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George Takei's Sulu Effort on Gay Rights

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George Takei's Sulu Effort on Gay Rights

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George Takei's Sulu Effort on Gay Rights

George Takei's Sulu Effort on Gay Rights

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George Takei at the Paramount Studios Theater in July 2002. i

George Takei at the Paramount Studios Theater in July 2002. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
George Takei at the Paramount Studios Theater in July 2002.

George Takei at the Paramount Studios Theater in July 2002.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

George Takei famously played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. These days, his voice can be heard on The Howard Stern Show. More importantly, he's traveling the country to advance gay rights. Takei tells Scott Simon about his latest mission.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, where Dorothy Parker wasn't buried. But first, George Takei will probably always be best known as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek. But he's also appeared in more than 30 feature films and hundreds of television shows. And of course, there's the song.

(Soundbite of song featuring George Takei)

SIMON: In January, Mr. Takei appeared on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio. George Takei joins us now from his home in Los Angeles.

Mr. Takei, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. TAKEI: It's a privilege to be with you.

SIMON: How did you and Howard Stern get together?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAKEI: Well, there is a long story there. I was doing a play in New York. And when you're doing a play, the publicist for the show gives you your assignment.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TAKEI: And this one particular morning I had this address on Madison Avenue. I went there. They asked me to wait in the waiting area. So I got a magazine. I was reading. And they had this radio show on and the conversation was the crudest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAKEI: The language was the foulest. And I said to the guy sitting next to me, why don't they get some nice music on? You know, this show is really vulgar. And he said that's the show we're going to be going on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAKEI: And then they introduced me. And here's this wild-haired guy. The first thing he said to me was, Oh, you have a deep voice. Anyone with a voice that deep has got to be...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: This is NPR.

Mr. TAKEI: Well, I don't think we could use that word here. Then I published my autobiography, and there is an accompanying audio version of the book. I read my book into Books on Tape.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TAKEI: He got a hold of that and...

SIMON: Ahhh.

Mr. TAKEI: ...manipulated the words on that tape and had me saying the most outrageous things in my voice, which I did not say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAKEI: So I've been on that show both voluntarily and involuntarily.

SIMON: Oh my.

Mr. TAKEI: Oh my.

SIMON: I'm sure you've been asked this over the years, but how does a classically-trained actor feel about being best-known for a character who is often best remembered for saying warp speed or something like that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAKEI: I'm very proud of my association with Star Trek, because the philosophy was one that I'm proud to be associated with. And the gift that I've been given from Star Trek is this public megaphone.

SIMON: I mean, we should explain one of your -- you work with the Human Rights Campaign.

Mr. TAKEI: Exactly. That's -- I just got back from a part of the speaking tour with the Human Rights Campaign.

SIMON: You're affiliated with the Japanese-American National Museum. You and your family were, in fact, in one of the internment camps during the Second World War.

Mr. TAKEI: As a matter of fact, two of them. And I went to school in a black tarpaper barrack and began the day seeing the barbwire fence. And thank God those barbwire fence are now long gone for Japanese-Americans. But I still see an invisible legalistic barbwire that keeps me, my partner of 19 years, Brad Altman, and another group of Americans separated from a normal life. That's what I've been advocating on the Human Rights Campaign, equality. I call it the Equality Trek.

SIMON: You were in Equus a number of years ago, weren't you?

Mr. TAKEI: No. Last year, as a matter of fact.

SIMON: Last year, okay.

Mr. TAKEI: I did a run in Equus here in Los Angeles. And Leonard came to see me. Leonard Nimoy.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. TAKEI: ...who had done the play in New York. And he came back stage, and grinned his wry and very diplomatic grin at me, and said, You were better.

SIMON: Aw. Yeah.

Mr. TAKEI: I mean, what else could he have said?

SIMON: Well, what a compliment.

Mr. TAKEI: He is such a great diplomat.

SIMON: Mr. Takei, it's been awfully nice talking to you.

Mr. TAKEI: Thank you for inviting me to chat with you.

SIMON: What do we say? Long life and prosper, or something?

Mr. TAKEI: Oh, live long and prosper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Live long and prosper. Thank you, Mr. Takei.

Mr. TAKEI: Thank you.

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