Friday, July 4, 2014

William Shatner: deal with the devil




William Shatner kicks off the Calgary Stampede

Throngs of fans jostled to catch a glimpse of the actor, who is serving as this year’s Calgary Stampede parade grand marshal

The Canadian Press

July 4, 2014





Jeff McIntosh/CP

CALGARY – William Shatner got an out-of-this-world welcome Friday as throngs of fans jostled to catch a glimpse of the Canadian-born actor, who is serving as this year’s Calgary Stampede parade grand marshal.

Even before the parade began, some people were yelling “bring out William Shatner,” who played Capt. James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” TV series and subsequent films.

A crowd gathered as Shatner and his wife Elizabeth prepared to make their way down the parade route in the back of a light blue antique convertible. Fans snapped pictures on cellphones and clamoured for autographs.

“I’m excited that they’re excited,” said Shatner, who donned a white cowboy hat.

He said with a laugh that he’s looking forward to the end of the parade.

Shatner intends to stay in Cowtown for a while to take in the rodeo and other attractions.

“I’m going to be part of the experience,” he said. “That’s why we’re here, actually. We’re rodeo fans.”

About 250,000 people lined up early on downtown Calgary streets to get the best vantage point.

Rae Thorogood, who said she is a big fan of the actor, got up at 5 a.m. to stake out a prime spot.




“We barely slept. We were so excited,” she said.

Vern Neiley said he has never been able to make it out to the annual parade because he’s always had to work. Now that he’s retired, he said he couldn’t pass up a chance to attend this year.

“The big draw, I guess, was William Shatner. I’ve been a fan of his for a lot of years — ‘Star Trek’ and all the other stuff that goes with it.”

For Neiley’s wife, Sandy, it was a similar story.

“William Shatner is one of my favourites as well too and he’s my big draw too,” she said.

“This is fabulous for Calgary and I think this is wonderful that we get so many people every year for the Stampede parade.”




Before the parade began Jean Cornell sat on a curb with her 18-month-old grandson squirming in her arms, while his siblings played nearby on a blanket.

She said seeing Shatner would be a treat. But for her the main attraction would be “watching these guys’ faces light up.”

On hand to watch the parade were Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

The Stampede runs through July 13.





OHHHHHH. . . kay. 

This I have trouble with.

I've been unofficially following Shatner since his Trek days. There's something admirable about someone who can send himself up in such a good-natured way, and besides, the man's a dynamo, with a finger in every showbiz pie. He keeps popping up here, there, everywhere. He hosted a show I LOVED called Weird or What?, a sort of digest of the paranormal interspersed with Shatnerian clowning, and another one called Raw Nerve, in which he did in-depth interviews with people like Whoopi Goldberg and Jerry Springer and (yes!) Leonard Nimoy himself. As a matter of fact - and this can't be true, it really can't - I seem to remember him interviewing Carol Burnett. Unfortunately, these watchworthy enterprises (!) lasted only a couple of seasons.

But something's off here, or at least weird.

He isn't ageing.

He isn't. 

He just. . . isn't.

The man looks to be hovering somewhere between 60 and 65, and STAYING THERE. He just looks like he always does, not Botoxed, not frozen-faced or Asian-eyed from brow lifts. He just looks like himself, comfortably overweight (and somehow he makes chunkiness look healthy and good), slightly ruddy of complexion, not the fox he was when young (and God, was he a fox when he was young), but still quite good-looking, well-settled in himself, a rare trait in Hollywood (or anywhere, for that matter).

The photo at the top of this post was taken 54 years ago. William Shatner is 83 years old.





There was a Star Trek episode in the first series, I think it was called Requiem for Methuselah, in which it becomes apparent that the title character had lived for so many centuries that he had stood in for all the famous men in history, Galileo, Rembrandt, Brahms, and a bunch of others I don't want to look up. But you get the gist. The guy couldn't die. I don't know exactly what I am talking about here, except that I do, somehow.

I talked to my husband recently about quantum physics. It's something he knows about. He is the antithesis of the woo-woo types who believe in reincarnation and astrology and that sort of jazz. So in a jocular, I'm-kidding-of-course manner, I asked him, "Now is it true what I read somewhere, that you can be in two places at the same time?"

My husband, whom I have known and loved for forty years, and just about the smartest man I've ever encountered, deeply oriented in science for a lifetime, said, casually but with conviction, "Yes."


He said yes.





"Theoretically, it's possible," he explained, and then told me how, as I sat there like Bugs Bunny after he has been run over by a truck: "Duhhhh. . . duhhhh. . . duhhhh. . ."

