Q&A with "Star Trek" star George Takei

George Takei is a bigger star today than when he appeared in the '60s TV series "Star Trek."

It may be argued that he's even bigger now than when he co-starred in the six feature films based on the sci-fi cult classic.

That's because of social media. He has something like 5,035,966 "likes" on Facebook, where his irreverent and eclectic posts are managed by a team with the "kewl" efficiency of the Enterprise's bridge.

"Time" magazine named his Twitter feed one of the 140 best, as he is fond of saying, "between Obama and Levi Johnston."

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His YouTube channel videos get tens of thousands of views ("The George Takei Happy Dance" went viral last year).

The actor, author and social justice activist will receive the "2013 National Leadership Award" from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Saturday, Nov. 9 in Miami Beach. The "17th Annual Miami Recognition Dinner" will take place at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

After taking care of some "reporting housekeeping" stuff in a telephone Q&A Wednesday morning with Takei, I asked him - appropriately enough - some questions from his fans on my Facebook page:

Rod: Where are you now?

George: "We're in Orlando right now. I was at Elliot Masie's Learning [2013] conference. I did a speech on social media. This was preceded by a narration with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. Tomorrow I'm heading to Miami for a wonderful whoop-ti-do."

Rod: I must know and I must know now: did you get to keep a Tribble?

George: [Laughing] 'No, as a matter of fact I didn't. I didn't get to do that episode. During the hiatus between the first season and the second season I was off in Georgia filming 'The Green Berets" with John Wayne and David Janssen. I was suppose to be back in time but we went way over-schedule because of bad weather. All of my lines were given to the new guy, this Russian character named Chekov. He got my lines and he got my Tribble."

Rod: Another fan on Facebook wanted me to ask if you thought the movie 'Galaxy Quest' was an homage to your post-cancellation 'Star Trek' lives?

George: [Laughing] "An homage? I thought it was a documentary. I recognized every thing in there."

Rod: Do you think there was one turning point for LGBT rights, a cultural bookmark moment? Or is it an evolution of events?

George: "Oh I don't know. I think it began in 1969 when the LGBT community began to galvanize...and the [National Gay and Lesbian] Task Force is one of the wonderful organizations that formed shortly after Stonewall. Then in the '80s the AIDS plague hit and that was a tragic period.

Because of the, at first, lack of attention paid to such a tragic crisis, attention had to be paid by the LGBT community. Then there was a backlash to that attention with institutionalized homophobia in the form of legislation. Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were legislated, institutionalized homophobia. But that galvanized rational and fair-minded people who started to become our allies and supporters, a continual growth of pressure to get us where we are today with marriage equality happening.

I don't like to say 'evolution' because that sounds like it is natural. Our turning points have been driven by one crisis after another. But I maintain that a majority of America is fair-minded and decent. The more people see how normal our situation is, the more normalized the attitudes to LGBT people will become."


Rod: You're a monster when it comes to social media. How did that start?

George: "Well, there is a profound ulterior motive. It goes back to my childhood. I grew up in internment camps, two of them, with guards pointing machine guns at us and search lights following me during night runs to the latrine. It was a concentration camp and we were totally innocent. That was the irony: these American people were taken from their homes in American cities because they happen to have a mother or a father who was Japanese and they looked like the enemy. We looked suspicious simply because of our ancestry.