Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man
By William Shatner with David Fisher
St. Martin’s Press/288 pages
Leonard: My 50-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man is a curious thing.
For a book that purports to tell us about Leonard Nimoy’s life and his relationship with William Shatner, it reveals far more about Shatner himself.
Buried beneath all the press surrounding the revelation that the two were estranged is a book written by someone who, in his later years, has begun to feel more comfortable revealing who he is.
That’s not to say that the book is all about Shatner. He and co-writer David Fisher cover the entire gamut of Leonard Nimoy’s life, from his humble beginnings in working-class Boston to his struggle with COPD and his final days. They describe an ambitious, creative, loyal, and sometimes distant man whose constant need to learn and create informed his life until the very end. It’s a well-researched book that is a blend of old interviews with Leonard and remembrances from family, friends, and Shatner himself. For those that have followed Leonard’s life and career closely, much of the career-related material likely won’t surprise all that much, but the personal stories from Shatner and Leonard’s son Adam add insight into the private side of Leonard, a part of him the public didn’t often see. Like Shatner’s other non-fiction books, it’s written in a breezy style that makes for a quick and entertaining read – until the final few chapters. That’s when the tone of the book changes completely.
Early on, Shatner mentions how hard it is for him to have close friendships, going so far as to describe one harrowing experience where he nearly got killed driving over a bridge during a rainstorm and realized there were probably very few people who would miss him if he had died. It’s a very telling anecdote, one which brings greater clarity to other parts of the book, which shows a man who clearly struggles with forming deep connections with other people, and it drives home why he valued his friendship with Leonard so much.
It’s this struggle that makes the latter chapters of the book, which deal with the estrangement between the two and Leonard’s illness and death, so remarkable. In the past, Shatner’s tendency has been to be a bit glib when relating parts of his life and career. The final two chapters are written in a very honest, direct, and heartfelt way, so much so that I was caught off guard while reading it. Shatner speaks openly about his genuine confusion and pain over why Leonard would no longer speak to him, and how he tried to reach out to him right before his death, sending him a note that’s he’s not sure Leonard ever read. It’s a sad ending to a lifelong friendship, and something that clearly haunts him.
This book is far more than what it appears to be on the surface, and in my opinion is worth your time.
This book had many stories repeated from “Star Trek Memories” and “I am Spock” but so much new material as well. Another great read from William Shatner.
The Nimoy/Shatner relationship sounds a lot like the Lennon/McCartney relationship. Sir McCartney expressed similar pain about his estrangement with Lennon prior to Lennon’s death.
Treasure your friends because you never know when you will lose them.
Some claim that Nimoy was pissed at Shatner for using footage of him in a documentary after saying no to being in it. Hard to believe you’d sever a life-long friendship over THAT.
Having spent a full day alone with LN in the last few months of his life, I can tell you the above is not true.
Perhaps tour script would have helped them reconcile
Yeah it seemed a bit hard to believe that he would cut him off over something so petty. Care to elaborate?
so tell us then please, what light can you shed on why leonard might have stopped talked to Bill?
I think we would all like to understand the final split better. I can only guess that Leonard knew he had limited time and energy and decided Shat used and misused too much of both. Any insights are welcome, but I would hasten to add that the book is worthwhile for anyone who likes or loves Trek… and the ending does not erase an incredible 50-year friendship.
Bob, can you please share your understanding of why this happened between them?
not my place.
Will share other things when able and appropriate.
That would be great and appreciated Bob. Trust your judgment and can only assume it relates to when you were preparing for the movie.
Exactly. Like any human being (especially one with journalism in his career history) I’m instinctively nosy about it, but it’s none of my business. I loathe the vulgarity of too much information being spewed by people. How can a relationship be special if it’s played out to that extent in front of the masses?
Good enough. Maybe it’s something for Adam Nimoy to address in his upcoming project or sometime down the line.
