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16 Reasons We Love George Takei

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George Takei may be best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But there's far more to Takei than manning the helm of the USS Enterprise—here are 16 reasons we love him.

1. He Has a Nice Asteroid

In 2007, the asteroid formerly known as "1994 GT9" got a star makeover with its new name: 7307 Takei. Occupying a lovely neighborhood between Mars and Jupiter, 7307 Takei joins asteroids named for fellow Star Trek legends Gene Roddenberry (4659 Roddenberry) and Nichelle Nichols (68410 Nichols). Upon learning of the honor, Takei told the Associated Press, "I am now a heavenly body."

2. He's a Dutiful Son

Takei's 1994 autobiography, To the Stars, is dedicated "To Daddy," and it opens with a remembrance of Takei's childhood years spent with his Japanese-American family in several internment camps during World War II. Takei wrote about his mother's attitude during the train journey to the first camp:

...[We] all faced an unknown future, but the reality before us had to be dealt with. She was determined to make her own certainty out of our collective uncertainty. As certain as the rice balls she had wrapped in seaweed and packed in her hand luggage to supplement the cold train box lunches. She was not going to yield to the monotony that others accepted as inevitable. She had stuffed into her limited luggage space special treats for the children; a few lollipops, packages of animal crackers, and Cracker Jack boxes that contained little surprise toys. She packed story books for Daddy to read to us. Boredom was a foe she was determined to fight.

And she didn't just pack snacks—she smuggled in a portable sewing machine to make new clothes as the kids grew! Decades later, Takei and his husband Brad brought "Mama" into their home and cared for her in her final years. This devotion was even mentioned in Takei's wedding vows.

3. He Played the Father of Heroes Hero "Hiro"

On the TV series Heroes, Takei played Kaito Nakamura, the father of the time/space-bending Hiro Nakamura. Takei's character rolls up in a limo bearing the license plate NCC-1701 (the registry number of the original USS Enterprise). "Nakamura" happens to be the maiden name of Takei's mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura. (It's unclear whether this is just a coincidence; Nakamura is a common Japanese surname.)

4. He and His Brother are Named After Kings

George Takei was born on April 20, 1937. His parents settled on the name "George" in honor of King George VI of England, whose coronation was just weeks away. (George Takei's middle name is Hosato, Japanese for "village of the bountiful harvest.")

When George's brother was born a year later, he was named Henry after King Henry VIII. Their sister was born two years later, and was given the name Nancy, after a family friend, with the middle name Reiko, Japanese for "gracious child." (Given enough time, we may see a Queen Nancy. You just wait.)

5. His Husband Brad is Rad

George Takei has been with Brad Altman for over 20 years. After California overturned its ban on same-sex marriage, Takei and Altman promptly applied for a marriage license and were married on September 14, 2008. Takei posted their vows online, along with photos of the ceremony. Walter Keonig, Star Trek's Chekov, was their best man; Nichelle Nichols, Uhura, was the matron of honor.

Altman told Larry King, "I'm not a spokesperson for any cause. I just know that George and I love each other, George is the love of my life, and I think everybody should be allowed to get married." Here's the happy couple explaining how married couples should fill out census forms:

6. He Speaks Out About the Injustice of WWII Japanese American Internment

During World War II, FDR made an Executive Order to round up and imprison roughly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. They were forced to live in ten concentration camps, despite about two-thirds of them being American citizens. George Takei and his family were interned when George was young, and he has written extensively about the experience, most recently creating a musical called Allegiance that explores this dark chapter in American history. He also co-founded the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

In 2004, the Japanese government awarded Takei the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette to honor his lifelong work promoting U.S.-Japan relations. He wrote, "Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be flying to Tokyo to be granted a decoration by the Emperor of Japan in the Imperial Palace for activities I enjoyed and found personally engaging."

7. He Blames/Thanks Howard Stern for "Oh Myyy!"

George Takei is indelibly linked with the phrase, "Oh myyy!" intoned in his rich voice. In Takei's book Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet), Takei credits Howard Stern for associating him with the phrase. Takei wrote:

Howard also seemed to have fallen in love with me saying “Oh my!” whenever he said or did something outrageous, like when he asked one voluptuous young woman on his show to take her bra off. “Oh my!” What else could I say? It was even more apt when she did. “Oh my!” indeed. Howard, for some unfathomable reason, thought my reflexive “Oh my!” was hilarious. So he played a recording of it over and over again — even when I wasn’t on the show. I thought it was silly, but it was also admittedly quite droll.

I first realized “Oh my!” was becoming personally linked with me when I went on a national book tour for To the Stars. Young men who had patiently stood in line for my autograph would slip the book toward me with roguishly insinuating smiles and ask me to sign it with “Oh my!” I knew right away they were Howard Stern fans and realized then that it had become my signature phrase.

Takei now releases his books via his own publisher, Oh Myyy! Limited Liability Company.

