Entertainer George Takei has met plenty of impressive people during his storied career, which spans stints from his star-making portrayal of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek” to guest runs on “The Simpsons.” But in the pantheon of stars, perhaps none shone so bright or so true as the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.
“I knew about him even before I met him,” Takei said of the iconic World War II hero and long-serving Hawaii Democrat.
During a youth spent attempting to reconcile his family’s treatment in U.S.-run Japanese-American internment camps, Takei said his father held up Inouye as an example of steadfast nobility.
According to Takei, his father related a story wherein Inouye, missing his right arm and in uniform after returning from the war, was shunned by a San Francisco barber who refused to cut “Jap hair.”
“Inouye turned and walked away,” Takei shared, revering Inouye’s personification of gaman, which loosely translates to “enduring outrage with dignity.”
Their paths would first cross during Takei’s unsuccessful 1973 bid to join the Los Angeles City Council, when a phone conversation between the two resulted in the seasoned pol bestowing his endorsement on the budding civic activist.
“He became a real idol to me,” Takei told HOH. The duo finally met in the late 1980s, after Takei became involved with the Los Angeles-based Japanese American National Museum, where Inouye served as chairman of the board of governors. “He used the power of his seat to help us tell the Japanese-American story on a national level,” Takei said.
Their friendship further crystallized after Inouye caught Takei’s 2005 turn in “Equus.” “He wrote me a fan letter praising my performance,” Takei said. That letter has since been framed and currently adorns Takei’s vacation cabin in Arizona.
But Takei was most honored to have Inouye in his corner at his 2008, pre-Proposition 8 wedding to longtime partner Brad Altman. “He was our most distinguished guest,” Takei gushed.
Even after Inouye’s death, his feelings about Takei could still come to light somewhere down the road. Inouye was interviewed for an unnamed documentary about Takei’s life that could grace movie screens as early as 2013.