Although I wrote here, in the days after Mr. Nimoy died, that I visualized Bill Shatner’s rushing back to Los Angeles immediately after his prior engagement, I no longer really see things in quite that manner. I think my visualization was based mostly on wishful thinking and a sense of the overdramatic arising from the relationship between Kirk and Spock rather than the two actual human beings who played them. As I look back on the events around that time, I have a feeling that the two were increasingly different people in the last decade of their mutual relationship. I think that somehow the basis of their friendship had diminished considerably as perhaps Star Trek became less and less a factor in their respective lives (despite Mr. Nimoy’s presence in the last two ST movies). All this is speculative, of course, and perhaps those last chapters of Mr. Shatner’s book will cast some light on whether this speculation is true. I freely acknowledge that I have no special insight into this matter.
I did not know that they were not on speaking terms for the last few years. It is sad to learn this.
Great review Brian – thanks!!!
I had no ode they were estranged. Sorry to hear that, but this sounds interesting, and I’ll have to pick it up.
Using his recent appearance with Jon Hein on “The Rap Up Show” as an example, I think Bill is no longer holding anything back. I also think Bill is probably frustrated that he is finding it more difficult to get the type of acting work he’d like to synch his teeth into. As a life long fan of Pro Wrestling, even I felt it was beneath Bill to do voice overs on WWE documentaries, but he took that job too. He’s probably frustrated over the lack of quality acting work and now ageism is keeping him from other roles.
But even the late great Art Carney finished his career doing voice overs for ESPN…Bill is in great company.
Maybe Bill crossed the line with Leonard. But if Leonard was still here, I think he would have forgiven Bill by now.
Just my guess, butI have a feeling Shatner will be in a Nick Meyer “Star Trek” story one way or another and this may be our 50th anniversary gift from CBS for our loyal fan support low these many years.
Orson Welles’ penultimate film was Transformers: the Movie. I spend most of my time working on corporate stuff when I’d love to be doing more high-end documentary work, but we all need to make a living! ;)
I hope they do arrange some kind of cameo for Mr Shatner in the new show, perhaps along the lines of Deforrest Kelley’s at the start of TNG. It was nice to know that somewhere out there Dr McCoy was still alive and kicking as we followed new characters.
Bob Orci spending a full day with Leonard Nimoy is fascinating. Is it possible that something was being filmed that day for a future project?
If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…
Anything is possible. More than likely Bob met with Leonard in some part when he was still working on the Trek movie.
We became friendly after the 09 movie. Attended a few gatherings at his house, and he and his amazing wife, Susan, were gracious enough to show up at my 40th birthday party. The last day I spent with him was to talk about the movie. But he was home alone that day because Susan had a bunch of errands to run, and we just ended up shooting the breeze for hours about his career and his life. I basically asked him every question I could think of, knowing I was getting precious time with a precious man. When I left, he said, “You’re a good audience…” with a wink.
We emailed a few times after that, but that was the last time I saw him.
One of the most amazing days of my adult life.
Thanks for sharing Bob. Much appreciated. Definitely an amazing day. You must have made an extremely favorable impression on him beyond the Trek connection. Hopefully you can share more in the future at the appropriate time as you stated. Perhaps after the release of the movie?
I hope if I ever bring someone into my home and tell them stories of my life that they race home to write it all down so they can make money off it when Im dead. That’s what true friendship is all about.
wrote it for myself. i will never sell it, and you will never learn of anything that isn’t known or shared by other sources. wrote it down to remember my experience of it. After all, I was there, too. The experience belongs just as much to me. Sorry if that eats away at you.
Thank you Bob. I can only dream…
That would have been awesome
Wow. What a wonderful privilege!
Thanks Bob! Wow!
“You’re a good audience…” with a wink…
-Wow. Seems even at the end, Leonard still had that irrepressible sense of humour and Witt.
Thank you for sharing that very private moment with us, Bob.
Great remembrance, Bob. Thanks for sharing that.
Bob, if we ever invent time travel, I’m going back in time to shove a tape recorder in your pocket on that day.
Came home and wrote it all down. My mama didn’t raise no dummy;)
Real interested when you tell us more, However I fear great disappointment to what we will never see in regards to Leonard’s possible involvement in the film. I know you would have hit a home run with it.
Yes bob thanks for sharing that.
I’ve read the book twice so far, and I find this review far more thoughtful than the gushing review I read on the Trek News site. So thanks for that, Brian.
