CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

16 Reasons We Love George Takei

Getty Images
Getty Images

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!

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios