George Takei on How to Live Longer and Prosper

Nearly five decades after he broke out as Sulu, the 79-year-old actor and activist makes a case for the third act
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Every morning I do 100 push-ups and 50 sit-ups and work out with free weights while I watch the news. No, that’s not incredible. If you do it regularly, it’s quite credible.

You exercise sufficiently and get enough sleep—six to eight hours, they tell you—and keep the mind engaged. These are the laws of longevity. You look at a marathon, and you say, “Oh, my God! 26.2 miles—who’s going to run that?” And yes, it’s not easy. Your muscles start to punish you, but you say, “Muscle, you’re going to do it.” Life is full of challenges, and you deal with it by saying, “I can do it.”

You also need to have a good sense of humor. My grandmother had a wonderful sense of humor. She was chortling at her grandchildren all the time. We would do something and she would start laughing. We’d say, “That wasn’t funny,” and she’d say, “No, you’re funny. Life is a comedy.” She lived until she was 104.

Coming out when I was 68, I was prepared for my career to fade out. I had been going on nationwide speaking tours about LGBT equality. Then I picked up the phone one day, and Gary Dell’Abate, producer of The Howard Stern Show, asked if I would become the official announcer of the show. I said to my husband, Brad, “If we are going to bring about change, we’ve got to reach the vast middle that’s made up of basically decent, fair-minded people…. And they listen to Howard Stern.”

The first week on Howard’s show I talked about my sex life with Brad, and then I had to court him all over again. He’s good at the silent treatment. People who have heard the show who are close in age to me sometimes ask me, “Are you guys really having sex? Because my appetite is going down.” I guess some people’s appetites fade earlier than others.

The positive reaction to Howard’s show was immediate and astounding. E-mails. Letters. A massive tidal wave of support. It was then I realized, “Aha! I’m going to have a third act.” I have a YouTube series called Takei’s Take. It’s sponsored by the AARP, but actually my audience on the Internet spans all the way across to the millennials.

Usually it’s the clock-watchers who look forward to retirement. The ones who are always asking, “When is lunchtime? Oh, my God, it’s still only 10:30!” That’s not me.


This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue feature How to Live a Long Life in L.A.

 

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