JANM Celebrates Life of Actor-Activist George Takei in ‘New Frontiers’

While newer generations know him as a regular promoter of gay rights – as well as a progressive voice promoting diversity in that lovely baritone – George Takei was one of the best-known Asian-American actors of the 1960s. This was due largely to his role on the seminal space-opera TV series, “Star Trek,” as the calm, cool and collected helmsman of the Enterprise. But as a 4-year-old, he lived through the paranoia of World War II as the American government sent his family to internment camps – first in Arkansas, then to the choking dust of Tule Lake, California.

New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” at the Japanese American National Museum through summer, tells these stories and more. The exhibit features Takei’s memorabilia from his life as an actor and gay activist, a collection he and his husband Brad donated last year. Included in the show are photos, scripts, awards, correspondence and artwork made for him by his fans, plus campaign material from his 1970s-era run for Los Angeles City Council and a sculpture his father made while the family was held prisoner in Arkansas for being Japanese.

Takei’s ongoing influence can be attributed to his “Star Trek” years, his coming out in 2005, but above all to his innate charm. “He is at the crossroads of pop culture and serious issues,” fan Dorinda Paige told CNN. “Takei does a great job of getting your attention, because it’s like a trust thing. He manages to build a relationship with fans like me. I’ve never met him and probably won’t, but because he seems that approachable, I will listen to what he says.”

And above all, he maintains his sense of humor, some of which has seeped permanently into the culture. When a southern state launched an attack on the use of the word “gay,” he substituted his own name for the term and launched the slogan: “It’s OK to be Takei.”

New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” is March 12 – Aug. 20 at the Japanese American National Museum.