George Takei

Photograph courtesy George Takei

My father knew my theatrical bent. “There is a form of theater that’s dying,” he said. “I’ll take you to see it.” This was not long after we came out of the internment camps. I assumed he was going to take our whole family, but he took just me. We rode the Red Car and transferred to the P Car. We got off on Broadway and went to the Orpheum Theatre—that amazing marquee, with the zigzag lines that popped and moved, and the bubble lights. We bought two tickets and walked into the lobby, and my head snapped back. It was incredibly gorgeous. We went up the stairs, and the thickness of the carpet was an incredible, sensuous feeling. We were on the balcony level, in the cheapest seats, but to me they were the best seats in the world. My father had taken me to see vaudeville. I saw the trapeze artists and the horses that could add: “How much is two plus three?” Pound, pound, pound, pound, pound—with a hoof. The comedians came out. I had never experienced anything like it. Then vaudeville died, and the Orpheum became a movie house, and then it closed. It was heartbreaking. Finally the Orpheum was restored, and the L.A. Conservancy asked me to be the emcee for the reopening event. I said, “When I look up in that balcony at that last row, I see my father sitting there, smiling down.” I had a very special father. We were destitute then, but he cared enough to give me that experience. » Takei, 73, played Sulu in the original Star Trek series. He was born in Los Angeles.