It was 1988. My date and I went to see a popular Japanese film, A Taxing Woman's Return, at the Royal Theater in Westwood. It was a weeknight and the theater was almost empty. Then a group of people came in and sat about four rows in front of us. My date grabbed my arm and said, "Isn't that the guy that plays Sulu in Star Trek?" Yes, it was. But I was not looking at him. I was staring at a woman who was with his party. She was, simply put, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and ever hope to see. She was a tall slim Asian beauty with long flowing hair. On a scale of 1 to 10, she was a 153. My date looked at me weirdly, probably because I was drooling. It didn't take her long to realize that I was not looking at Mr. Takei.
"Beautiful, Isn't she" She said in a voice that, translated, meant, "You're not getting any tonight".
I tried to tell her that line every man knows to use. "Yes, but you're prettier." Unfortunately it came out something like, "Mmmmm. gadda dummgh mutter DROOOOOOOOOL!"
The date didn't go too well after that. But I never forgot the fleeting glimpse of that gorgeous woman and thinking, "GOD! That Takei guy is lucky."
Little did I know...
Now it is 2014. George Takei is no longer just the guy that played Sulu but an established actor of TV, film and stage. He is a respected gay activist and clever observer of human nature. He also has one of the most popular and followed pages on Facebook.
So what does this all have to do with that moment in 1988? The internet was in its infancy and I am fairly sure the "World Wide Web" was not yet in existence...at least not yet publicly. What we knew about public figures in the 80s is what they chose to show us in public and in the media or what gossip columnists chose to tell us or make up. There were paparazzi but I'm pretty sure they have not yet reached the frenzy of today's culture. And there was, for everyone, a sense of privacy and choice to what you presented. Perhaps there was less tolerance for some behaviors but, for better or worse, there was a feeling that you could keep your public mask on no matter who you were...and you knew when to do it.
Then came the interest. Then Facebook. With it came a loss of privacy. "But Marvin," You say. "I haven't lost any privacy. I can still choose what I share and what I won't share. " Can you? That's just what the internet wants you to believe. The momentary illusion of fame or infamy can be very addictive even if you are only sharing it with 450 of your closest friends of which 75% you never met. Do you really think people want to know that you drank your first chocolate beer yesterday, or that you love Grumpy Cat. Do you really think they want to hear about the weird pick-up date you experienced last week in all its embarrassing details. When you think of it, it is really kind of scary what we will share on-line for the want of a few "likes". You know. Things like drooling over a stranger you glimpsed at for maybe 3 minutes 24 years ago. Facebook can be a exhilarating ride but it can be rude, embarrassing, and sometimes dangerous for those who are not knowledgeable with its risks to enjoy the ride.
George Takei discovered social networking in his 70s, first on Twitter then on Facebook. He discusses his virtual adventures in social networking in the pages of Oh Myyy! (There goes The Internet): Life, The Internet and Everything. His forays into the internet starts out as cautious and tenuous but soon he is not only social networking like a teen but getting a huge following. Takei's casual but droll style makes this book a delight to read. It is a joyful look at someone who, despite a few jolts and prat falls, got it right and is enjoying the harvest of his sharing. He intersperses the book with popular memes that illustrate various aspects of Facebook or incidents that happened during his networking. It can be funny but there is a lot of wisdom through this book on the social aspects of our virtual life. For anyone who is new to Facebook, it can serve as a primer on what to do and what not to do when you make your way around this virtual community. The author also ends up delving into a number of social issues, not the least Marriage Equality. And of course there are plenty of nerd jokes and insider laughs regarding Star Trek and the full range of Sci-Fi geekdom.
I have followed Mr. Takei's Facebook page for a while now. I like the way he know how far to take things, letting us into his life and his mind but knowing where to set the limits. His book does the same yet you can not help but feel you have spent the time with a very interesting man who knows how to make you laugh and feel good. So if I ever meet Mr. Takei I will go up to him, shake his hands and ask, "Do you still have the number of that girl you were with?"