Monday, April 25, 2016

William Shatner's love child, and other hazards of turning 85




OK, so you already know that one of my many fascinations/obsessions is William Shatner. Whenever I read about his hyper-busy life, I think: geez, that's a lot for a man his age. 65, is he?

No. Nor 70. Nor 75. Nor. . .

He doesn't LOOK like a man of 85. He doesn't SOUND like, LIVE like, or do anything like whatever-85-is-supposed-to-be. Every so often, when I'm watching YouTube or an old Twilight Zone or just about any TV series from the 1950s, I'll see an unbelievably gorgeous Shat, just a matinee-idol type with the most exotically beautiful eyes.

Hey wait a minute. The *1950s*??

I was just about kind of getting born then. (Forgive all the italics. This is about William Shatner, after all.) He already had a career well underway on TV, worked steadily, had cut his teeth on Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario. WHEN, during the Depression or what?

This guy is like that character in Trek who was Da Vinci, Brahms, Einstein, Bill Gates or whatever, all those different famous smart guys (and they always throw in a few we've never heard of, presumably from other planets), but he never dies because of "whatever". I don't really care why. The point is, this guy not only never DIES, he never slows down either. Right now, along with a host of other things, he is involved in - gulp - a paternity suit, the kind of thing a guy in his 30s might face.

I don't know how long he can keep going like this. He seems ageless. It creeps me out, some way, it really does seem downright weird, and in past posts I've wondered if he made some sort of a deal with "somebody" to just stop ageing.

I've known too many people, especially lately, who have expired far too soon. I don't know what happens to them. Then you have this guy who looks like a well-preserved 65, who is literally 20 years older than that.

Predictably, he has a whole lot of new stuff happening/coming out now. Not sure how he does it, but I'm glad he does.




William Shatner talks fame, Leonard Nimoy ahead of Calgary Expo appearance



William Shatner speaks during the Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose, California on March 18. He will be guest at the Calgary Expo     JOSH EDELSON / AFP/GETTY IMAGES


On the day William Shatner talked to the Calgary Herald, a Google News search of his name turned up a wide variety of articles.

There were headlines from Vanity Fair about how star-struck actor Sam Heughan of the series Outlander had gone out to dinner with Shatner and was thrilled to learn he was a fan of his sci-fi fantasy series.

RollingStone.com was reporting on Shatner’s newest book Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, which chronicles his relationship with his Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy. Gaming sites were all atwitter with news that the space simulation, Elite: Dangerous, would soon feature Shatner’s voice.

Finally, there were tabloid-y reports about a man suing Shatner for $170-million, claiming he is the actor’s love child.

It suggests that, at 85, “The Shat” still commands a good deal of attention and continues to experience all the vagaries of fame: The good. The bad. The weird.




“Denial and downcast eyes is a good way of dealing with fame,” jokes Shatner, without referring specifically to any of his recent headlines. “It has it’s own qualifications. It can be irksome. But, on balance, what it has brought me in terms of talking to you, and going to Calgary and eating at the charcuterie there … if one were to look at my life, you would have to say: ‘One of the luckiest son-of-a-bitches that ever lived.'”

Shatner sneaks in the Calgary reference because he will be returning to the city this week as one of the higher-profile guests of Calgary Expo. He heads an impressive contingent of Star Trek stars that come from virtually every chapter of Gene Roddenberry’s ever-increasing universe, from the original series and movies in which Shatner played Captain James. T. Kirk to J.J. Abrams’s recent reboots. Shatner, as with many Trek alumni, has been at the Expo before. But this is a special year, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Rodenberry’s vision.

While Shatner’s relationship with the Trek phenomenon has had its ups and downs, the half-century milestone is also a reminder that he has spent at least that long in the spotlight.




Few performers could have parlayed starring in a three-season cult series into such a wide-ranging, artistically restless career. As an actor, he has done everything from serious drama to goofy self-parody. He has authored or co-authored dozens of fiction and non-fiction books. He has directed documentaries, released albums, raised horses, played poker for charity, hosted a talk show, been a pitchman for Priceline, developed an autobiographical one-man show for Broadway. . . the list goes on.

At 85, he apparently has no plans to slow down and still has some surprises up his sleeve.

“I helped design a motorcycle in Chicago,” he reports. “A group of people drove, and I drove the motorcycle, from Chicago to Los Angeles and on the way shot a documentary of what went on as well as raising funds for the American Legion. All and all it was a very busy time. But I’ve got a lot of film of what I’ve called ‘the ride.’ And, in the intervening time, there are all kinds of documentary suggestions that I’ve got and I’m trying to sell and make. I’ve been very busy doing that kind of reality work.”

As a documentary filmmaker, Shatner has mostly concentrated on Star Trek, whether it be revealing “the shenanigans” that went on behind the scenes during the production of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the very entertaining 2014 TV doc Chaos on the Bridge, examining the deep cultural reverberations of the series in 2013’s Get a Life! or interviewing his fellow starship commanders in 2012’s The Captains.