8. He Has His Own Signature Fragrance

Bearing the slogan "Set Phasers to Stunning," George Takei's Eau My cologne is a real product. It's a unisex fragrance with "top notes of mandarin zest, Italian bergamot, and fresh ozone." Hmm. The Mary Sue reviewed the fragrance, noting, “It smells like something I should like, but don’t.”

9. He Played a Heart on Adventure Time

Takei voiced the memorable character Ricardio, a "wizard heart" on Adventure Time. Naturally, Ricardio utters Takei's catchphrase:

10. His Favorite Star Trek Episode is "The Naked Time"

It's hard for me to pick a favorite Star Trek episode. Should I go with "The Trouble With Tribbles," or "Amok Time," or maybe "Mirror, Mirror"? For Takei, the choice is obvious: "The Naked Time" is tops. In the episode, crew members lose their inhibitions after being infected by a form of space madness. Naturally, this leads to a shirtless, swashbuckling Sulu having a great time. You can watch "The Naked Time" on Hulu for free, or just enjoy Takei discussing the episode (and his fencing training) here:

11. He's a Former Marathon Runner

Takei doesn't just fence; he has run a bunch of marathons as well! He earned his best time in 1989, completing the LA Marathon in 3 hours, 40 minutes. (As a point of comparison, the average marathon time for men in the U.S. is about 4:26...and Takei was over age 50 when he ran that 1989 race!)

He stopped running marathons just a few years later, but reflected on the experience in 2006, writing:

It has been fifteen years since my last and final marathon. That was the London Marathon back in 1991. Since that punishing run, I have become a steadfast follower of, what is called, the Law of Nature. It decrees that as time passes, the mind is supposed to grow with insights as the body gives up its strength. It didn't take my mind to inform my body that the latter is true. I can't run 26.2 miles anymore. My days of running marathons are over.

12. He Writes Epic Amazon Product Reviews

In his spare time, Takei writes reviews of Amazon products, giving us a glimpse of his hilariously-imagined home life. Here's a snippet from his one-star review of an inflatable horn for cats (emphasis added):

Their easy, idyllic life changed—and ours along with it—when Brad ordered ACCOUTREMONTS INFLATABLE UNICORN HORNS FOR CATS. Surprisingly, our cats didn't resist and seemed almost *delighted* when we strapped the horns on. Once anointed, they sat straight up, gazing pensively at one another, their eyes aglow with a preternatural light. They tipped their heads to the left and to the right before commencing an eerie combination of mewling and rapid jaw chattering ordinarily reserved for moths spotted in the yard.

Soon things began to happen. Inexplicable things. The neighbor's dog was found immobilized, trussed-up with some indeterminate golden binding, a warning sign scrawled above him, "Do not crosses the THREE." A heretofore undiscovered hotspring bubbled up from beneath our yard and now transverses our property. Our clothes began to emerge from the dryer already pressed and folded, and the vet's office mysteriously called to confirm we had intended to cancel their next appointments. But we had not.

His review of "canned unicorn meat" is similarly amazing, including a spot-on Harry Potter reference.

13. He Broke the Star Trek/Star Wars Barrier

In 2009, Takei voiced a character for the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This marked the first time a Trek series regular had appeared in the Star Wars universe. This unique position led to him to call for "Star Peace" in a YouTube video:

He stepped up the Star Peace effort by pulling an April Fools' prank in 2013, posting a photo of himself as a Jedi (complete with robe and lightsaber!) and writing:

Friends, I am thrilled to announce that I'll be starring in the Star Wars reboot directed by JJ Abrams. I'll be playing Master Ceti Maru, a member of the Jedi High Council. The new film, entitled "Star Wars: Galactic Empire," is greenlit and will begin filming sometime early next year. It is truly a moment for The Star Alliance. Thanks to all my fans for their decades of support.

Alas, this was just a joke. But, wow, I'd watch that.

14. He Hosts a YouTube Show for the Over-50 Set

Although Takei's Facebook and Twitter streams are his main online outlets, he also hosts a YouTube show called Takei's Take, explaining technology. The show is sponsored by AARP. In the episode below, Takei explains online dating. "Oh my!"

15. He's a Supporter of "Takei Marriage"

After the Tennessee legislature brought up a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom, Takei took action. The bill was popularly known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and Takei suggested that instead of saying "gay," people could simply use the word "Takei" instead. Here's his public service announcement explaining the situation:

The Tennessee bill failed to pass, then returned in 2013...and failed again.

16. He's a Captain Now

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, we learned that Mr. Sulu had become Captain Sulu. Yes, he commanded the USS Excelsior, the first Star Trek ship with a transwarp drive. Here's to you, Captain Sulu!

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Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

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Chloe Efforn
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Animals
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.

1. ELVIS

Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.

2. AND 3. TICH AND SAM

He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.

5. AND 6. MIMI AND BABAGHI

John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.

7. JESUS

As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

8. AND 9. MAJOR AND MINOR

In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.

10. AND 11. SALT AND PEPPER

John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.

12. AND 13. GERTRUDE AND ALICE

John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.

14., 15. AND 16. MISHA, SASHA, AND CHARO

In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.

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