That subtitle is actually a lie, because Shatner makes it clear that they didn’t become friends until TMP and stopped being friends before Leonard died, so it was really a 35-year friendship. In reading the book, it looked to me as if LEONARD was a very good friend to SHATNER, but it wasn’t at all clear that Shatner was much of a friend to Leonard.
It seemed to me that Shatner was both too self-focused and too unreflective to really SEE Leonard for what he was while he was alive, and this book was Shatner’s attempt to understand the man after he was dead. It read to me as if Shatner finally DID understand what a special person Leonard was and finally did appreciate him … too late.
(And yes, for all the people who will jump on me for saying anything bad about Shatner — yes, I understand that he was a great Kirk. But while KIRK is a great human being, it’s not clear that Mr. Shatner is.) I feel kinda sorry for him, actually, because it seems as if he had a chance that few people had — to know and love Leonard while they were going through the strange and intense experience that was the Star Trek phenomenon — and he mostly blew it.
The book is definitely worth reading, but as Brian notes, it actually tells us far more about Shatner than it does about Nimoy, especially for those of us who’ve read both of Mr. Nimoy’s autobiographies and also the autobiography written by his son Adam.
Do we know when they fell out? They seemed on good terms for the ‘Captain’s Table’ discussion on the blu-ray release of the movies just a few years ago.
Shatner doesn’t know why they fell out and can be heard discussing his friendship with Nimoy and the book in a podcast on the Adam Carolla show found here: http://adamcarolla.com/william-shatner-2/
Very sad that they were estranged. And sort of disappoints me that Nimoy would cut Shatner off especially as the end was near. If the story concluded with Nimoy paying a very gracious message to Shat before he died, I would have not been surprised. Learning that didn’t happen does surprise.
Shatner definitely seems like a complicated guy. We all have friendships that ebb & flow however. Who knows what would have happened had Nimoy lived longer.
Nimoy comes off like a real piece of shit, to be honest. Just dropping a friendship spanning decades over one small transgression, and didn’t even respond when he had plenty of time to know he was soon to die? Behaviour of an extremely low quality human being, and here’s Shatner still writing tribute pieces for him – admittedly, for monetary gain himself, but he could be doing or writing anything Star Trek related for money and is this really going to bring him more than a new fiction novel? I don’t know. Very, very sad to read this. Two people who I considered heroes, both nothing to me now.
Your comment is uncalled for and comes off as harsh and insulting. You know nothing of the situation and you have no right to make such a judgemental statement without knowing the facts.
There are two sides to every story. We have Mr. Shatner’s side of the story, of which he has expressed genuine ignorance as to why Mr. Nimoy would no longe speak to him, and then we have Mr. Nimoy’s side of which we know nothing about. Then you have the truth of the actual matter, which lies somewhere inbetween.
I’m all for the right to express an opinion, but please base it on fact. Regardless of what happened, it shouldn’t change the fact that we had to remarkable entertainers who have left an indelible imprint on our lives. To call Mr. Nimoy a “piece of shit” is purely hateful, and goes against the spirit of Star Trek.
I didn’t want to say anything so negative about Nimoy but I tend to agree that it paints him rather poorly
Actually he has the right to voice his opinion on leonard nimoy. No one on this planet is a saint. We are all fallible.
If the guy read the book, and took away that impression, he has every right to voice his opinion, weather he knew nimoy personally or not. Nimoy admitted that he wasn’t the best father with his son. I am sure thre are a lot of bad qualities about nimoy as they are good. People tend to put these celebrities on pedistals. If you ask me, both leonard and Bill have big egos. Along the way, someone’s feelings are bound to get hurt. If leonard and Bill was astranged, only those two know what the issue was. Leonard is resting peacefully and life continues.
RenderedToast & TUP,
I’m going to tell you up front that I am old. And because of that I’ve seen more people to their last breath than I ever imagined I would as a young man.
I am going to impart the following to you in the hopes that the process of making more information available about such may increase all of our understanding.
My aunt, that I’ve spoken about before, died from COPD. Now, at the time she chose to keep that to herself and and the manifestations of her mind as her lungs slowly robbed it of oxygen were out there and confusing to me every bit as much as I now assume it must have been for her.