You can be in two places at the same time. Fine. So what about that other thing I've always wondered about? "So is time travel possible?" This time I really expected a sneer.

"Yes. According to Einstein's theories, it's possible, because time and space do not exist in a straight line." His hand described an elegant curve that somehow gave me the shivers. Then he reminded me that if an astronaut remained in space for long enough and then returned to earth, he would be younger than when he left. Reverse ageing - oh, a simple enough concept! He also went on for some time about wormholes, something I had thought was invented by the writers of The Next Generation.

I was getting frightened.

I have had moments, just moments mind you, when I have felt complete disorientation, as if I am about to "phase", to enter or overlap with another reality completely. Not in another time, but OUTSIDE time. The usual rules, for a second, appear to slip sideways. Physics falls away, leaving a bizarrely beautiful, indescribable otherness.





"Things as they are," goes a very beautiful line of poetry, "are changed upon the blue guitar." Changed, changed utterly.

And for some reason I remember a line in Tom Robbins' wacky masterpiece Jitterbug Perfume, uttered by the brilliantly insane immortalist Wiggs Dannyboy: "The universe doesn't have laws. It has habits. And habits can be broken."

I don't know about deals with the devil or people looking younger than they perhaps should, eerily reversing the dial of time. I don't know about Shatner's lifelong association with science fiction - a happy accident, after all - but hey, wait a minute, before Star Trek, didn't he used to appear on The Twilight Zone? The episode I'm thinking of, besides that iconic monster-on-the-wing scene on the airplane (where he cracks up at the end as only the Shat Man can) is about a man sitting in a small-town cafe who becomes obsessed with a fortune-telling gizmo topped by a devil's head. It's beginning to look like a theme, or at least too many things to be mere coincidence. He claimed Weird or What? was just an interesting concept for a show, not something he necessarily believed in. But the evidence is beginning to pile up. Isn't it?





There are two Shatners (at least), the hammy Trekkian "no blah-blah-blah!" Kirk-figure who became so famous he could never quite live down that histrionic style, and the serious Shakespearian actor who cut his teeth at Ontario's Stratford Festival in the 1950s. I have found a video of him doing Hamlet's Soliloquy on the Mike Douglas Show, and it's a solid, almost low-key, thoughtful interpretation of the most worn-out of actorly cliches. In other words, he is a real actor, not a cliche, and can do whatever he wants and do it well. But what does this have to do with being out of phase, of entering another reality where time, perhaps, goes backwards instead of forwards, where the usual laws of ageing just sort of. . . stop?

I keep thinking I want to meet him, hoping something will rub off, perhaps. It's just so odd. His friend and colleague Leonard Nimoy is shrivelled-up and fragile as an old burned matchstick, and yet they are almost exactly the same age. If you believe in astrology, their destinies are so similar as to be almost identical. 




Yes, you could say that remaining active keeps you young, etc., etc., and that all his many business and professional concerns (especially the horses, which would keep anybody young) have somehow frozen the clock at around sixty-five. But it just doesn't happen that way. Every time I see a picture of him - and years can go by in between - he either looks the same, or better. More ruddy and healthy, without wrinkles or the caving-in that feels inevitable as flesh falls away from bone. This goes way beyond his bluff physical appearance to a kind of age-proof animus, some spirit that mysteriously refuses to get older, or perhaps can't.

What universe does he inhabit? Where can I get a piece of this action? Do people sidle up to him and try to make a deal? WAS this a deal of sorts, and with whom? Star Trek posited many versions of reality, and sometimes they overlapped or even blended together. Cornball as the show seems now, it was cutting-edge for its time, and many of the underlying hypotheses about time and space are still intriguing and even (theoretically!) possible. Or so we have come to believe.





But the rest of the Enterprise crew didn't end up this. . . ageless. It has to exceed genetics. Then WHAT? It's driving me crazy. I wondered at the fact he won't be riding a horse in the parade, but then when I thought about it: an 83-year-old man sitting on an unfamiliar horse for four or five hours - ? He's not that crazy. Not crazy at all, in fact, and obviously knows way more than the rest of us do, not just about survival but thriving, and not falling into the supposedly inevitable pit of mortality. 

It would be even more eerie if he made it to 100, then suddenly keeled over dead, looking the same way he does now. Quick, get out the surgical instruments! You know, the ones they used for that alien autopsy.

(P. S. You Trek fans out there - do you remember that episode where the Enterprise crew was afflicted by a strange disease that caused rapid ageing? Not long ago I saw it, and it was laughable. Shatner looked like his own grandfather.)








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