Friday, January 29, 2010

The Tekwar toupee.

An interesting picture from Bill Shatner's Tekwar TV series based on the books of the same name. The image shows both a high hairline and a kind of hybrid toupee - indeed, the hair appears to be a unique mix of all three major styles (the side-parting of the "Jim Kirk lace", the thickness of the "TJ curly" and the straightness of the "Denny Crane"). Perhaps this was a nod to the uniqueness of this endeavor.

We have to admit that despite the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies being one of the most well-staffed scientific institutions in the world, with an army of dedicated toupologists studying Bill Shatner's toupees night and day, we really haven't meaningfully turned our attention to this series. So, we certainly appreciate any insight from our readers!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No difference?

Star Trek's second season adventure "Obsession" (a kind of Moby Dick in space) provides us with a great example of how Bill Shatner's toupee inspired the creative forces behind the show.

Art Wallace
, writer of "Obsession" once recalled: "Gene Roddenberry called me up and asked me to write an episode of Star Trek. Enthusiastically, I agreed, but about a week later I confessed to Gene that I was really struggling to come up with a story idea."

Gene Roddenberry

The Star Trek producer's response stunned Wallace: "'Just think about the toupee,' he said. I was shocked. 'What do you mean?' I asked. 'Don't you know?' replied Gene 'All of Star Trek's stories are inspired by Bill Shatner's toupee in one way or another.' I thought he was crazy, but desperate for a story, I followed his suggestion anyway."

Wallace went home to think about what Roddenberry had said. "I turned on the TV and happened to see some footage of Sean Connery attending the premiere of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. He wasn't wearing his toupee and no-one seemed to care. There weren't any stories, as far as I can recall, about Bond being bald and all of that kind of thing."

Sean Connery at the premiere of You Only Live Twice.

That's when a light bulb went on over the writer's head. "I thought about Bill Shatner. What if Bill found himself in the role of mentor to a young balding actor? But then, that young actor had turned his back on Bill and had decided to only wear the toupee on screen, unlike Bill who increasingly wore it at all times. Before long, I had come up with 'Obsession' - a story in which Captain Kirk is cruel and unforgiving to a young officer who reminds him of himself. It was all a metaphor, including that blood-sucking creature, which was baldness, that honey smell, which was toupee glue - it was all about a kind of toupee obsession."

Stephen Brooks (right) as Ensign Garrovick.

The most moving scene in the episode, and one in which the toupee metaphor is most striking and powerful, comes towards the end. What if, all those years ago, a young Bill Shatner (like Sean Connery) had decided to go without the toup in public and had instead only used the toupee on-screen? Would there be ridicule? Would there be humiliation? Would Bill Shatner's career have been any different? "No difference," concedes Kirk - with Bill Shatner the actor barely holding back tears as he delivers perhaps the most heartfelt line of his entire acting career - "now...or eleven years ago." (roughly when Bill Shatner had first turned to the toupee).

"Bill and I never talked about that episode," added Wallace "But I'm sure he knew that I knew how meaningful that scene was to him; it helped him get over some of his demons, even though he felt that it was too late now for him to change. Besides, he understood how much the toup was helping the creatives behind the camera." Wallace also recalled how Bill Shatner subtly showed his gratitude to the writer. "A few weeks after 'Obsession' aired, Bill sent me a package and inside was one of the Tribbles they had used in 'The Trouble with Tribbles'. There was a note inside too: 'My best, Bill' - I was really touched by that."

Disclaimer: The late Art Wallace never actually said any of the above (or did he?).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pioneer Woman - a toupological analysis.

William Shatner, Joanna Pettet, Russel Baer and a very young Helen Hunt in Pioneer Woman.

Pioneer Woman is a 1973 TV movie for the ABC network that starred Joanna Pettet and William Shatner. The movie is set in 1867 and revolves around a family that decides to uproot from their life in Indiana and move out to the frontier territory of Nebraska. Bill Shatner plays John Sergeant, a man who urges his reluctant family to exploit a newly-bought plot of land hundreds of miles away.

But that land turns out to be occupied by hostile squatters who have no intention of leaving.

The family, now almost broke, decides to instead lay claim to another piece of land in Wyoming About forty minutes in, after considerable work has gone into building a new house, Bill Shatner's character dies in an accident, leaving wife Maggie (Joanna Pettet) alone to raise and support their two young children.

