TO WALK WITH KINGS, YET NOT LOSE THE COMMON TOUCH
Los Angeles, California (JFK+50) In 1956, Leonard Nimoy* was driving a taxi at night here in LA leaving his daytime hours open for acting auditions. One night he got a call to pick up a "Mr. Kennedy" at the Bel Air Hotel. After a 10 minute wait, "a tall, slender young man with a shock of unruly chestnut hair" got in the back seat of Nimoy's cab.
Soon when JFK learned that Leonard was from "back home" in Massachusetts, the Senator wanted to know everything about him. Is it hard to find work as an actor? What neighborhood did you live in? What do your parents do? Do you have brothers and sisters?
Leonard answered that it was hard to find work as an actor and he had lived on Chambers Street, in Boston's West End "right in front of Beacon Hill." He went on to tell JFK his father was a barber who had escaped Russia and come to America in the 1920s. Leonard added that his brother was a chemical engineer who had attended MIT.
Mr. Nimoy said that Senator Kennedy never seemed to run out of questions and that he was particularly interested in hearing more about people who were not American born or who were first generation Americans.
The 20 minute ride ended as the taxi pulled up to the Beverly Hilton Hotel where JFK was to give a speech in support of Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign. The young senator got out of the cab and started walking away without paying.
Leonard Nimoy followed him inside the lobby where JFK discovered he had no money to pay for the taxi ride. The senator saw someone he knew and asked for $3, then he handed the money to Leonard saying..."Thank you very much and good luck."
The short ride with JFK left a long-lasting impression on the young actor. In fact, Leonard says that John F. Kennedy was "the most unforgettable man he...ever met."
In reflecting on the experience, Leonard "is reminded of Kipling's line 'To walk with kings, yet not lose the common touch," and also the lesson he was taught that night. Although the senator knew "far more than I did, he wasn't interested in impressing me with his knowledge (but)...in finding out if he could (learn) something from me." JFK made Leonard "feel much more worthwhile and more meaningful and important to myself."
As the years passed if Mr. Nimoy was asked a question, he would answer "What do you think?" He found that he learned so much more that way.
*Leonard Simon Nimoy (1931-2015) was born in Boston, MA., the son of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. He began acting at age 8 & won his first major role at age 17. LSN took acting lessons at Boston University & served in the US Army for 18 months.
LSN is best known for the role of Spock in the Star Trek television series 1966-1969. He earned 3 Emmy Award nominations for the role.
"Spock's Cab Ride with JFK," Simple Thing Called Life, www.simplethingcalledlife.com/
"The Day JFK Rode in Leonard Nimoy's Taxi," Daily Variety, 1966.