In the world of television, few individuals are more admired than the late Leonard Nimoy. Through his role as Mr. Spock on the classic show Star Trek, Nimoy ignited the imaginations of countless fans and inspired an entire generation. Though less known, he also lived an utterly fascinating (and very surprising) life outside of television. Here are long and prosperous facts about the one and only Leonard Nimoy.
Leonard Nimoy Facts
1. Jack of All Trades
The road to success is not always direct, and no one knew that better than Leonard Nimoy. Before making it big as an actor, he tried working in a whole host of various odd jobs. He hustled as a taxi driver, fish tank installer, vending machine repairman, and vacuum cleaner salesman. Can you imagine telling your friends that you bought your vacuum cleaner from Mr. Spock?
2. We Salute His Creativity
Spock’s signature “Vulcan Salute” from Star Trek was never actually included by the writers as part of the show. Nimoy himself thought it up and decided to throw into his performance one day to spice up the character a bit. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. Getting Nosy
When a new movie version of Star Trek came out in 2009, many fans felt delighted to learn that Nimoy would take part. They didn’t realize, however, that filming wouldn’t be a walk in the park for the elderly actor. Although the details are hazy, we know that Nimoy actually broke his nose while filming this movie. Always a trooper, though, he didn’t let it stop him from finishing his scheduled work for that day.
4. It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…Nimoy!
Following his passing in 2015, TV fans weren’t the only ones offering tributes to Nimoy. The scientific community also wanted to honor the actor’s contribution to public interest in the field of astronomy. As a result, there is now an asteroid in outer space named “4864 Nimoy.” For centuries to come, his name will live on in the great beyond.
5. Doing Well
Nimoy’s starting salary for appearing on Star Trek was a whopping $1,250 per episode. This wasn’t bad, especially considering that this sum would be to close to $10,000 a show today!
6. Alter Ego
It’s all too common for fans to mistakenly think of their favorite actors as really being the characters that they play. However, in Nimoy’s case, that assumption may not be too far fetched. Thanks to Star Trek’s long and gruelling schedule, Nimoy often got so into character that he’d catch himself unintentionally thinking and acting like Spock, even when no one was filming. Spock became so ingrained in Nimoy’s daily lifestyle that he continued to channel the Vulcan years after the show went off the air!
7. It Takes a Country to Raise a Spock
If not for a set of wild circumstances, our beloved Nimoy might never have even been born. Hoping to escape the troubles of the old world in the United States, both of Nimoy’s parents left their native Ukraine under separate but equally risky conditions. His father literally walked across the border to Poland when no one was looking, while his mother hid in a haystack on a wagon as it left the country. They eventually both made it to America, reunited, and gave birth to their son in Boston in 1931.
8. Grandpa Knows Best
As a child, Nimoy’s parents discouraged him from acting, feeling that attending college instead would provide better career prospects. In fact, when young Nimoy told his father he wanted to perform, he angrily said that he didn’t “come all the way from Russia” just to see his son “waste his life” as an actor. Thankfully, Nimoy’s grandfather encouraged him to proudly pursue whatever he loved to do the most.
9. The First Frontier
It wasn’t just alien planets that Mr. Spock spent his time defending. Prior to his acting career, Nimoy spent two years in the United States Army Reserve, where he served as a Sergeant.
10. 24K Magic in Space?
Always a man of many surprises, Nimoy unexpectedly came out of retirement to appear in the official alternative music video for pop star Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” in 2011. It just so happens that Nimoy’s son-in-law was the record company executive who originally discovered and signed Bruno Mars to his label. So, in a sense, we have Spock to thank for the music of Bruno Mars. Who knew?
11. A Poet and We Didn’t Even Know It!
Always one to expand his horizons and explore art in all its forms, Nimoy wrote and published seven books of original poetry.
12. Encore Performance
Being of Jewish background, Nimoy had the honor of celebrating a bar mitzvah party for his 13th birthday, as many Jewish youngsters do. However, unlike most Jewish youngsters, Nimoy actually ended up having not just one, but two bar mitzvahs. Apparently, his singing was so good at his original bar mitzvah that it caught the attention of a rabbi from another local synagogue. He invited young Leonard to give the same performance again the following week for his own congregation to enjoy.
13. Holy Vulcans!
Nimoy’s double bar mitzvah deal was by no means the end of the influence that his Jewish background had on his life. In fact, it directly affected his performance on Star Trek. The hand gesture that constituted Spock’s famous “Vulcan Salute” was actually Nimoy mimicking a Jewish synagogue ritual known as the “Priestly Blessing.”
