I thought, should I come here and defend myself? And I thought, that's not the dignified thing to do. And then I thought, maybe I should come here and attack, and it strikes me that that is not a dignified thing to do. Those of you who know anything about me I think know that dignity is terribly important to me.
Now I'm going to read you a letter which started this whole thought process, but before I do, I want to explain to you what the sequence of events has been with me regarding the STAR TREK motion picture and the STAR TREK television series. I cannot give you all the details because there are two legal cases pending that involve myself, Gene Roddenberry, and Paramount Studios. I accuse no one... I cannot discuss them freely until after the cases have been settled in court and they go, in fact, to court. However, keeping that in mind, bearing that in mind, allow me, if you will, to tell you what I can about the circumstances.I left Los Angeles approximately May 10th or 11th to begin rehearsals on May 13 for EQUUS in New York, and the last call that I made before going to the airport was to Paramount Studios to talk to Jerry Isenberg who at that time, was on record as producer for the STAR TREK movie along with Gene Roddenberry To say good-bye to him because he had told me he was coming to New York shortly thereafter, and would come and see me in the play. I wanted to say good-bye to him, and make an appointment to meet him in New York when he got here. That was the day on which he told me that Paramount had decided not to go ahead with the movie. I was shocked. I really felt that it was on the track that it was going to work and was looking forward to being involved with it. I asked him why, and he told me at that time, that as far as he could see, the intention was to go to a series instead. So be it.
I must point out, that at no time did Paramount contact me and say, 'We are changing our minds, and are interested in doing a television series — would you care to be involved or how do you feel about that?' No conversation whatsoever. It's a simple announcement. Now, that's their right, certainly, but one begins to feel as though one is a piece of merchandise on a shelf, and a customer walks in and says, 'Give me one of those, or give me one of those,' 'I'll have a turkey and a ham, please.' They happen to have actor's names on them, but in this particular case, that would seem to be the position. 'We will decide what we will do, and then we will call you and let you know when and if we want you.'
Now we are not dealing, or I am not dealing here at this moment with the questions of whether or not I want to be in the STAR TREK series...whether or not I want to be Mr. Spock again. What I'm trying to deal with ... is what I said before — my dignity — as a human being, and as an actor. I have announced publicly, time and time again, and I have written time and time again, that I have been grateful to STAR TREK. That STAR TREK opened my life; opened my career, I was a working actor before STAR TREK. I wasn't somebody walking down the street with pointed ears, and somebody said, 'Hey he'd be good for a space series, or a science-fiction series.' I was an actor, a working actor. Not terribly well-known to the public, but working within the industry. STAR TREK changed all that made my life public. Made me a public figure and I understand that public figures who are adored, are also subject to hate, because the obsession can change very easily and very quickly under the proper circumstances, or the improper circumstances whichever way you look at it.
Now, I am the actor who, during the third season of STAR TREK, fought vehemently with the then producer of STAR TREK...the producer in the third season, vehemently over the quality of the scripts, and the maintenance of the characters. Not alone, but I fought so vehemently that during the last two or three months of production, we could not even have a conversational relationship. It had reached that point.
I am the actor who, when the first STAR TREK convention started in New York, was invited to come, expenses paid from California, expenses paid here, plane trip, and so forth, came two years in a row to those conventions because I believed in them. I believed that they were human — I believed that they were being done for the right reasons. I believed that the emotion was right, if you will, that the people involved were doing it for good reasons, because people wanted to gather and celebrate STAR TREK. Simply that. I wanted to be there, and I was there twice. I think, and I don't cast any aspersions on anybody, but I believe that to this day, today being my third such appearance, I am the only actor who has appeared not once, not twice, but three times at STAR TREK conventions in New York at my own expense. No plane fare, no hotel bills, no liquor bills nothing. Being here because I wanted to be here.OK, I appreciate that I appreciate your applause, and I thank you. I want to point out again, that I am not casting any aspersions. Each of us does what he can in a way that he sees fit. Most of the people who came the first two or three or four, years couldn't afford to do what I did. I could afford it, and I did it. And some wouldn't come because there was no fee involved. When there were fees involved, they came, and that's OK too. I understand that. Every person has the right to do what he sees fit, provided he isn't hurting somebody in some way, or being illegal in some way. Nobody was hurting anybody, but I'm trying to establish my relationship to STAR TREK and to the character of Mr. Spock so you understand who I am, perhaps. That I did it because I felt the reasons were right, the people were right, the circumstances were right, and so forth.
