Monday, September 7, 2009
100th post: A very moving Bill Shatner story.
"In mid-November 1966, we started preparations on the first season Star Trek episode 'The Squire of Gothos'. There were some complicated sword scenes in the episode, so Bill Campbell (who was cast as Trelane) and I decided to take a little time out beforehand to rehearse our moves in order to avoid piercing each other's eyes out on the set.
"Bill suggested his backyard would be the ideal location for choreographing our sword-fighting follies, so the next day I headed over to his house on my motorcycle. Things seemed to be going very well until...have I mentioned that with every purchase over $10 at WilliamShatner.com, you get a free un-signed photo of Captain Kirk (me)? Of course, we also sell autographed merchandise, but that is just a little bit more expensive - but well worth it! For example, an autographed picture of me in the Star Trek episode 'Mirror, Mirror' will cost you a very reasonable $79.95...anyway, back to the story.
"So one day I arrive at Bill's house for some more running and jumping around his backyard. But unbeknownst to me, he had invited some of the neighborhood children from the area to 'see Captain Kirk!'. I wished he had told me. I wasn't prepared for that at all. The kids rushed up to see Captain Kirk just as I was taking off my helmet. At that point, I experienced something so horrible and hurtful that it still makes me shudder to think about it today. Imagine a group of kids standing there laughing at you. Why were they laughing? Because, they didn't believe that I was Captain Kirk. Why? Because thanks to certain makeup secrets that I don't really wish to discuss (I really don't get why so many people out there seem to be so fascinated with this subject), Kirk looked a little different from the man that was standing in front of these youngsters. And they weren't shy in letting me know just how disappointed they were by that!
"For some reason, in the midst of their cruel laughter, my mind went back to that moment when I was six-years-old, performing the play Winterset to a bunch of kids at Jewish summer camp. You know the story - I played a boy who had to say goodbye to his dog because the Nazis were coming. Everybody cried. I cried. My father hugged me. It was incredible how I had finally been able to empathically reach everyone around me. And now, thirty-years later: this! Kids laughing at me! It was just horrible.
"At that moment, I vowed that I wouldn't ever let that happen again. The fans loved Captain Kirk, but apparently weren't so forgiving of the many flaws of Bill Shatner. So, I started to wear my 'makeup secrets' home; I would never again let myself be photographed or seen in public without those 'secrets' in place. Perhaps it was a comfort blanket of sorts - I really don't know - but for years now I have lived with the fear that something similar may happen again. Humiliation and ridicule is one of the most painful experiences a person can experience and who wouldn't want to do all they could to avoid that?
"So now you know! And can we please talk about something else? Like the time that I hung Leonard's bike up in...Oh, by the way, our rehearsals couldn't have helped us that much as Bill Campbell still managed to briefly dislocate his shoulder while we filmed one of those scenes!"
Just to repeat, this story is not in Bill Shatner's book Up Till Now; rather, we tried to write it up as if it had been.
Now, a disclaimer - Normally, we are very meticulous in providing sources for what we publish here. In this case, things are a little different. This is a story (we've added for dramatic purposes Shatner's pondering on his experiences during Winterset, and, of course, his toupee-related ruminations and decisions) that was apparently told by Bill Campbell many years ago to somebody - an industry insider - who wishes to remain anonymous. We have contacted that person and are satisfied that they are telling the truth. As another layer of verification, the person mentioned another man that was present at the event where he had met Bill Campbell. We contacted this person to double-check that part of the claim - although they did not remember hearing the story, they did confirm that they had been at the function and that they had met Bill Campbell. This was enough to satisfy us.
You are free, of course, to disbelieve both us (we could just be making all of this up - we promise that we are not) and/or the teller of this story. The latter is a valid point. The only two people (other than the kids in the garden) that can verify this incident are William Shatner and Bill Campbell. Until then, officially it is hearsay, but unofficially, we think that it is an incredibly revealing and important incident, perhaps the most pivotal that we have ever chronicled here.