Tuesday, January 19, 2010

George Takei: Transit Geek

George Takei is well known for his iconic role as Captian Sulu on the Star Trek television series and films. What is less well known is his role as a member of the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District for 11 years. In fact, in 1978, he was called away from the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture to cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the pursuit of a subway system for Los Angeles.

He was recently interviewed on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, a weekly news quiz show, in the segment known as "Not My Job."

I'm a huge fan of Wait Wait, and this is my favorite episode. Ever.

Takei talks about Star Trek, gay marriage, and, surprisingly, transit. You really should listen to the whole segment (here, 11:36), but I've transcribed a small excerpt below:

Mo Rocca: Can I just add...? I feel a little left out, because I'm actually not a Star Trek geek.
George Takei: You're not?
MR: I'm not, but I am a rapid transit geek.
GT: You sound like one.
MR: I'm not a Star Trek geek, I just get mistaken for one constantly. But I am a rapid transit geek, and I just wanted to know, is there any future in the monorail?
GT: Here in Los Angeles?
MR: Just anywhere. I love them.
GT: You do? (laughter) Um, no. What we're doing here in Los Angeles is building a network of light rail because that's less costly. And putting the focus on extending the stub-ended Wilshire Line. And we want to extend that to--
Peter Sagal: Is this what other people feel like when we're talking about Star Trek? (laughter)
Adam Felber: Yeah.
MR: I love it.
PS: I'm like 'blah-de-blah-de-blah.'
GT: Sorry about that.
PS: It's all right.
MR: You just don't get it. We have conventions. This is awesome!
PS: You all dress up as conductors...
AF: If the Purple Line is going to be powered by dilithium, then...(laughter)
GT: Dilithium crystals, yes.

I particularly love Peter Sagal's response. I'm an unabashed transit geek, and I certainly know the reaction - when peoples' eyes start to glaze over - but it's totally worth it to meet another transit geek.

Anyway, this episode of Wait Wait totally made my day. I just had to share.


James Fujita said...

I love George Takei.

Los Angeles transit fans might be interested to know that Takei has also been a huge supporter (also former chairman of the board of trustees) of the Japanese American National Museum, which has consistently opposed one of the biggest rail transit projects, the Regional Connector (which would pass right by the museum).

Would be interesting to know how he feels about that project, and just how much sway he might hold in Little Tokyo...

Spokker said...

I thought the museum shut up now that the new alternative has been revealed.

Tom Veil said...

So cool.

Matt Fisher said...

Oh yeah. George Takei was asked to do my favourite episode of The Simpsons, "Marge vs. the Monorail". He said he wouldn't because he believed it to be anti-transit, so they got Leonard Nimoy instead. He did do other appearances on The Simpsons though.