He's dead, Maggie...

Some reviewers don't think much of this TV movie at all. We couldn't disagree more.

Admittedly, one doesn't expect to find a masterpiece when watching a mid 1970's Bill Shatner movie, but Pioneer Woman came as a very pleasant surprise. Most striking is the sense of atmosphere: the stunningly beautiful landscapes (of Alberta, Canada) contrasted with one small family's wooden hut absolutely in the middle of nowhere. The story is remarkably simple, uncluttered by endless exposition - like, say Sole Survivor.

The few suspicious locals the family encounters only adds to the sense of utter isolation - at the beginning, no-one really seems to want them there. A lonely tone permeates the entire movie, with Joanna Pettet's emotional, yet defiant narration providing a sense of eternal hope fighting against unimaginable sorrow.

The cinematography and shot composition is surprisingly beautiful for such a production.

Bill Shatner as the eternally optimistic, energetic and probably somewhat naïve John Sergeant, manages to give (shock!) a surprisingly understated yet enthusiastic performance, while Pettet's eternally patient and forgiving Maggie seems like the most fitting on-screen partner Bill Shatner has had since Miramanee. It's a shame he dies halfway through - but the movie remains compelling throughout.

Towards the end, the pioneer woman's wheat crop (and thus money for a trip back home to Indiana) is about to be wiped out by a prairie fire... we won't spoil the movie for you by revealing any more.

Now, to the hair...

Bill Shatner sports a very thick almost black toup (with quite a high hairline) - really a wig - along with an equally thick mustache. Both appear to have been used by the actor to help "get in to the role".

Only one real moment of toupological interest emerged when early in the movie Bill Shatner's head, toupee and all, is dunked into the water by the aforementioned squatters unwilling to budge from the Sergeant family's newly-purchased land:

We understand that Pioneer Woman may have been a pilot for a proposed TV series. Would it have worked? Probably not (a widow - deluged with advances from potential suitors - and two children in the middle of nowhere might get a bit dull after a while). But as a one-off movie (only 74 minutes long), we liked it very much and don't hesitate to recommend it. The movie is available on DVD, albeit sourced from a poor-quality print.

Another day, another toupee...

Friday, January 22, 2010

The amazing lace: you can comb it back!

Reader "ACELP" points to an interesting 1966 picture of Bill Shatner visiting the Worldcon convention (above), which underlines one of the key features of the lace frontal hairpiece - that the hair could be combed backwards. This is something that Bill Shatner evidently tried on more than one occasion, but without the attention of on-set hairstylists, the careful illusion of the toup could occasionally be undermined - just a little, as is evident in the above picture.

Bill Shatner proudly demonstrates one of the lace toupee's top features.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A real hair reflex: the "cap n' twist".

"Real hair reflex" isn't quite the best description for what we have here in Bill Shatner's appearance in 1982's Airplane II: The Sequel - rather it's more of a "toup protection reflex". But before we get into that, let's examine Shats' performance as lunar base commander Buck Murdoch in this comedy movie, which we're assuming most of you out there have seen.

We would argue that Bill Shatner is at his absolute best when playing crazed and insane characters (1961's The Intruder, Star Trek's "The Enemy Within" and "Turnabout Intruder" and 1974's Impulse come to mind) and in this case, the actor hams it up considerably. Bill Shatner's acting style is unique - but those critics that have occasionally suggested he can't act are flat wrong. A performer must principally command the viewer's attention, and in Airplane II, Bill Shatner demonstrates his comic timing to perfection with strange lines such as "I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes" while also sending up Star Trek in the process.

Now to the "cap n' twist". Not a new dance craze, alas (but hey, it could catch on) but rather a protective toup reflex that turns a simple twist of the cap into a carefully orchestrated maneuver.

Bill Shatner twists his cap twice in the movie. The first time, the maneuver, executed so as to keep the toup in place, is carried out flawlessly - but the second time, things don't quite go as smoothly.

Watch these two moments in slow-motion:

Things go just a little wrong during the second twist, with a tiny bit of the toup knocked out of place. But ever the consummate professional, Bill Shatner quickly smooths over the situation and continues in his performance. Brilliant!

