Friday, November 6, 2009
Toupee wordplay: a Shat-no-Meter ruling.
Bill Shatner, much like the lawyer that he portrayed in Boston Legal, is a master of wordplay. This has been strikingly evident on those very rare occasions when he has been asked publicly about the toup. Previously, we've brought you a toupee denial during a 2008 interview conducted by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph in which Bill Shatner volunteered: "And no, it isn't a toupée," reportedly underscoring this by tugging at his hair. Of course, the wording was very clever. "It" wasn't a toupee. "It" was a transplant (or a new kind of hair system - the jury's still out).
There was also the January 2006 story on Shats from The Times of London entitled "Man of Enterprise". The article noted, "Once asked whether he wore a hairpiece, [Shatner] replied: 'It’s a question that I find like asking somebody, "Did you have a breast implant?" or "When did you get your lobotomy?" ' "
Again, a cleverly worded non denial denial. However, in the notorious MJ Kelli incident, Bill Shatner did actually deny that he wore a toupee, adding that the question was "stupid".
Now, thanks to a discovery by amateur toupologist "RM" we can present another example of Bill Shatner toupee wordplay. In a 1991 interview (sourced here - not sure which magazine it's from), reporter Martin Kihn asks the actor to comment on a campaign that was underway at the time by the "Bald Urban Liberation Brigade" to "out" bald actors. Basically, BULB, a group founded by trade-magazine writer Ed Leibowitz and graphic designer Lorraine Heffernan made computer-generated images of allegedly bald celebrities including Bill Shatner and hung these images as posters around New York. You can read more on this here, here and see an old newspaper report here.
The exchange with Kihn went thus:
Kihn: Are you aware that there are posters all over New York with your photograph that claim you are really bald?
Shatner: Well, I thumb my hairy nose at them. But I'll still go look in the mirror and make sure everything's there.
As "RM" pointed out, the response is classic Shatner and it also serves as a textbook example of the non denial denial. In the statement, Bill Shatner does not deny that he is bald per se. He may "thumb his hairy nose" at BULB, but that doesn't mean that he is actually refuting their allegations.
The next sentence is far more daring, with Shats demonstrating the skills of a well-trained magician or politician: "But I'll still go look in the mirror and make sure everything's there". What does that mean? The implication is that because "everything" (the hair) is "there" (on my scalp), it means that Bill Shatner isn't bald. That is technically true if you think about it, but wonderfully warped too. What Bill Shatner is basically saying is "The last time I looked, there was hair on my head. But to humor you, I'll go and check to see if it hasn't somehow disappeared, which of course it hasn't." Again, in absolute literal terms, a toupee qualifies as hair. Denny Crane would be proud.
This all rings slightly of former President Bill Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" or Donald Rumsfeld's known knowns and unknown unknowns. Bill Shatner's statements are true in the strictly literal sense. However, the questioner asked a pretty direct question about whether the actor was actually bald (offering Shats the opportunity to refute or confirm the baldness allegations). Bill Shatner technically didn't deny the allegations of BULB, but the inference was that the suggestion was so ridiculous that it could only have happened since the last time he looked in the mirror.
Our inclination would be to give the above a "False". However, because we must factor-in the strictly literal and balance this against what we believe was implied, we have no choice but to rate Bill Shatner's above statements as Half-True.
Click here to see all of our Shat-no-Meter rulings.
Note: We're still trying to track down the BULB poster of Bill Shatner.