Many of you were fortunate enough to visit Segerstrom Center for the Arts to catch the show of the one and only, William Shatner. At 81 years young, this pop culture icon escorted us through his decades of entertainment history, with spoken word, song, digital imagery, and a little soft shoe… Here’s my top 10 takes on why Bill Shatner rocks his world.
10. He has a college degree in business.
Encouraged by his father to attend McGill University, he majored in commerce, barely graduated, and much to his father’s dismay, pursued acting instead of the family business. Later, McGill presented him with an honorary doctorate, something he found very amusing, since he rarely attended class during his university years.
9. He was a legitimate Shakespearean stage actor.
Shatner shares a shaggy dog story about the time he had to fill in for a sick Christopher Plummer in a performance of Henry V during the famous Stratford Festival of Canada. Of course, he nailed it, even after he had a brain freeze and forgot some of his lines. (He attributes his famous speech pattern to this incident, as he was using dramatic pause while trying to recall his lines.) Kidding aside, he was well known in Canada for this genre and worked with the festival for a spell before he caught the film bug.
8. He did film and television in the '50s and '60s.
Shatner was a working actor – showed up and knew his lines. He did live television in its infancy. He may have made some stinkers along the way, but he worked with many great actors while the medium was in its infancy. I loved his story about performing with Basil Rathbone in a live TV broadcast during which the famous thespian had a bucket stuck on his foot. He also did some time on Broadway – he got around.
7. He made Captain Kirk a household name and a Nerd Icon.
Although it took years for him to come to terms with his fame resulting from the short run series, Shatner took advice from Sir Patrick Stewart, who had embraced his celebrity as Captain Picard. Trekkies still congregate and Shatner often attends "Star Trek" conventions. FYI: The show only ran from 1966-1969 and an additional six films were produced up until 1994, when Kirk was dramatically killed off. It is my personal opinion that in his youth, he wore it best: the velour tunic and skin tight space pants.
6. Post "Star Trek," and a brief dry spell, he had a very successful career in television.
He recounts a story of living in a camper shell, after his divorce and the cancellation of "Star Trek." Facing typecasting, he couldn’t secure employment. This was a very humbling time in his life, which he refers to as “that period.” One of my favorite moments of the evening was when he recounted a story of taking his three young daughters skiing in Mammoth in a camper and a very amusing encounter with a rat. He survived “that period” and later went on to star as "T.J. Hooker" (1982-1986), hosted one of the first reality-based shows, "Rescue 911" (1989-1996), and portrayed the wonderful Denny Crane on "Boston Legal" (2004-2008).
5. He sold his kidney stone for charity.
Yep, you heard me – for $75,000. He also raised additional funds from his "Boston Legal" co-stars and donated the money to Habitat For Humanity to build a house in New Orleans, post Katrina. He is quite a philanthropist, who also plays on the World Poker Tour for charity. Since 1990, he has been a leading force behind the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which raises money for children's charities.
4. He loves horses.
A passion he spent a great deal discussing in the show. He lives part time in Kentucky raising American Quarter horses, hosts horse-themed charity events and shares this love with his fourth wife. A poignant moment in his show was his recounting of his award-winning stud, Sultan’s Great Day – the spirit of the horse and its legacy.
3. He is a successful recording artist.
Collaborating with uber-talented Ben Folds, Shatner transcended his earlier recordings and made some critically acclaimed work. His album Has Been is quite good, and he closed the evening singing “Real,” a song featured on the album, sung by Brad Paisley. The song sums up Shatner’s myth vs. his reality. He has several albums of the spoken word from the 1960s to present.
2. He is the Negotiator, dammit!
Although he only briefly touched on this, his relationship with Priceline.com has been golden, and has made him recognizable to multi-generations. The ad campaign has been pure genius, largely due to Shatner’s comedic role.
1. He's an award-winning actor, musician, novelist, spokesman, film director, producer, philanthropist, and animal lover.
He is a man as big as life with a healthy ego. Nonetheless, in Shatner’s World, we see a glimpse of more than the myth, and a lot of the man. A beautifully scripted and tight 90-minute show – it was quite an accomplishment fitting in his body of work in such a finite period of time.
Thanks Bill – it was a pleasure spending some time in your world.