A collection of Bill Shatner's scenes from Airplane II can be found on YouTube:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poll result.

Thanks for voting - again, a somewhat surprising result. 60% of votes were cast by those who believe that Bill Shatner would rather dodge the hair question, even with a loved one. Since Bill Shatner's three daughters obviously know he's bald (and likely always did), let's look instead at Bill Shatner's four wives:

Gloria Rand (married 1956-1969). Toupee style - "Jim Kirk lace":

Gloria was married to Bill Shatner as his hair started to thin. Shats started wearing toupees, at first only on-screen, but by the end of their marriage, off-screen too. She knew everything, so Bill Shatner never had to have a revelation moment with her.

Marcy Lafferty (married 1973-1994). Toupee style - "Lost Years" and "TJ Curly":

Interestingly, Bill Shatner met Marcy Lafferty in the midst of his mid-1970s doldrums when his toupees were at their very worst. Marcy seems like a very nice person and she likely made Shats feel comfortable enough with himself that in private he could remove the toupee and feel that he would be loved no less. Yet, Bill Shatner seems to have been the dominant one in this marriage, and he likely set the boundaries about how much the toup could or could not be discussed.

Nerine Kidd (married 1997-1999). Toupee style - "TJ Curly":

Bill Shatner's relationship with Nerine Kidd was a complicated one. One the one hand, he was cast in the ultimately futile position of trying to cure a person's alcohol addiction with his love. He tragically learned that such a dynamic is impossible - that the addict must decide that the pain caused to loved ones and to oneself is motivation enough to seek help. Yet, on the other hand, this was a relationship, from how Bill Shatner has described it, that was also full of great highs; full of playfulness and craziness. In this context, Nerine might have been the kind of person to hide Bill Shatner's toupee in the morning, just to tease him. Or she may have even persuaded him to go out incognito without the toup just for the thrill of it.

Elizabeth (married 2001-). Toupee style "Denny Crane plugs (possibly still a toupee)":

The two became friends after Bill Shatner's third wife Nerine drowned tragically in 1999. Elizabeth had also recently lost her spouse, with her husband succumbing to cancer in 1997. That friendship soon turned to love. It is difficult to know where the toupee fits in here. By this point, Bill Shatner's baldness/toupee was being lampooned by comics, and even Bill Shatner was making subtle references to it. Thus, the dynamic here is one of greater honesty; of healing and openness. Yet, with the semi-perma-toup or plugs that Bill Shatner now has, the hair doesn't come off at night. Does that mean that Elizabeth rarely sees her husband bald? Has the issue even been discussed? Was she the one to tell him to get rid of the "TJ Curly" look? We really don't know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sole Survivor - a toupological analysis.

A full toupological analysis is no small matter. Thousands of toupologists at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies must be briefed, touposcopes and other instruments calibrated and then put into use; our various departments must report their findings and collate results and these must then be analyzed and prepared for publication here at Shatner's Toupee. Sometimes, an individual toupologist or a toupological team will make a stunning find - other times, the effort yields very little. That is, alas, the nature of scientific inquiry.

Which brings us to Sole Survivor, a 1970 TV movie featuring William Shatner in a supporting role. The plot, such as it can be deciphered, revolves around the ghosts of a crashed WWII bomber hanging around in the desert by their wrecked plane seemingly awaiting rescue. Bill Shatner plays a Lieutenant Colonel sent years later, along with an army team that includes the lone survivor, to the crash site to understand what went on.

Confused? So were we (click here to read a more comprehensible plot summary). To put it bluntly, we thought this film was downright dreadful. Watching toupee glue dry might have been more entertaining. Endless torrents of over-earnest, badly-written dialogue could barely conceal the complete lack of either meaningful action or realistic characters.

"Don't you understand Devlin? The system's been good to me."

The entire film is based upon the one contrivance about the survivors being ghosts (the story apparently taken from a Twilight Zone episode; Star Trek: DS9's "Hard Time" also did a far more effective and powerful job of telling this kind of story). Bill Shatner is wasted in his role as LtC Josef Gronke, clearly struggling as an actor to give dramatic meaning to the aforementioned incomprehensibly muddled and meaningless 1950s-soap-commercial-style dialogue.

