Dear Mr. Sulu
By Marisa Demarco
It is I, a humble reporter and grudging "Star Trek" fan, who worked more than a month in advance to set up an interview with you. Yes, Sulu, your real name is George Takei, and you do not utter dramatic statements in your space jammies all day long while your captain gets it on with hot alien women. I understand all this—but only barely.
I bragged to my nerdier friends, Sulu. I shoved it in their little Trekkie faces. I was going to speak to you over the phone.
Sulu. And me. Talking. Just like that.
"Damn," I thought to myself. "What a fine job I have."
And then the fatal error. Or pluralize that and make it "many fatal errors." First, I call at the wrong time. I cannot keep time zones straight, though I usually figure it out before calling a superstar's cell phone and leaving a message. I'm crestfallen, thinking you've forgotten. Then, my phone rings.
It's you, Sulu. You sound just like you do on TV. But you also sound ... grumpy. Annoyed. I apologize. I get a brief lecture in Sulu voice about how I really ought to figure this stuff out and make sure I understand it before I bother to confirm an interview time. Fair enough, I guess. But I'm feeling like a slouchy teenager discussing good driving techniques with a long-winded father.
I stare at my carefully organized questions, ready to begin in relaxed, neutral territory and then delve into more serious stuff. "You can get this thing back," I tell myself. "So, you're celebrating 40 years of 'Star Trek' ...” Yes, you say, it's older than you, I expect.
"Right," squeaks the reporter, ready to plunge on in spite of her Minnie Mouse-sounding phone voice that pegs her at about 16. (I'm 25.)
I ask about your favorite "Star Trek" memory. What a very "reporter" question, you say. The word "trite" is not in your loaded sentence, but it could be. And then you describe with great eloquence watching one of Gene Roddenberry's last public appearances. Thousands were there. The applause came in waves when he took the stage—and it just kept coming. This visionary. This man who examined politics, racism, classism and social justice in his work. He was very old and in a wheelchair, and he wanted to stand and acknowledge the thundering hands. It was a beautiful tale.
Wouldn't it be nice if I had taped it?
Yep, in a caliber of flub I have not previously perpetrated, I failed to record our entire conversation.
The whole thing.
Well, my half of the interview is on tape. But somehow, yours isn't. A quality gaffe is what that is. That's you running for mayor of Los Angeles in 1972 and the local station taking "Star Trek" off the air because your opponents claimed the eps gave you an unfair advantage. That's anyone calling your public statements about being gay in the face of Schwarzenegger's veto of the gay marriage bill last year a "coming out." A large community of people has always known that you are gay, you say. You just hadn't told the media.
Speaking of being gay, how about that Shatner roast in which you were thoroughly cooked for your sexual preference? You received more attention than even Shatner, some critics admonished, and were lavished with Brokeback Mountain jokes. Oh, it was great fun, you say, laughing and cutting me off even as I ask the question.
A long life in the public eye sure has taught you a few things about interviews. My last question, the last question I give to everyone, gets a bigger reaction than I anticipated: "Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish up?"
Then comes the overflow of semi-condescending statements cloaked in more chuckling. You have been well-trained, haven't you? you laugh. That's such a reporter's question. I have plenty more to say, but I'm not going to answer any questions you haven't asked. I'm not going to do your job for you.
Right. I'm indignant. Whatever. I say my thank yous and hang up. I brag to my colleagues. Guess who I just interviewed? Sulu!
I'm not going to do your job for you. Sheesh. OK, Sulu, don't worry about it. I got it covered.
Except for that whole record the interview thing.
So, Mr. Takei, you win. Thanks again for your time. You sure have led a fascinating life, which I'm sure interested parties can find out plenty about on your website, complete with blog, at www.georgetakei.com. Lord knows they won't be getting any more information out of me. I don't have any more.
An Idiot Reporter Who is Being Thoroughly Punished By Her Bosses By Being Forced to Write This Humiliating Column in Place of a Killer Story About You
George Takei will appear with Walter Koenig (Chekov) and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra for a performance honoring 40 years of "Star Trek" on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Kiva Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.
Dawn Tripp, Georgia at Bookworks
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