14. Mission: Totally Possible
Prior to his run on Star Trek, Nimoy nearly headlined another classic show: Mission: Impossible. Although they selected Martin Landau instead and Nimoy ended up on Star Trek, Nimoy got to have his cake and eat it too. The end of Star Trek’s run coincided with Landau’s departure from Mission: Impossible, allowing Nimoy to take over as the star of Mission: Impossible after all.
15. Mixed Feelings
As much as the public came to love Spock, Nimoy was not so sure about all the attention the fictional character received. Nimoy worried that it would eclipse the way people viewed him as a person, giving him reservations about the character. Nevertheless, he realized that the beloved character was here to stay, Nimoy embraced Spock’s new role as a part of his identity.
16. A Friend in Need
As many times as Spock came through and helped Captain Kirk on Star Trek, nothing can compare to the time that Nimoy tried his best to help his former co-star, William Shatner, out of a serious issue in real life. When Shatner’s wife, Nerine, struggled with alcohol addiction, Nimoy spotted the symptoms and immediately volunteered to help his old friend solve the problem.
Nimoy took a vested personal interest in trying to help Nerine, even accompanying her out to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Unfortunately, none of these efforts could rescue Nerine. She could not beat her addiction and sadly passed in an alcohol-related drowning incident just two years after marrying Shatner.
17. End of the Line
Nimoy was often very close with William Shatner in real life, and even frequently came to his defense when he was criticized by people he didn’t get along with. However, the end of the pair’s relationship was surprisingly rocky. Following an incident in which Shatner secretly filmed footage of Nimoy to use in a documentary against his wishes, Nimoy spent the last five years of his life refusing to speak to Shatner.
Shatner claims to have sent him many apology notes and made many attempts to reconcile during that time, but to no avail.
18. Cuz I’m Sappy
Nimoy made such an impact in his role as Spock that even major celebrities of all kinds would often gush over him. For example, star singer Pharrell Williams cites Nimoy as one of his greatest inspirations in life, and even named his first album after his show. When he finally got the chance to meet and interview Nimoy in 2013, the singe could hardly contain his disbelief.
19. On the Record
Nimoy ventured into the music arena following his success on Star Trek. He released an album called “Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space” in 1967. Many assumed that this venture was merely a publicity stunt, yet Nimoy himself took it very seriously—even going on to release four more albums over the course of his career.
20. Following in His Footsteps
Following his Star Trek tenure, Nimoy hosted a popular television series called “In Search Of” which investigated paranormal mysteries. When producers wanted to revive the series in 2018, they chose none other than Zachary Quinto, the actor who took on Nimoy’s old role in the new Star Trek films, to take on his role here as well. Quinto has expressed his satisfaction with being able to carry on his friend and mentor’s legacy in yet another arena. Now that’s what you call a good protege!
21. Funeral for a Frenemy
Likely due to the rocky end to their friendship, William Shatner did not attend Nimoy’s funeral in 2015—causing the event to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
22. Striking a Nerve
In another example of his creativity and ingenuity as an actor, Nimoy came up with and improvised the now famous “Vulcan Nerve Pinch” on Star Trek. This move allowed his character to squeeze someone’s shoulder and instantly knock them out. Originally, the writers intended for Spock to strike someone with a phaser to achieve the same effect, but Nimoy felt that the Nerve Pinch would show how Vulcans are above the violence of humans.
23. It Takes Two to Tango
Most fans view the pairing of Nimoy and Star Trek co-star William Shatner as a match made in heaven, but even they may not realize just how critical this pairing was to the success of the show. Prior to Shatner’s joining the show as Captain Kirk, Nimoy found it difficult to play Spock in the detached and quiet way that the writers intended.
With the original captain being a much quieter character, Nimoy had to be more abrasive than he wanted to, diminishing the effect he had hoped to have in the role. With the addition of Shatner’s famously loud acting style, Nimoy found the perfect foil for the kind of Spock that he wanted to play all along.
24. The Men From Star Trek
Believe it or not, Star Trek was not the first time that Nimoy and William Shatner appeared together on screen. Two years earlier, the two then-unknowns both guest starred in the same episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ironically, they played each other’s enemies.
25. Van Gone!
An art lover, Nimoy adapted and starred in a 1981 stage show depicting the life of his favorite artist, Vincent Van Gogh.
26. Nobody’s Immune to Challenges
Despite being known as a clean-cut person, Nimoy struggled with alcoholism during his time on Star Trek. His troubles were largely due to the stress that came with working on the high-profile series. Nimoy ended up checking into rehab for some time in order to recover.
27. Happy Birthday!
Nimoy reportedly left his first wife after more than three decades of marriage—on her birthday. I guess the cold and unemotional part of the Spock character really did seep into his personal life…
28. Mentor Turned Protege
Nimoy’s acting teacher, Jeff Corey, ended up appearing alongside his former student as a guest star on Star Trek. He acted as the character of “Plasus” in the episode “The Cloud Minders.”
29. Cousins in High Places
Nimoy’s second wife, Susan Bay, is the cousin of the well-known action movie director, Michael Bay. So Mr. Spock is related to the guy behind Transformers and Texas Chainsaw Massacre? That must make for some interesting Thanksgiving dinners.
30. Group Efforts
According to William Shatner, Nimoy had yet another side that the public didn’t know about. At one point during his first marriage, Nimoy and his wife Sandi allegedly had the hobby of attending hippy-hosted “Love-In” events. During these parties, multiple couples would explore their feelings together in very physical (and likely intimate) ways. Very un-Spock-like, Leonard!
31. Mother Tongue
Thanks to his Jewish roots, Nimoy was fluent in Yiddish. He even conducted interviews in the language from time to time.
32. Crisis Averted
The notoriously hateful and fringe Westboro Baptist Church planned to show up and picket at Nimoy’s funeral to make some kind of a point about their radical beliefs. Fortunately, in Nimoy’s case, someone in high places must have been on his side. Despite its best efforts, the group could not track down the location of the event and failed to interrupt it as they had hoped.
33. Customer Service
Nimoy ran an Etsy store where he sold his own hand-made artwork.
34. A Lot to Observe
Nimoy didn’t just contribute to the field of astronomy and space exploration on screen—he did so in real life too. In 2001, he personally donated $1 million to the renovation of the world-renowned Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. As a result, the venue now holds a theater named after him.
35. A Fluency Issue
Because of his lifelong interest in his Jewish heritage, a young Nimoy once considered giving up on his Hollywood aspirations to instead move to Israel and aim to make it big in their prominent “Habimah” theater circuit. However, the language barrier made him decide to stay in the United States and pursue a career on the American stage.
It’s safe to say that most of his English-speaking fans are happy he made that decision!
36. The Iron Vulcan
Despite Star Trek’s many beloved and iconic cast members, Nimoy is the only one who appeared in every single episode of the series.
37. Picture Perfect
Nimoy was an avid photographer and a supporter of body positivity. In 2009, he released a full book of photography featuring larger women as a way of encouraging people of all shapes and sizes to feel more comfortable with their bodies.
38. Vulcan’s Best Friend
At one point in his life, Nimoy actually owned his very own pet store, appropriately named Leonard Nimoy’s Pet Pad. He opened it in the aftermath of the Star Trek series coming to an end. Unfortunately, it would seem that he was less cut out for the pet business than he was for acting—and the shop quickly closed its doors.
Nimoy wrote two autobiographies in his lifetime—titled “I Am Not Spock” and “I Am Spock,” respectively. Despite the mixed messages in the titles, one thing is certainly clear—the character of Spock was important enough to his life that it found its way into the title of both his attempts to convey his life story.
40. Going Green
In yet another similarity to his Spock character, Nimoy was a vegetarian in real life.
41. Settling for Spock
Although Nimoy fans fondly remember his two hilarious guest appearances on The Simpsons in the 1990s, they might be surprised to learn that the actor was not actually the show producers’ first choice for that role. Originally, they wrote the guest star part in the episode “Marge vs. the Monorail” for Nimoy’s former Star Trek co-star, George Takei.
However, when they learned that Takei was involved in a monorail business in real life and could not participate in a TV show making fun of them, they shifted gears. The staff scrambled and somehow got their hands on Nimoy—whom they had previously worried was too big a star to be interested in appearing on a cartoon show.
Way to go, Leonard, at coming through and helping to make yet another classic show as awesome as it was!
42. Famous Last Words
In February 2015, Nimoy seemed to have known that he was near the end of his life. Just a few days before his passing, he eerily posted his last ever tweet, stating “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” (i.e. Live Long and Prosper). Perhaps it was only fitting that Nimoy signed off from this world using the inspirational slogan that had come to define his most famous character and, as a result, his own life.