“When I’m in Milwaukee…”


When I think of George Takei, I think about a couple of his two most famous roles: that of Hikaru Sulu, the helmsman of Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise, and that of gay rights and Asian-American activist. Spokesperson for Milwaukee public transit does not necessarily come to mind.

But, sure enough, after my last post on strange public transit advertisements, a regular reader directed me to this 1980s ad featuring Mr. Sulu extolling the virtues of Milwaukee County Transit. “When I’m out in space, I use the Starship Enterprise to get around. When I’m here in Milwaukee, I ride the bus to save time and money,” he says in his characteristically rich baritone before beaming off to points unknown.

This, of course, raises a couple of vital questions such as, When are you ever in Milwaukee, George Takei? and, Were you really so broke that you were forced to do ads for public transit in Milwaukee, George Takei? I’ve heard good things about Milwaukee but its bus system wasn’t one of them.

Naturally, I was curious to find out why such a well-known actor would bother to participate in such a hokey promotion for what must be one of the least important public transit companies in North America. Takei doesn’t seem to have family or personal connections to Milwaukee: he was born in Los Angeles and has spent his entire life in California. He didn’t seem to have any post-Star Trek period of cocaine-fuelled desperation, which rules out that possibility.

An answer of sorts comes from a revealing bit of biographic info in Takei’s Wikipedia entry. In 1973, he ran for mayor of Los Angeles, finishing second to a councilman named Tom Bradley, who went on to become only the second black mayor of a major American city. Bradley later appointed Takei to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District where he pushed hard for the expansion of public transit in LA. In 1978, he was called away from the set of a Star Trek movie to cast the tie-breaking vote in favour of the construction of the Los Angeles subway. Without him, it would seem, the subway would never have been built.

Is it possible to assume, then, that George Takei was such an ardent supporter of public transit that he flew to Milwaukee, a city to which he had no connection, to spread the good word about taking the bus? We can only hope.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday June 20 2007at 11:06 am , filed under Transportation, United States, Video and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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