George Takei: I did a civil rights musical back in 1959 and ’60 in Los Angeles. An off-Broadway producer bought the rights, and he said to the Los Angeles cast, “I can’t promise you anything, but if you come to New York and audition, you have a leg up because you’ve been doing it for a year there.” And so about 18 of us from that cast flew to New York in early December of 1959.
I’m a Southern Californian kid. I was stunned by the cold. But it was also Christmas time, and there’s a wonderful aroma. As the song goes, chestnuts roasting over an open fire, there’s music in the air, and lights and decorations. And so it was a magical place. All 18 of us auditioned. Only one of us was cast, and it wasn’t me. It was my roommate, another actor. Three actors were sharing a cold-water flat, literally, and so it was devastating. So it was the most abject feeling being in New York. Bone-chilling cold. Ugly slush at every intersection. But I came back.