George Takei Is Sexually Versatile!


By Michael Musto

Plus: Charles Busch on drag and the single life

Photo by Danielle Levitt

Going where no man has gone before, George Takei continues to delight, surprise, and be gayer than a Tribble. The original Captain Sulu (in Star Trek and six feature films), he’s the subject of the new documentary To Be Takei, which just played the Sundance Film Festival and which should be upon us later this year with its easygoing look at an enduring force of nature.

The film details the 76-year-old’s hideously oppressive childhood in an internment camp for Japanese Americans (the subject of a musical which he recently starred in, called Allegiance.) We find out about his later interest in muscle magazines and the initial same-sex encounter that spun his head around, young Takei finding it as exciting as a one-way trip to Risa, “the pleasure planet.” As his career took off, he cautiously bearded himself with female dates, a routine which Leonard Nimoy speculates must have been “draining, tiring, and dispiriting.”

But once Takei came out in 2005—after years in the glass closet—it was like a Klingon out of hell. He and his husband Brad Altman proudly endorse equal rights, and that apparently includes the right to be versatile (“We play all the roles,” crows Takei in the film), as well as the right to bicker, which they’re shown doing, albeit with a deep-seated sense of mutual appreciation. 

Takei is love personified—except when it comes to William Shatner, whom he’d clearly like to beam up somewhere far, far away. Rather than try to do that, I simply rang Takei up and we had a hydraulic blast of a chat.

Out: Musto: Hello, George. So you’re versatile, huh?  

George Takei: (Laughs) We’re Renaissance men. Jacks of all trades. 

Brad comes off like a sweet person in the documentary.

He can be sweet, and he can be stern.  

Well, he doesn’t come off like a lackey. In fact, he always seems to tell you the truth.

He certainly does, and he’s a great organizer and someone who strictly goes by what he’s organized, while I’m quite the opposite. I tend to be lackadaisical and slightly messy, so we’re a good couple.

Sometimes you’re seen lecturing him, too.

Yes, I do. I’m a little bit of a pedant. I believe in proper grammar and pronunciation, particularly of foreign names. He’s of Germanic ancestry and I have to correct his German! His father was a Spanish teacher and I have to correct his Spanish!

Speaking of lectures, why did you tell Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) that he’s gained weight when you ran into him at a convention, as shown in the doc?

I said it innocently. It was an observation. When I saw his reaction, I thought I touched a sensitive nerve. He has gained weight. I thought that would surely be a word of advice from a grizzled old veteran. But that taught me a lesson. He’s a young man. He also has an actor’s sensitivity.

Did your terrible childhood make you more sensitive? (Except for this particular instance.)

It made me aware of the importance of fighting for justice. I was active in the civil rights movement as a young guy. I was silent in my adulthood on the LGBT issue because I wanted to work as an actor. It wasn’t until 2005, when Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California gay marriage bill that was passed by both houses, and all it required was the signature of our governor. He had campaigned with, “I’m from Hollywood, I’ve worked with gays and lesbians, and some of them are my best friends.” I thought surely he was going to sign, but when he played to his arch conservative Republican base and vetoed it, my blood was boiling. That’s when I talked to the press for the first time. And of course we found out that at that very time, he was carrying on with his housekeeper under his wife’s nose! Vetoing marriage equality, while he himself was completely abusing his marriage vows! 

And now, Utah governor Gary Herbert has been working hard to try and squash gay marriage. Whether it’s imprisoning innocent Americans because they look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor or innocent gays and lesbians who joyfully got married, governance by hysteria throughout this country’s history will go down.

On a way lighter note, in the doc, Nimoy looks more than a little uncomfortable when he’s asked about the massive amounts of homoerotic art that have spun out of the series.

He’s aware of it. You see it at the conventions. He would rather not discuss it. But he gave me the HRC Equality award in 2007. He flew up to San Francisco in his plane for that evening.

He’s extremely cool. And Shatner?

He’s an odd bird. He tries to say we didn’t know each other. And to say he wasn’t invited to my wedding when he was! We invited everyone from the show, and [Star Trek’s] Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols were our best man and maid of honor. When Bill came out with his rant on YouTube complaining about supposedly not being invited, it was two months after the wedding and just in time to try and boost his talk show’s ratings.

Funny, how that worked. On a more inspiring male-bonding note, the most recent Star Trek movie seemed more homoerotic than ever, no?

Spock has always been attracted to a sexy mind. He’s a very intellectual guy. (laughs)

>>>NEXT PAGE: Charles Busch, Billie Jean King, and Rebecca Hall

Watch the trailer for To Be Takei Below: