Thursday, March 22, 2018

I love the impossible: William Shatner is 87 today

Shatner is one of the obsessions I return to on this blog - this strange, oft-disjointed, almost-blog-about-nothing - because it inspires me so much to see a man of 87 (only Betty White has more supernatural energy) who could easily pass for 65. 

It's the horses, too - because very seldom do two of my major obsessions intersect in this way. If someone "gets" horses, then he automatically gets a piece of my soul.

(Author's note. Oh. My God.)

Back when I was so horse-heavy that I actually owned my own horse, in about 1967, I slavishly watched Star Trek, but I wasn't even particularly enamored of Kirk. It was Spock I loved. Spock of the ascetic, carefully-timbred voice, wickedly dark eyes, and strong Jewish-Indian jawline (and no, I don't mean that unkindly - it's just that for years, if not decades, Leonard Nimoy was restricted to playing Comanche warriors because of his looks). Kirk always struck me as a little - what, histrionic? "No blah blah blah!" is my favorite example. But it wasn't just that. Didn't turn my crank sexually, though at the time I was barely aware of those feelings. There were rumors that he wore a kind of slimming band under that Godawful polyester-spandex uniform. And in the one episode where Kirk and Spock both go shirtless, Spock wins hands-down in the WOWZY WOW WOW WOW category.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE. I now have proof that the Shat-man's bear rug far outfuzzes Spock's. For some reason, on shirtless occasions, he shaved his chest.)

But Shatner keeps popping up, even now, and always, and he somehow seems to have shed that whatever-it-was that I didn't like. When he was very young, he was almost too beautiful, and when I recently found out that his ancestors were Lithuanian, I began to put his looks in context. To me, he had never seemed quite the WASP matinee idol that he was made out to be. Those Slavic cheekbones, the slightly-slanted dark eyes that had dreaminess and hurt in them, these were from another world entirely. He grew up Jewish in Montreal, no doubt listening to Russian being shouted back and forth, and seen as somewhat crazy for trying to be an actor. For God's sake, Billy, get yourself a trade!

Well might his parents worry, but Billy rolled up his sleeves and became an actor. In some ways, at the start, he was a typical ex-patriot journeyman actor, playing roles and finding parts wherever he could. He was always in work, even after Star Trek folded and he spent a now-famous couple of years living out of his camper in the California desert. He even showed up in Canada a few times to film Loblaws commercials ("By God. . . the price. . . is. . . right!"), or ads for Shirriff pudding with mini-flavor buds (Eat the pudding, Bill. Eat the pudding: "Mmmmmmm!")

But there has always been another side to this man. When he's with horses, even now when he's just a bit chunky, he becomes that slightly-mystical Lithuanian again, resisting gravity on the back of one of his magnificent Saddlebreds. People who have never ridden don't understand  that on a horse, you can fly. You become the wings of Pegasus, mane-whipped, the wind singing your ears.

He's known as a blustery and arrogant sort, and though I am sure he has developed a serviceable outer persona which can weather all the vagaries of show business, I don't believe that's him. I have tried to watch that awful Old Man's show he is on now - Better Late than Never, it's called, and the less you know about it the better. I did force myself to watch the one where they travel to Lithuania, for obvious reasons (though he claimed his parents were Lithuanian, not his grandparents). What I notice is when all these other old guys (including Fonzie, that guy with the grill, a football guy, and somebody else - who cares? They all look older than he is, though they are way younger) are shouting and booming and blathering around him, he's often sitting there looking down at his hands, apart. I am convinced his true nature is sensitive and often dismayed. He was dismayed then, and he's dismayed now.

How I love his dismay.

Dismay and curiosity keep you in the game, because it means you are never satisfied. It means there always has to be more (more, more, MORE!).  He must have an astonishing gift for living in the moment, staying in the now. This day, the only day you can have any real influence on. It's rare that a man keeps that fire into his 60s and 70s, let alone beyond. If I ever meet him, and *I* am more likely to die before that happens than he is, I want to ask him one thing: did you make a deal with the devil? Is there some trick? Is it genetics, or - ? Because this can't be happening. Unless he has the best plastic surgeon in the world, or is a bona fide time-traveller, William Shatner is just not possible.

And how I love the impossible.

P. S. I wrote this post some time ago, then realized today is The Day, when he turns an impossible 87 years old. Every I time I see him, I think: No. . . . No. But there it is. People don't mention his age all that often, I guess because they don't quite believe it. 

Believe it. I know this is a cliche, but I think he's one of our national treasures.