Friend of Leonard Nimoy reacts to loss of ‘Star Trek’ legend

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SOLANA BEACH, Calif. -- Leonard Nimoy, 83, was a big name in Hollywood behind the legendary character Mr. Spock from "Star Trek."

He died in his Bel Air home early Friday morning from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

There is no question he touched many lives around the world through his iconic role, but he also had ties to San Diego County. With a 2007 appearance at Comic Con and a more intimate Q&A session with fans in Solana Beach in March 2013, “Spock” made many local fans smile.

A close family friend, David Ellenstein, shared his memories of the great actor from the earliest days he could remember.

Though now he is a successful actor and director, as a child, Ellenstein had no idea he was in the presence of an icon.

“Because I knew him before Spock, when he was making money any way he could -- he was being a house painter and all kinds of stuff, like most actors do when they’re starting out -- I knew him as a regular guy...he was Leonard,” Ellenstein said.

But then one day it hit him.

"I mentioned to a couple of friends in the neighborhood that they were coming for dinner and all the kids lined up across the street to try to get a glimpse of him, and I was like, ‘What is going on here?’”

Nimoy landed the role as Spock after appearing in a production on stage with Ellenstein’s father, David Allenstein. The two were very close friends.

“Leonard gets a call from his agent saying you need to go, they’re interested in you for this thing called 'Star Trek'. And Leonard walked in and Gene Roddenberry said, ‘I want you to play Spock. He didn't even audition for it,” Ellenstein said.

But Spock became a role Nimoy embraced. He even brought it into his home in a unique way.

“They had a little Scottie, named Spock,” Ellenstein said.

Ellenstein said the big world of entertainment lost a legend, but they also lost a man who supported the small stage.

“He was also a poet and photographer and a musician and an advocate for the arts in so many ways,” Ellenstein said.

In March 2013, Nimoy took the North Coast Repertory Theatre for a candid question and answer session with fans after a showing of his play, “Vincent,” highlighting the letters of Vincent Van Gogh.

“To get someone like that into a 200-seat theatre is an amazing thing and I know the people who got to experience it will never forget,” Ellenstein said.

He won’t forget it, either, because it was the last time he saw his dear friend.

“I'm sad, I’m sad…I’m glad I got to spend some time with him. The last time I saw him was when he was here about a year and a half ago, so I’m glad I got to see him at least then," Ellenstein said.

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