In a desperate effort to try to add some entertainment value to Sole Survivor, Bill Shatner resorts to Karate-chopping a piece of cloth.

Lou Antonio, who coincidentally guest-starred in Star Trek's most verbose episode, third season's "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" also appears in this movie. Sole Survivor is very much like that Trek installment - based around one gimmick with endless talking, talking, talking filling in the rest.

Lou Antonio in Sole Survivor.

Now, to the hair...

In this early post-Star Trek period, Bill Shatner still has a relatively decent toupee; it would go downhill fast in the next few years.

Shats spends much of the film in hats (or Shat spends much of the film in a hat) - considering the amount of footage that was filmed in the hot desert, that was probably a wise decision. Whether he took off the toup for these scenes, we'll probably never know.

33 minutes in, a man tells Bill Shatner's character "Your hands must be pretty sticky by now." Was this a subtle reference to toupee glue?:

But only one real moment of toupological interest emerged:

Towards the end of the movie, Bill Shatner's character speeds along in an automobile (we wish we could say why, but our staff was numb with boredom by this point), his toup exposed to a considerable gust of wind (was this an expression of relief that the movie was almost over like in Pray for the Wildcats?).

Bill Shatner's toup flails in the wind.

If anyone out there feels we've been unfair and has anything good to say about this movie, please help us out in the comments section! Try as we might, we really can't recommend Sole Survivor on any level - we'd feel guilty for wasting your time! An admittedly very poor copy of this TV movie can be watched on YouTube or at Google video.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality..."

Bill Shatner (left) with actor Malachi Throne (center).

Star Trek's first pilot "The Cage" is the only episode of the original series to not feature Bill Shatner - and it arguably suffers for it, lacking energy and humor.

"The Cage" - made in 1964-65.

During Star Trek's first season, Gene Roddenberry devised a way to re-use, by means of flashback sequences, footage from that never-broadcast pilot in two new episodes. Helping to ease broadcast deadlines, only a limited number of new scenes would be combined with that existing footage. A unique opportunity was thus created to add the dynamics of both Bill Shatner and his toupee into "The Cage" in a new two-part episode called "The Menagerie".

Through shot composition, director Marc Daniels frequently used the toupee to give clues about the themes in "The Menagerie".

We've occasionally said that Star Trek owes much of its initial dramatic success to Bill Shatner's toupee and "The Menagerie" is but one example of the inspiration that the toup gave both writers and directors. Marc Daniels, who directed the new material for "The Menagerie" only needed one look at the toup to understand that this was a two-parter all about illusions versus reality. The way that Daniels framed shots featuring actor Malachi Throne (whose baldness mirrored Bill Shatner's), alias Commodore Mendez, and Bill Shatner helped to underline this concept.

One actor was wearing a toupee, the other represented Bill Shatner toup-less. We later learn that Mendez was an illusion created by the Talosians (who had giant bald heads) - interestingly, Throne also provided the dubbed voice for the lead Talosian (his voice was pitch-shifted upwards in "The Menagerie" to differentiate it from the character of Mendez - scroll down this page to hear the difference).


At the end of the episode, the Talosian tells Kirk "Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality; may you find your way as pleasant." The concept is reversed - in reality, Shatner has the illusion, while Kirk has the reality (the character's hair is real). Bill Shatner's toupee is only now gradually gaining its rightful recognition as one of the chief creative inspirations in Star Trek - may that recognition continue to grow.

Was the subtext of this scene Gene Roddenberry thanking Bill Shatner for his toupee?

UPDATE: Corrected Thorne is Throne - thanks for telling us!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Touposcope discovery: Bill Shatner's hair growing on Mars?

The William Shatner School of Toupological Studies enjoys a strong working relationship with the folks at NASA, often loaning them the use of the Hubble Touposcope and several other of our most powerful toupometric instruments. Recently, the power of our touposcopes was underlined when our HiRISE instrument found what appeared to be hair growing on Mars! Click here and here for more on this story.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Early TJ Hooker picture.

Circa 1947 - after his first year at McGill University, Bill Shatner spent a summer hitchhiking across the US.

A reader points to a great early picture (sourced here) of Bill Shatner in which we see his (real) curly hair in all its glory. We've noted before that we think Bill Shatner's real hair was curly and that he had it straightened, as was customary for many men in the era of Brylcreem.

