To legions of fans, Leonard Nimoy was known as Spock. To Adam Nimoy, he was simply dad.
Leonard Nimoy earned legions of fans from his portrayal of the half-Vulcan, half-human, hyper-logical Spock on Star Trek. Nimoy, who not only played the character on Star Trek: the Original Series from 1966-1969 but also eight feature films and several other projects, was a beloved figure in popular culture, one who helped change the face of Science Fiction. He was also a poet, a director (Fun fact: did you know he helmed Three Men and a Baby?), writer, photographer, and philanthropist — The Nimoy Foundation still helps provide grants to artists. He was also an alcoholic and a man festooned with personal issues.
Adam Nimoy never wore his father’s famous ears, but he does share much of his father’s talent — and many of his demons. The 61-year-old writer and director, whose most recent work is the memoir My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life, struggled with addiction. For much of his early life, had a contentious relationship with his dad, who he describes as a workaholic who often put his family second. Adam contributes his dad’s behavior to his upbringing in a working class Russian family, but it nonetheless led to a lot of clashes and even estrangement throughout his life.
However, in the latter half of his life, Adam reconnected with his father and formed a strong bond, working with him on several projects including several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and “For the Love of Spock,” a documentary that spans his father’s career and life and their relationship. Here, Adam, shares what it was like growing up with the man who encouraged us all to “Live long and prosper.”
My dad was 25 years old when I was born, but we were generations apart. I was born into what turned into an affluent lifestyle in Southern California. He had worked since he was 10 years old. He lived in a Russian immigrant household where everything was about money and generating income. I didn’t have that kind of experience. By the time he started looking at my life, I was driving around the state of California, going to Grateful Dead shows. He did not appreciate that. He did not respect that. He couldn’t identify with that.
It was predestined that he and I were going to have a reckoning. It was through our own recovery, patience, and acceptance and tolerance, and keeping the focus on our own character defects — which is a big part of what 12 step is all about — that really gave us the tools to reconnect with one another on a much deeper level.
I was 10 years old when Star Trek went on the air. My sister and I were old enough to know what life was like before his fame. My dad was very frugal. He came from Russian immigrant parents out of the West End of Boston. My dad knew how to hold onto a dollar. He was very conservative in his spending habits. It drove my mother a little crazy.
When there was a breakthrough in his career, we were very much aware of what was happening and very grateful for what was happening, and we were very excited about it. We had to accept that we were going to lose a lot of our privacy, because our dad became a public figure with a big fan base, with people who wanted his time and attention. But on the other hand, we started moving up the social ladder. We moved to a bigger house in Westwood. Life got pretty good for us. But we never really forgot our roots or where we came from. We always had a lot of respect for hard work and what dad had accomplished.
It was difficult, because for my dad, the number one priority in his life was his career. It was all understandable from where he came from. He really struggled to get out of Boston. This is a guy, who at age 18 got on a train to California with very little money in his pocket and very little support from his parents. He had…