I had an unpleasant experience in Pittsburgh about fifteen or sixteen months ago. There was a quote 'STAR TREK convention' in Pittsburgh that I was invited to appear at and was offered a fee. I happened to be working in Pittsburgh at that time. I accepted the fee. It was negotiated through an agent in Los Angeles. The night before I was to appear, they didn't have the money to pay my fee, and called me and said, 'Don't come,' and I said, well what about all those people who you told I was going to be there and I have been in this town in Pittsburgh announcing to the press for weeks that I would be there, and therefore you have taken money from people on the assumption, who are coming on the assumption, that I'm going to be there. 'Don't come.' — So I didn't. And in my absence, one of the demi-goddesses of STAR TREK fandom  stood up and said, 'Leonard Nimoy does this — he makes promises and doesn't show up.' And one of those demi-goddesses was involved in running those two conventions in New York about four or five or six years ago. That I appeared at free without expenses.  OK. I'm trying to give you a little bit of a history of where the pain has begun.
Now, shortly after I arrived here, it was announced that there was some difficulty between myself and Paramount, which there is. Major difficulty. It has been going on for some time, and it's one of those difficulties that I can't discuss in detail because it is a legal case. However, as a result of that, I got a letter which I will read to you, and which is indicative of a certain train, a certain train of attitudes that I have been picking up words like 'traitor,' 'doesn't really like STAR TREK,' 'hates Spock,' 'hates the character,' 'hates the fans,' blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Now I'm going to bleep this letter where it's appropriate because there are young people in the room.
- 'Dear Nimoy. Good for you. Do not return to STAR TREK. I heartily approve your pretensions to stardom. I look forward to your wrecking the greatest show of all time with your (bleep) tactics. Big man, big money, big book I AM NOT SPOCK. Really fantastic. We all will cheer when you and your fellow star, William Shatner, (I don't know why he's attacking Bill. He's negotiating in good faith with the studio, and I think it's going to work out.) 'We will all cheer when you and your fellow star, Willliam Shatner gut the Enterprise of her Captain and Executive Officer next season. You (bleep).'
- Why the hell should the (bleep) series go on now, if you are going to kick it in the groin before production even starts. You and career can take two running leaps straight into hell. We made you, and we will unmake. So you're not Spock, uh? The one slimy character of the 60's to be in the hall of fame along with Matt Dillon and Lucy Ricardo when everything else about television is lost to memory fifty years from now. The one bloody character that became an icon to a generation. Well creep, I've got news for you. As long as you live, you will only be known as Spock, Vulcan hero to a planet of youth, and that will be OK with me.'
And it's signed.
- I hereby put a curse on your miserable future career. May 100 million hands turn dials when you appear on the television screen, the great bird of paradise drop turds upon your head daily. May you be banished back to the twilight zone of Kid Monk Baroni, Maloney, Baloney, whatever the hell you were... until the night of Sept. 8, 1966. Do not live long, do not prosper. Shatner can join you in actor's purgatory. You Benedict Vulcan. It is so sad we loved you madly---an entire federation gone with the wind. Your bosom fan and present life-long enemy.'
I wouldn't be here reading you that if it were an isolated case. There are more such that I receive in the mail daily, and as I pointed out before, Louise Stange, my fan club President; are you here, Louise? (Yes, I'm here!). Good for you, OK, Louise Stange---who has done an honest, and dedicated, and fantastic job, has been abused here. With no way to protect herself, you see, because they want to attack me. Do they dare in person? I doubt it, but they'll attack her because she is vulnerable and available. They say, 'Oh, I can't get to him, I'll get to you, and here's what I think of you and him, and all that kind of thing.'Now what's it all about, my friends. What was STAR TREK, and what does it tell us? What are the dreams of STAR TREK? What are the fantasies of STAR TREK? Do they have to do with money? Do they have to do with dealers in the temple? Is that what it's a1l a1l about? I don't mind, now listen, now listen. I don't mind people involved in honest commerce. I'm simply pointing to a question. I have taken part in what I consider honest commerce. I've had people say to me, 'I've bought your books, and we come to see you act, and so forth, and now you're going to turn traitor on us. What we should have done'--- Hell, what my question is, when you bought my book, did you read something that was worth the price on the cover? When you came to see me act, did you see a performance that was worth the price of admission? Alright, that's where my heart my dignity lies.
I have acted on stages throughout this country. I've acted in films and television ever since STAR TREK and in every case, I have tried to see to it that I was involved in projects where you got your money's worth. In every printing of a book that I've put out, I've tried to see that you were buying something where you were getting your money's worth. I have written from the gut. I have put my blood on some of those pages, and my own tears on some of those pages. I have been honest with you. And that is what I think STAR TREK is all about. People dealing decently with each other. People respecting.
