Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Shatner Factor

Of the three days that I spent at Denver Comic-Con this year, I would have to say that Sunday was probably my favorite. In a way, this was because William Shatner was there. You see, because so many people had come that day to see the original Captain Kirk in all his glory, the celebrity guests area had cleared out significantly during the lining up for and the administering of the big Shatner event - something in which I had no interest whatsoever. (More on that in a bit.) It was during this time that I got to talk to Daphne Ashbrook, Colin Baker, and my very first favorite movie star: Peter Mayhew. It was a good day.
I don't tend to get too star-struck. I would like to meet James Garner someday, if possible, but I'm not an autograph hound. When I meet a performer in real-life, I just like to tell them that I've enjoyed their work - if I have. However, I had three really great conversations that day with three very charming and interesting people, and it was all made possible because the "celebrity worshippers" were gravitating toward the biggest celebrity in the building: William Shatner.
Earlier that morning, I had been standing in line with my good friend and sometime theatrical collaborator, Jeff Gamet of the Mac Observer. As Jeff is a very personable fellow, it was not long before we were talking with some of the other people in the line. One of them asked us, "Are you excited to see Shatner?" Jeff and I shot each other a look, and I - being the less diplomatic of the two of us - said: "I could not care less about seeing William Shatner."
"I don't want to meet you, either, little blog person."

I explained to them - as I will explain to you - that I am a big fan of Star Trek, in all of its incarnations, and that Captain Kirk is one of my favorite science fiction characters, but the only reason he has remained so is that I have learned to separate James T. Kirk from William Shatner. Even before hearing Wil Wheaton's account of meeting William Shatner while the former was shooting Star Trek: The Next Generation and the latter was filming Star Trek V on an adjacent soundstage, I was aware of the great animosity between Shatner and many of his own castmates: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei - well, pretty much everyone on Star Trek who wasn't William Shatner, really. Stories of Shatner being rude, condescending, insulting, back-stabbing, and a bit of a line hog had trickled down to me through the back channels of Star Trek fandom. Even reading Shatner's own memoirs - essentially his version of his story - I find that the man comes across as a bit of a jerk. There's even a website devoted to sharing stories about unfortunate encounters with the man, called "A Steaming Pile of Shatner." It was difficult to reconcile this boorish behavior with the heroism of Captain Kirk, and, eventually, I just couldn't. I had to separate them in my mind. Captain Kirk was one
"I can't believe that L.A. doesn't have
any green strippers. Not one!"
thing, and William Shatner was another thing entirely.
I had chalked up some of his behavior to the frustration of an actor who had become indelibly linked to a character he had originated years earlier. He could only achieve any film success by reprising that character, and - even when he created a new TV persona in the character of T.J. Hooker in the early 80s, the comparisons to Kirk remained. (Personally, I like the theory someone posed that T.J. Hooker was actually an undercover time-traveling assignment for Captain Kirk.)
Perhaps now that his Priceline commercials and his popular stint as Denny Crane on Boston Legal have given him a resurgence in popularity separate from his Kirk-persona, William Shatner can relax a bit. he can take the chip off of his shoulder and start to enjoy his success without feeling the need to take it out on those around him.
The again, maybe not.
This was Colin Baker's tweet just minutes before I walked up to meet him:
"I figured he has=d two hearts: he could take it!"
That's right, kids. William Shatner was rude to a Time Lord. Not cool. I did my best to console Baker that Shatner was known to be an ass to everybody, and Jeff gave him a brief account of the Wil Wheaton story, but, really, the man was just trying to make conversation in the green room, and Shatner gave him the brush off. There's really no excuse.
I will always love Captain Kirk, and I will always enjoy the stories on both the small and large screen (even Star Trek V) that featured William Shatner's unique portrayal of this swashbuckling hero.
However, if you ever see me standing in line at an event where William Shatner is present, I am probably there for another reason.

In the category of giving the devil his due, I would like to mention that William Shatner has used his money and fame to put on the Hollywood Charity Horse Show for the last couple of decades: an event that raises funds for a whole host of worthwhile charities. He may be a jerk, but he's not such a bad guy.

No comments:

Post a Comment