Now I don’t know Leonard’s particular dance with this disease, and I would not presume to speak for him on that matter, but I would imagine that as Shatner educates himself about it, as I did, that he might find some solace that if, for whatever reason, he became the focus of the downside of COPD’s symptoms of faulty thought, that he was still being a good friend if only in sparing Leonard’s loved ones the opportunity to occupy that bull’s eye?
I can appreciate that. But true kindness isnt dropping someone to spare them without even so much as an email. That’s very painful. Maybe Shatner offended him in some way but if he doesnt know, then it was cruel of Nimoy to do that. Shatner clearly respects and admires Nimoy.
Perhaps there were mental health issues too. Who knows. Not our place top judge but being honest, can’t help but feel like it was a bit cruel.
Sad. Just sad.
Leonard Nimoy was a remarkable man – as is William Shatner.
I would swear Shatner has Asperger’s Syndrome.
It is sad to read that Leonard and Bill had become estranged. Perhaps that estrangement may have had something to do with why Bill never ended up having a role in the latest ST films…
Anyway, I shall have to look out for this book and hope my budget allows for its purchase.
That is a good photo of Leonard on the cover.
TOS crew was friends for many, and will be for years to come.
Slowly dying from COPD and the CCF that goes with it terminally is exhausting. Mentally by the end you have little energy left even to connect and converse with family and concentration is drastically reduced. Life becomes a huge effort. Also it’s at times scary you cannot get your breath. It’s also quite a prolonged terminal decline. If you’ve watched someone go this way disengaging is normal but incredibly sad and frustrating as you can do little to assist
I am not sure that many could cope with Tigger bouncing around when they are dying and especially when Mr Shatner quit smoking in the sixties and reminds you of the longer healthier life you could have had had you had the sense to do the same.
Before that stage you refocus attention. Mr Nimoy made it clear he was focusing on family life back in 2011. Ironically a lesson learnt from Mr Shatner who had focused on his children growing up at a time Mr Nimoy felt he had not. Coincidentally focusing on Kids rather than fandom circuit didn’t endear Mr Shatner to fans at the time.
It is hard not knowing why people make decisions but often they are not personal. In the end you have to respect that the path to death is a personal journey that can’t be made to fit any other person’s agenda . You make sense by your own personal memorial to the deceased.
I agree, Rufus.
Unfortunately, what you say is true for other respiratory illnesses like congestive heart failure, which is what my father died of.
I have seen pictures/videos of William Shatner smoking in the 1970’s, but I believe that he became a vegetarian for a few years and stopped smoking altogether in the mid to late 70’s. Leonard Nimoy was still smoking. It is possible that Shatner stopped about 10 years before Nimoy and that may have made all the difference. Also, Shatner was always fitter than Leonard Nimoy, despite Shatner’s increased girth. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing…:(
Just ordered the audio for a tad over $12.00 from a 3rd party seller on Amazon.
I don’t think Leonard Nimoy cut off William Shatner first. I think it was the other way around, Shatner cut off communication with NImoy first. I used to follow Mr. Nimoy’s Twitter feeds and it was really cute to read him talking to Zacahry Quinto. They were really close and would have dinner together a lot. But there were a series of tweets from Mr. Nimoy to Mr. Shatner in which Shatner never replied. Nimoy would say something like “Let’s have lunch, Billie,” and there was no answer. So Nimoy tweeted again and again. But no answer from Shatner.
I think Shatner has a pathological fear of aging, illness and death and I think he started to shun Nimoy because he must have sensed that he was ill.
I say this because I was a a Star Trek convention in Vancouver in 2010 and there was a talk between Shatner and NImoy. They seemed close and kidded each other a lot, but there was a sense of strain. When Nimoy said something about next year’s convention, Shatner gleefully joked that “one of us will probably be dead by then.” I could have taken this as just a comment on their advanced ages, but Nimoy quietly shushed him by putting his finger to his lips. I was close enough to hear the “shush.”
Nimoy may have had more going on than just COPD, as his tweets revealed later that year he would have two abdominal surgeries.
Then after that NImoy started to look progressively more haggard, and who can forget that sad picture of Mr. NImoy being wheeled through the airport on oxygen?
I think Shatner is projecting his own inner failings on Mr. NImoy because he feels guilty about it.