When news spread Friday of Leonard Nimoy’s death, Hans Spitzer was heartened that the actor had lived up to his catchphrase.
“ ‘Live long and prosper,’ ” said Spitzer, general manager of Source Comics & Games in Roseville. “At 83 years old, that’s what Leonard Nimoy did. Not a bad run.”
The actor who broke out as Mr. Spock in the “Star Trek” franchise was an inspiration to local fans, and may have even contributed to the success of a genre that spawned the longest-running science fiction bookstore in the country.
Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, said “Star Trek” served as a gateway for eventual sci-fi aficionados. Nimoy’s character in particular, Blyly said, helped ease people into the genre with his smarts.
“Spock helped a great deal in making it more respectable, because he wasn’t just action-adventure,” Blyly said. “He presented a more intellectual approach … and that helped make science fiction itself more socially acceptable.”
Nimoy was also known for his stage career, having played the Twin Cities after the original “Star Trek” TV series.
“Leonard was a dear friend,” said Minneapolis theater producer Dennis Babcock. “It’s a great loss.” In 1978, Babcock asked Nimoy to bring his one-man show on Vincent van Gogh to the Guthrie Theater, where Babcock ran the “Live at the Guthrie” series.
The actor did eight performances here in early 1979, and then Babcock managed a tour of “Vincent” that lasted about three years. The show was then filmed for A&E Live.
“That started a friendship that lasted a lifetime,” Babcock said. “It was never more than four to six months that we wouldn’t touch base.”
Babcock said that Nimoy understood “Mr. Spock” had opened up numerous opportunities but that he was a serious and classically trained stage actor who had performed in “Equus” on Broadway. When he played the Guthrie, Nimoy wanted to walk the stage to feel the unique characteristics of acting on a thrust, rather than a proscenium.
“Of all the people I have met, Leonard was one of the most humble,” Babcock said. “He really cared about everyone he worked with.”