Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ode to Bill Shatner

I'm in love with William Shatner. No, not romantic love (don’t worry KC; you’re still my number one), it's more like the man crush my 23 year old son has on Manny Ramirez. In much the same way that my son admires the BoSox Left Fielder for his athletic prowess and ability to perform under pressure (and probably for his dreads), I admire Bill's ability to transcend the campy stereotype he's been saddled with for much of his career. He's achieved this by embracing it and in recent years, reveling in it. A similar feat has been achieved by another 60's TV Icon, Adam West, whose portrayal of himself as the Mayor of Quahog on Family Guy is nothing short of brilliant.

A true King of All Media, Shatner's career spans more than half a century and includes success in the fields of Broadway Theatre, Motion Pictures, Radio, Television, Music and Publishing.

As Captain James T. Kirk, he swaggered his way through three seasons at the helm of the USS Enterprise. For 79 glorious episodes, he hammed it up making love to alien women and fighing bad guys of all shapes, sizes, species and chemical compositions. About those women; Kirk was a playa! Blondes, brunnettes, redheads, greenheads (what do you call a woman with green hair?), androids and women of color (Literally - remember that green chick? Those Orion slave girls are hot and the 23rd century can't get here fast enough!) Don't forget young Joan Collins. He and Uhura famously shared the first interracial kiss on TV. Without a doubt, Shatner is a major reason for the success of Star Trek and the media phenomenon it spawned.

He has the distinction of starring in two of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. In Nick of Time (1960), he played a man nearly trapped by his own superstiton. In Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963) his over the top performance as a terrified plane passenger is a classic.

His 1968 concept album The Transformed Man is arguably one of the most parodied and derided recordings ever, yet it is actually an amazing melange of Shakespeare and 60's Pop Music. Spoken rather than sung (think Rex Harrison on acid), Shatner's renditions of Mr. Tamborine Man and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds are nothing less than legendary. It was a mere 36 years until Bill next entered the recording studio. The result being the intriguing and honestly entertaining Has Been. Produced by Ben Folds, the critically aclaimed (I'm serious) album features collaborations with Joe Jackson, Henry Rollins, Adrian Belew and Brad Paisley among others. That's my man Bill, never afraid to grow as an artist.

Bill has written or co-authored over 30 novels and works of non-fiction. That's over three times the output of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I may have just found a new literary idol!

Author Emeritus Bill Shatner (left) and Literary Slacker Fitzgerald (right)

In recent years Bill has won over a new generation of fans through his self-parodying commercials and his absolutely brilliant, multi-layered and award winning performance as attorney Denny Crane (Denny Crane) on Boston Legal. Is Denny's grasp on reality really as tenuous as it seems at times or is it an act? I envy actor James Spader; his character Alan Shore gets to share cigars and cocktails with Denny in a sort of coda to each episode. What could be better than kicking back with a well-rolled Montecristo, an aged single malt and Bill Shatner?

Regrettably time and space limitations prevent me from doing justice to Bill's long and varied career including his work as a producer and director and his many other televsion and film roles (including his starring role in T.J. Hooker opposite Heather Locklear). I'll just end here with some clasic Shatner - his performance of Rocket Man from the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards.


  1. michael salzmannMay 28, 2008 at 2:39 PM

    Now that clip is just disturbing. Made more by the fact that you would actually possess such a thing. I am planning an intervention. Sit still and no one will be hurt, the brown acid doesn't last forever ...

  2. Isn't the internet a wonderful place?