Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Message to William Shatner


 It's been nearly a year since the 2013 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas where I had met a childhood hero, Captain Kirk played by William Shatner.  To him, it was just a TV bit, just an opportunity in a series of rather mediocre jobs.  If I were him, it'd be like my time at GPS in 1993 to 1997.  Not a big deal to me then, Block II and IIa satellites, with my testing of the short-lived Block IIr and its demise on launch all over Cape Canaveral (it was not my job to test the Delta II rocket which was the failure, only the payload software, which was buggy initially until I software tested the Dickens out of it successfully).  Imagine if people came up to me and said, "Hey, remember on October 18th, 1994 when you did an IBM 3745 comm-processor swap when it had never been tried?"  Well, I vaguely remembering being a hero that day, amongst other days.  It was my job.  Granted, I was legendary a GSO; a hero.  My wife Becky was a heroic SSO as well.  We took the job seriously and to new, untried levels, sure.  We were legends, but that was the case at every job I've done.  Without being a braggart, I know I'm most often legendary at everything I do, thanks to my parents and grandmother telling me to give 100% in everything that I do, then do a little more to stand-out.  Still, those things are forgotten in time like, as Rutger Hauer says in Blade Runner, "..tears in the rain."  (Hauer's lookin' a little rough these days, but rather impressive for 70 years old).

William Shatner with Rutger Hauer

Sally Kellerman
  Ah, again I digress.  I had an autograph from the Star Trek episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" female lead role holding Bill.  She was Sally Kellerman.  Nice girl, also starred in M.A.S.H. rather successfully.  She was 76 at the time and a bit overwhelmed by the people.  I had her sign the photograph of them, "Too hot to handle" as she was being cradled by William Shatner in fear of the lead antagonist, Gary Mitchel played by Gary Lockwood having sudden god-like powers and going crazy.  It was the aired pilot episode of the original series and a fine autograph opportunity.  She didn't quite understand why I wanted her to sign it like that but she complied.

Not quite the photo but close

  I bought a rather expensive autograph opportunity with William Shatner, not hours previously a photo-opportunity where I had handed him my Space Command patch I had wore for 15 years, explaining it briefly and he said he'd mention me in a speech at Lowell and thanked me.  When I got to him (I was near the end of the line of several hundred) it must have been quite annoying for him to sign so many, but he was making a killing at $150 a scribble).  I asked him if he could sign it, "I am!" and then his signature.  He was confused an annoyed.  First, he was happy to see Sally and the reference, but when it was an odd signature, he thought better of it as if I was being a jerk.  The idea was for her to sign, "Too hot to handle" and his writing, "I am." would be a bit of a play on his ego.  She would be suggesting she was too hot to handle (while being held by William) but Shatner would be admitting that he was too hot to handle, assuming he was the hotter of the two.  Bill would have none of it.  He announced with a deep, growling hatred, "I don't do that shit!"  The depth of hatred was what got me.  He was so angry and sudden.  I had no words and was wounded fatally.  I did not mean to anger him!  I thought it was in all good fun, but apparently not.  My light-hearted suggestion was handed back to me with pure, deep hatred.  I don't know if it was because he was tired, or that I was being rude (it was pretty rude of me) or a combination of both.  I think though he is willing to play self-comedic roles, depreciating himself, he does so on his own terms.  Humor is something he hands out but does not play on like a comedian.  I thought his heart might be light enough that it'd be fun and amusing.  It is not and it was not.  His heart is heavy and grim.  When he acts funny, it's just that, "acting".  It is not from his soul, though he pulls from there to place it over the light-heartedness, he is not, in truth, very light hearted.  He is heavy hearted.  This is not a bad thing, it just simply is.  I did not know this.  I did not know him.  The darkness that pulls on his heart, the death of his wife, the evils of Hollywood.  There is depth there I did not predict.  Life for him is heavy, at least on that day.  Perhaps he endures pain on a daily basis, a physical pain.  He accepts tinnitus from Star Trek IV.  An explosion caused inner-ear damage supposedly, according to his memoirs.

  Because of his reaction, I was flabbergasted.  He then offered, on his terms, "How about I just write, "Thank you."  Well, this response actually falls into the comedic idea, "Too hot to handle.."  "Why thank you."  It still works.  It's still the same thing.  I'm not sure if he realized it or not.  I suspect not, but I could be wrong.  He wanted to come off as being gracious I think.  Magnanimous.  Above quality.  Heroic, I guess.  Not sure.  Still, it's on his terms, and that he thinks of it is a key here.  Actors who worked with him fussed over this.   I suspect when he's asked to do things, he has his own terms of how it's delivered.  He fancies himself to be above all others I think, though he doesn't know why exactly, and it confuses him a bit, but he goes with it.  Deep inside, he's confused.  He still doesn't quite understand why Captain Kirk is such a big deal despite everyone gushing over the show and the character.  He almost resents it.  He's said so.  He doesn't want to be remembered for a bit-part in the same way I'd probably be annoyed with my GPS days.  I can see that.  I've done things since.  He has too but it's dismissed.  After 40 years he's come to terms with it I think, and says he's okay with it.  I think he's not quite okay with it, but like Hiroshima's nuclear assault, it's something that you have to live with, regardless.  It's not something that can be changed.  Oh, he tried to.  He's parodied the show outright, trying to diminish it.  Trying to loathe it forever.  Trying to parody himself, but it only added wood to the fire, made him seem gracious.  Made him seem even bigger, more noble.  It was not, I suspect, his intent.  There's no escaping it and he has to live with it for his remaining few days like a heavy sigh, yet I can tell he'd rather be free of it, honored for his other works.

  William Shatner, I apologize for being snarky and trite, for suggesting a little play-on-words, perhaps making you the fool when it was merely a fun endeavor, perhaps at your expense, though I would never sell the signature, never in a million years.  It will remain forever in my home amongst other greats of the era.  I was only hoping for a little light-heartedness, not to invoke your rage.  You are not the fool, sir.  I respect your position and what you've been through, what you've endured, what you've been remembered for, and forgotten.  I know it's frustrating and bewildering, why you're honored for some things and ignored for far greater things.  Musicians have to play that same-old song from 30 years ago over and over and over and it's mind-numbing for them, though it seems fresh, it's a pain in the butt, and no one wants to hear that new album.  I understand.  God speed, sir.


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