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Film producer, screenwriter, and author Nadine Schiff-Rosen honors the memory of her late friend, legendary Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, the best way she knows how: through his love of sweets.
The late Leonard Nimoy (CENTER) with wife Susan Bay (LEFT) and singer Sia (RIGHT) at an event in LA this past fall.
With so many laudatory words written about Leonard Nimoy this week, I am proud to report I have an exclusive: Just In: Leonard Nimoy loved sweets. I know this, because sitting at our kitchen banquette, I would watch him dive in, clutching a spoon, spearing a dish of chocolate ice cream topped off by thick, hot fudge sauce. Closing his eyes in ecstasy, the rapture drizzling down his throat, he would look heavenward—eyes closed, as if in prayer.
His eclectic love of confections knew no bounds: Vanilla macaroons, cream-filled éclairs, peanut butter brittle, custards, meringues, puddings, soufflés—I was lucky to watch him devour desserts around the world. Just as a botanist would feel at one with a rare orchid, so too would Leonard commune with a red velvet cupcake, exploring the icing, excavating the creamy center. Then, sliding the plate over to me, he would cry out, “OH, YEAH,” in a way that made me wonder if he and his sugary delight shouldn’t get a room. And if he was met with resistance from me—a self-deprecating remark about watching my weight, for example—he would nudge the plate over to me further, his long, tapered fingers wordlessly ordering me to, “Take a bite.”
And so, take a bite we did. Friends and neighbors with he and his wife Susan Bay Nimoy, we traveled with them to the sunny islands of Greece to celebrate my husband’s 65th birthday. Leonard loved the sun on his face, his ear buds shutting out the world, inhaling the musical poetry of Leonard Cohen. Later that night, he read to us three short stories by Woody Allen, his hypnotic voice giving Woody’s words a cadence and gravitas I’m not sure actually existed on the page, but came alive with Leonard’s interpretation.
Relaxing in the shade with a lemonade and gelato, young travelers from all over the world would approach him in the town square, shyly requesting a picture he knew would promptly be posted on their Facebook page or Twitter feed. Still, Leonard would always oblige gratefully—the humility of his fame and fortune the opposite of narcissistic drama.
Two years ago, we sailed the Alaskan coast where we sat out on the deck, the glaciers falling into the Bay. Even though at that point, each and every breath was precious, he sang songs to me in Yiddish that always made me cry. Even though I did not know the language, he returned to me some part of my soul that in some other lifetime must have spoken Yiddish fluently. Together, we time-traveled through our shared roots in the Ukraine, into the alternate reality of the fourth dimension—even though my body remained rooted in the deck chair beside him.
And here’s something else: Leonard love to laugh—and he did laugh, often and loudly. And he loved it when you laughed back.
He loved his wife, Susan, and his children, Adam, Julie, and Aaron—and all of their children—worried over them like beads rolling in his hands, searching for answers to their life questions, the humanoid Vulcan Poppie, wanting to dispense every grain of wisdom before his time on this planet was over.
Leonard loved the majesty of books. And movies. And art. Photography. Especially photography.
He loved the duality of light and dark. Men and women. Fat and thin.
He loved the vulnerable humanity of exposing secrets. His own and others.
He loved political discussions. Politics, not so much.
Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Spock on Star Trek.
He celebrated his roots. Without prompting, he would regale us with memories of growing up on the west side of Boston, newsboy poor. Then, that call West: making that long trek to Pasadena at the tender age of 18 to begin acting classes, his mother, Dora, insistent that he wear his new and only brown wool suit on the train to what must have felt a continent away.
Think about that boy—that boy who lived in a tiny room, alone, working odd jobs to eat, how could he have even imagined the success, the iconic status that he would eventually come to embrace? How could he have ever suspected that the hand blessing he learned as an eight-year-old, hiding behind his father’s tallis in an Orthodox synagogue would bring to the world an internationally understood gesture of world peace and civility? That his Judaic roots would mushroom into a philosophical system, replete with its own campaign slogan and acronym—LLAP? Live Long and Prosper.
At his memorial lunch in Los Angeles, given with love by his wife, my husband and I offered to host the sweets table. “Wall to wall,” I said. “Just fill every surface with chocolate-lemon puff pastries, and crème de brulee brownies,” figuring the overflow might seduce Leonard back from wherever he had gone.
But even with his plate full and piled high, Leonard was only content when he shared his treasures with the people he loved. Only then, could he bite into a passion project: a photographic series, a movie script, a piece of music, a philanthropic cause, or even a Kit Kat candy bar, and roar, “OH YEAH,” then push his plate into the middle.
Like Mr. Spock, he understood the psychology of mere mortals like us who inhabit this planet. That after all these years of pushing his plate in our direction to share his riches, he was not just offering—he was challenging us to take one bite. Our bite. And because Leonard Nimoy was a visionary, whose soul swept across the Universe, and who understood time was so short that he ate dessert for dinner, we did.