Now I am going to boast some more. I have never told this in public, but I'm going to tell it today, and I'll be sorry afterwards because I wanted to keep it private. This is not the kind of thing that needs to come out and be washed in public. In '73, or whenever it was that we were called upon to make the animated series, I was told --- I was traveling at the time, and I was told --- that they wanted me to do the voice of Spock, and that all the other actors were signed to play their roles; to do their voices. And when I arrived for the first recording session, I discovered that somebody had found a way to save a few bucks and the way to save it was to use the face of Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura, and to use the face of George Takei as Sulu, and not use them to come in to do their voices. To get somebody else to save some money so they wouldn't give George and Nichelle the job. I refused to do any more until they were hired, and they were hired.
I don't know, I don't know where we're going, and I don't know where STAR TREK is going. I tell you this. That Gene Roddenberry, I think, has the best of intentions in terms of quality. I believe that, I sincerely believe that. I also tell you that it be a fight, because Paramount Studios, really, in all fairness to them, because, really, have no idea what it's all about. All they know is a lot of people keep saying 'STAR TREK, STAR TREK, STAR TREK. We can make some money, let's do it.' OK, I understand. I have no argument with that, but, as I say, I don't know it's going. I don't know what it's going to be. I don't know if I will be involved. I really don't know. Frankly, the atmosphere now between myself and Gene and the studio is quite bad, quite bad. Because of certain infringements that have taken place on my rights, and because of the the court cases that I have mentioned, the atmosphere is bad. It is going to be difficult, if not totally impossible for us to relate to each other either commercially or artistically. So it is bad, and I don't have much hope for the possibility of my being involved in the future, however---having given you that side of the coin, I think it's only fair to give you the opposite.
Some of [the threatening fan letter I just read] was quoted in a village here in New York - 'The Soho News,' or something like that, and as a result of it being published, I have gotten some mail that has moved me to tears --- deeply, deeply touched me and moved me, mail from people who have refuted the position of the author of the letter and who have, in effect, said, 'If STAR TREK tells us anything, it is that a human being or an individual must, must develop his own talents and use them in any way he sees fit---must go his way---make his choices as an individual, as an individual to find his way, to make his contribution to society rather than, than be forced by the tastes of others or by the decisions or choices of others. I think we can all relate to that. I certainly can.Therefore, I say to you, that if and when you hear that I hate STAR TREK, tell that person they are lying. I say to you, if you hear from some person that I am a traitor to STAR TREK, please tell that person that I personally call them a liar, and above all, if anybody tries to make you believe that I am ungrateful to STAR TREK fans, and fandom in general, for all the wonderful opportunities that I have had --- for all the support that I have had, if anybody tries to make you believe that, please know that they've gone bonkers.
I know, I know what it has meant to me, and I know what the support of the fans has meant to me. I am now playing a role in a play --- a role that I have wanted to play for a couple of years, and I'm here doing it, and enjoying it; loving it eight times a week. And I know --- I know that the producers, although they may have believed that I was qualified to play the role, really also were depending heavily on the possibility that a lot of STAR TREK fans would come to the theatre, which they have, and I'm grateful for that. And I understand that there is commerce involved in art in our society, and that's OK. are not a country that subsidizes art nationally, therefore, it has to be done commercially. OK. I understand that. And I understand when I'm hired, it is not simply because they think I'm the best actor in terms of performance, for the role, that may also be true, it may be true, and it may not be true, but they believe that I am capable of selling tickets --- of attracting an audience, and maybe that's true. Finally, finally, and I think those of you who have been there will attest to it. Finally, I go in there eight times a week, and I put my heart and my soul, and my blood into that performance, and so do the rest of the cast, and when it's over, we have a communion.
Presently in the world of Star Trek, William Shatner has signed on the ENTERPRISE for the new Star Trek II series. Leonard Nimoy has been shafted by Paramount and ol' Spock is suing them. It seems that Paramount did not inform Leonard about the new show and circulated rumours that Leonard would not return to the series under any circumstances and that he was through with Star Trek or anything to do with it. Because of this announcement, Leonard began receiving a lot of hate mail and things got so bad that "Equus" (the Broadway play Nimoy is presently involved in) closed in New York. At the New York Star Trek Convention, Leonard announced that he, until then, knew nothing of the proposed show until he read of it in the Washington Post. So now Paramount is really in hot water. As the famous Scotsman once said, 'The Haggis is really in the fire,' because they're caught between the angry Star Trek mob and Leonard's angry lawyers. 
Background: Paramount had been playing games with the revival of Star Trek for several years. They were going to make a feature film. No, they were going to make another TV series. Nope! Back to making a movie, and all of the cast will be in it. Well, maybe not all the cast. Everyone but Shatner and Nimoy. No – we'll do another TV series, but with an all new cast. And on and on and on it went. One popular joke at the time was Bill Shatner's apparent repeated avow that, "I have signed a contract!" There were rumors and scuttlebutt all over the place. But in the months preceding September 1977, one prevalent version took the lead. There was going to be a feature film, and every actor had signed a contract – except Leonard Nimoy. It was further reported that the guilt lay not with Paramount or with Gene Roddenberry, but with Nimoy himself, who, it was said, had refused to sign a contract and wanted no part of the project.
So all of this was swirling around when we went up to New York for AmeriCon. Add to the mix the fact that Leonard was currently appearing on Broadway in "Equus" and the rumors were riff that he would put in a surprise appearance at the con. A group of us had actually gone to see him in his show on Friday evening.
On Saturday afternoon, I think it was around 4 or 5 o'clock, my friends and I had closed up our table and retired to our hotel rooms to just relax and chill out before getting dressed to go out to dinner (I think it was one of our visits to Mama Leone's). We'd all taken off our shoes and propped up our feet and I remember that Bev was counting the money we had taken in that day; she had emptied out the cash box we used at the table. I think I was dozing off for a quick forty winks. There were several other people in our room visiting with us. The phone on the desk rang. It was Martha, from her room in the hotel. A fellow Nimoy fan friend of hers had just called. They had just made an announcement in the main ballroom that Leonard Nimoy would be taking the stage in five minutes.
You never saw such pandemonium in your life as we scrambled for footwear, scooped up the money and stowed it away, falling over each other to get out the door and down the hall to the notoriously slow moving elevators that would take us down to the ballroom. Yet even in our haste, we were being circumspect. What we did not need or want was this wild throng to descend as one on the ballroom. Remember, there were upwards of 15,000 fans at the convention! The ballroom could hold only. . .what? Five thousand at most! So as the elevator doors closed behind us, we surreptitiously glanced at the faces around us, wondering if they knew what we knew. And they, in turn were eyeballing us!
We strolled slowly toward the ballroom, then picked up our pace as we detected others rushing forward. We got into the ballroom, stood in the back as the room continued to fill. I recall seeing Lee J. wheeling Carolyn Venino in her wheelchair, going all the way down to the front where the handicapped were seated. I gave Carolyn a thumbs-up as she passed. The late Mark Lenard (who played Spock's father, Sarek, and who was a frequent convention guest) was on stage and the security force was once again guarding the stage area. In just a few moments after we got there, Nimoy came out from the wings, and amid a roar of applause and the glare of hundreds of flashbulbs, he briefly embraced Mark Lenard, then went to the podium and spoke into the mike.
"I am here because my heart is broken," he began, and a sudden hush fell over the huge assembly. He went on to say that he had been receiving hate mail, threats and accusations from the fans that he found inexplicable. One letter had referred to him as "you Benedict Vulcan." Having always enjoyed a pleasing and satisfactory relationship with his fans and with the fans of Star Trek, he was hurt by this turnaround. He understood that the cause was the rumor about his not wanting to participate in a new film. This, he said, was not the case. As far as he knew, there was no script yet, and no one had ever approached him about being in a film. "If Gene Roddenberry wants me to be in this film, let him come to me and ask." It was not, he declared, the custom for an actor to approach a studio or a producer. The studio or the producer approached the actor. And he had not been approached. Yet meanwhile, the fans were blaming him. He had come to the convention to set the record straight and to elicit the support of the fans.
Well, he had lit the fire and we would carry the torch! That night, while we were throwing the biggest Contact room party yet, with people spilling out into the hall, Carol F. buttonholed Gene Roddenberry's aide, Susan Sackett, who was also a guest at the convention. Susan had been allegedly avoiding Carol since Nimoy had spoken, but late that night the questions were finally put to her and the answers were obvious by her avoidance of the answers. What Nimoy had said was correct: It was Roddenberry and/or Paramount that was holding out.
Within days of our arrival at home, a flyer was ready to be mailed out with every zine order, with stacks sent to every zine ed and otherwise active fan that we knew. The headline on the flyer was the first line that Nimoy had spoken: "I am here because my heart is broken. . ." The flyer went on to urge the recipient to write to Gene Roddenberry and to Paramount Studios. Tell them that we would not accept a film version of Star Trek without Leonard Nimoy, without Spock. Jump on the band wagon. One. More. Time. We were getting good at this now!The end result of it all was that there was no movie deal in the works, not to any imminent accomplishment, and it would be more than two years before the dream was realized. In the meantime, we continued going up the New Jersey turnpike twice a year, continued putting up with the inadequacies of the Statler Hilton, with a professional "show" of a convention that was all there was, but we joyously enjoyed every minute of it. We started taking in Broadway shows, and some not so close to Broadway. 
- Nimoy is referring to Nansi Hoy.
- "Having secured a hall at a local college and notified all the Pittsburgh press, Mr. Nimoy did a free public appearance on the Saturday following the convention."
- From the editors of Canektion #1 (1978) who "received this release just shortly before publication, directly from our contact with the Welcommittee."
- from Nancy Kippax, Reminisce With Me/The Big New York Cons, Part II, 2008