For those documentaries, Shatner occasionally seemed to be looking at the ramifications of the franchise from a bemused distance. But that certainly wasn’t the case with his latest book, which was a deeply personal affair. In Leonard, he reflects on his five-decade friendship with Nimoy, who played the original Mr. Spock in Star Trek. By the end of his life, Nimoy was no longer speaking with Shatner, who says he doesn’t know why his good friend shut him out of his life.

The actor has written plenty of books, but this one was different, he says.

“Writing a factual book on somebody I really cared about was difficult,” he says. “It took a toll. We had so much in common. Our lives, our backgrounds, even our foregrounds, were strangely in line. So we talked about that a great deal over the years. And yet when you lose somebody that is close to you, all those memories are in jeopardy of being forgotten, they might as well have never happened. You have no validation from the other person. So that was one reason for writing that book, to try and remember some of the incidences and motivations.”

While Shatner may keep busy with writing and directing, one of the reasons he stays in the spotlight is because he remains one of the more prolific celebrity tweeters. The aforementioned exchange with Outlander actor Sam Heughan followed months of online banter between the two.




In 2015, he gained headlines for mocking Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a number of tweets.

A few weeks after this interview, he drew attention by briefly debating morality with author Stephen King in relation to the Netflix series The 100. But while he clearly seems to enjoy it — particularly if he can dictate the tweets (“Typing is onerous,” he says) — maintaining such a high profile online is also a pragmatic exercise. In fact, bringing it up in conversation allows him to plug another one of his many pursuits.

“Not a small part of it is that I raise money for charity, especially for children and veterans, and by making acquaintances that you wouldn’t recognize if they came into a room and they are with a show, they will give me stuff to auction off,” he says. “So the silent auction, for my charity show, which is the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, I’ve gotten really some wonderful stuff that has made use of this celebrity by raising money for kids in need.”

William Shatner is scheduled to appear at the Calgary Expo at Stampede Park from Thursday to Sunday. Visit calgaryexpo.com.




OK, so MY question is. . . where can I see all those documentaries? They never come on TV. They don't appear in theatres. I would DIE to see any one of them, or all three. Do I have to go to film festivals or what??

UPDATE/BADDA-BOOM. This is from the Smithsonian Magazine. Is there nowhere this man doesn't show up? I mean, doesn't he show up nowhere? Doesn't he anywhere NOT show up? Or something. But for some reason, not one article mentions that he looks 65 when he's 85.

William Shatner spoke at Smithsonian Magazine's "The Future is Here" festival. We sat down and asked him questions regarding his thoughts on politics, climate change, and the new Star Trek series. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

We're probably six minutes into a 10-minute interview when I ask William Shatner the question that's been dogging me ever since I found out there was to be an interview.

"Ted Cruz, the Republican presidential candidate, has said that Captain Kirk is a Republican," I said. "Do you agree?"

For Shatner, this could have been an easy question. Who better to answer it than the man who played the swashbuckling "Star Trek" captain on film for nearly 30 years?

Maybe he didn't want to color the way people view his character. Maybe he was channeling the post-partisan politics of "Star Trek's" 23rd century. Whatever the reason, Shatner did a very un-Kirk-like thing: He took evasive action.

"If you could define what 'Republican' and 'Democrat' means nowadays, I might be able to enter into that discussion," he said. "But the roles seem to be mixed. And what defines a Republican and certainly what defines a Democrat is so blurred, I don't quite know where anybody's standing."




So Shatner is very reluctant to talk about politics, it turns out. But if he could cast a ballot today, chances are he wouldn't be voting for Cruz.

You see, Cruz has been a vocal critic of man-made climate change. And Shatner's biggest fear? It's that humanity won't even live to see the 23rd century because of overpopulation and greenhouse gases. In fact, Shatner is disappointed in us all for making 2016 such a letdown compared to the sunny utopia laid out in "Star Trek."

"There was all kinds of interest in flying vehicles and health and the state of the world" among science fiction writers 50 years ago, Shatner said. "That we wouldn't be melting away, into the sixth extinction. It would be a much more pleasant. Peaceful. Humane world. Than it is."

Are there any technologies that worry you? I asked.

"The technology that worries me is the old technologies," Shatner said. "The technology of uses of energy and the spilling of toxins into Mother Earth, and we're killing our Earth and nobody is irate about it enough. And not enough people are irate about it. People like yourself — young people like yourself should be screaming at the top of your lungs to the people who lead."

It's a challenge not even Captain Kirk would be able to take on, Shatner said. Kirk was the captain of a single ship. Climate change is a big collective action problem requiring the input of lots of different actors.

I later asked him whether there was any role on "Star Trek" that Shatner, looking back, would have liked to try. He joked that he might have wanted to replace George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, the USS Enterprise's helmsman. Perhaps it was a dig at Takei, with whom Shatner is said to have a contentious relationship. But it was clear Shatner is preoccupied by bigger things these days than politics, on or off the set.

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Finally. We know Sulu's first name.

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