Oh, my! Everyone's favorite master of navigation turns 73 today. Happy birthday, George Takei!
Thanks to his role as Mr. Sulu, Takei will always have a place in sci-fi pop culture, and unlike many of his colleagues, Takei has been happy to embrace his best-known character. But there's more to Takei than yellow velour shirts—he's a long-time social and political activist, happily married to another man, and even a member of the Order of the Rising Sun along with such luminaries as Kono Jigaro (founder of the martial art judo!) and Douglas MacArthur.
So let's celebrate with 25 fun facts you might not know!
♦ George Takei's Anglophile father named him after King George VI, whose coronation took place three years before he was born.
♦ He and his family were among the Japanese-Americans remanded to internment camps during the Second World War—Takei was interned at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas and later at the Tule Lake camp in California, which was a maximum security camp for what were called "disloyals." In 1981, Takei would testify before Congress about his years in the camps.
♦ George Takei was student body president at Mount Vernon Junior High.
♦ He studied acting in California at UCLA, and then went abroad to study at both England's Shakespeare Institute and Sophia University, a Jesuit college in Tokyo.
♦ Takei's first acting job was to dub Japanese dialogue into English for the 1956 movie Rodan.
♦ Takei also appeared on an episode of The Twilight Zone you probably haven't seen. "The Encounter" features the actor as the son of a Japanese-American spy, but was removed from the U.S. syndication cycle due to a pair of controversies. Some believed the story to be an early criticism of the war in Vietnam, while others complained that there was no evidence of Japanese-American spies during the Second World War. "The Encounter" has been aired on Canadian TV regularly, however.
♦ Takei guest-starred on an episode of Mission: Impossible, but since this was the series' first season, he did not work alongside either Peter Graves or Leonard Nimoy.
♦ It was Takei's idea that in the Star Trek episode "The Naked Time" Sulu would brandish a foil rather than a Japanese katana. "Samurai sword fighting is too obvious," he explained.
♦ Ever wonder why Sulu isn't in the Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles"? It's because he took time off from the series to film the John Wayne movie The Green Berets.
♦ He passed on appearing in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan until William Shatner personally called him and convinced him to star in the film.
♦ He was also the first cast member to attend a Star Trek convention in South America.
♦ In 1973, Takei ran for mayor of Los Angeles and came in second behind Tom Bradley. The local station that aired Star Trek in syndication took the show off the air for the duration of the campaign.
♦ Takei's memoir To the Stars is fairly unusual for a Star Trek cast autobiography in that it is widely cited and quoted in scholarly books on Asian-American political and cultural studies.
♦ He has run in several marathons and took part in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Torch Relay.
♦ An asteroid between Mars and Jupiter has been renamed 7307 Takei in his honor.
♦ Thanks to his voice role as Lok Durd in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Takei was the first Star Trek: The Original Series cast member to have a role in the Star Wars franchise.
♦ He reprised his role as Sulu in the unofficial Internet-TV series Star Trek: Phase II. The episode in which he appeared, "World Enough and Time," was nominated for the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo award.
♦ He appeared uncredited in the 1963 film PT-109 steering a Japanese destroyer over John F. Kennedy's PT-109.
♦ As a member of the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, Takei cast the tie-breaking vote for the creation of the Los Angeles subway system.
♦ He was also a supporter of the Excelsior Campaign, a fan movement to convince Paramount to tell the story of Sulu's years as a Star Fleet captain. (Ultimately, Paramount decided to do Enterprise instead.)
♦ Takei is a former chairman of the board of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
♦ In 1994, Takei was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Fourth Class from Emperor Akihito, for his work in improving Japanese-U.S. relations.
♦ Along with his husband Brad Altman, Takei appeared as part of the first same-sex couple to appear on The Newlywed Game TV show.
♦ Best man and "best lady" at Takei's wedding? Star Trek alumni Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols.
♦ William Shatner, who has carried on a feud in the media with Takei, claims to have been passed over for a wedding invitation. "I would not expect him to invite me to a place where he wanted to be surrounded by love and he'd see my little red face poking out there, and look at me and feel whatever enmity he feels for whatever reason I do not know," Shatner said, before inviting Takei to appear on television with him. Takei, on the other hand, claims Shatner was invited but did not RSVP.