So why is this important? Many of you have told us how you were surprised by the brazen thickness of Bill Shatner's suddenly curly hair in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Indeed, for many, this dramatic shift in hairstyle provided a strong clue that Bill Shatner had turned to the powers of the toupee. Yet, despite the excessive thickness of the "TJ Curly" look, this was a style that better mirrored the actor's own curly hair, as is evident from the real bits at the sides we've seen over the years (for example, here).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bill Shatner removes fake hair on live television...

Ok, we'll admit that the above headline is a little misleading... What we actually have here is a 1992 appearance of Bill Shatner, along with Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy, on The Arsenio Hall Show. The skit in which the two men participated was meant to poke fun at the actors' advancing years following the final original Trek movie (in retrospect, they actually seem remarkably young, especially considering how very old the two friends are now).

For us, there's always a particular fascination in watching Bill Shatner interacting with any kind of hair - and this clip doesn't disappoint in that regard. Why is there a peeling action taking place when the fake beard need only be unhooked? What is Bill Shatner trying to tell us? Every frame reveals potential subtext, dual meaning, sheepishness and even philosophical enlightenment!

You can watch the full interview here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The World of Suzie Wong - a toupological analysis.

Normally, when the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies conducts a full toupological analysis, we watch the movie or TV episode that we are studying. In the case of the 1958-59 Broadway production of The World of Suzie Wong, that is sadly impossible. But instead, the folks at "The Department of Transfollicular and Metatoupular Archeology" (located in Building 35C, Floor 24, Unit 7, Section R, rooms 1123-2275 of the WSSTS) have provided us with the next best thing - some exclusive pictures from the production to help guide us. The images are from an original program of the production - and many have possibly never been presented on the Internet before.

First, a little background on the production from Bill Shatner himself, courtesy of his autobiography Up Till Now: "[My wife] Gloria and I moved back to New York and we bought a little house in Hastings-on-Hudson for nineteen-thousand dollars. This was an amazing step for me, this was roots...I was confident I could afford it, I was going to be paid $750 a week to star in a Broadway show. That was a tremendous amount of money in 1958."

Explaining the plot of that Broadway show, Bill Shatner recalls: "The World of Suzie Wong was a love story set in Hong Kong. I played a Canadian artist who falls in love with a Chinese prostitute and tries to reform her."

Bill Shatner sits (center-left) opposite France Nuyen.

But excitement soon turned to despair: "I don't remember precisely when I knew The World of Suzie Wong was going to be a complete disaster...We opened to universally tepid reviews. If theater groups hadn't been invented we would have closed the next morning, but we were sold out for three months..."

Members of the audience would leave mid-show, while behind-the-scenes, co-star France Nuyen threatened to stop speaking mid-performance should she catch sight of the play's director, whom she detested. It wasn't long before she carried out her threat. A desperate Bill Shatner had an idea: "I began to speed up lines. I changed the intonation and emotion. Just by speaking faster and putting emphasis on different words I shortened the play by fifteen minutes - and people began to laugh. I love you, had become, I love you? We were making fun of this turgid melodrama. We turned it into a lighthearted comedy. The show became a hit."

The World of Suzie Wong ultimately ran for fourteen months.

By the way, some have speculated that the birth of Bill Shatner's unique pause-based acting style can be traced to the moment when, through altering his pace and intonation, the actor single-handedly saved the sinking production.

Now, to the hair...

As we've noted previously, Bill Shatner's frontal hairline was very likely still his own at this point - its' round contours are distinctly different from the frontal lace that he started to wear soon after.

We should also add that a lot may have changed from the opening to the close of the play more than a year later. Even from studying the pictures here, it is pretty evident that this was a period of great turbulence and change for Bill Shatner's hair, which was thinning very fast at the front while a bald patch had appeared at the top of the crown. We previously posted a picture from the play, which we believe is a rare example of being able to see a Bill Shatner bald patch:

Yet, this problem is not evident in the pictures within the official program. Perhaps knowing that a photo-shoot was taking place, additional toupological measures were taken. Our guess is that Bill Shatner is indeed wearing a rear-only cap-like toupee in all of the official photos (click here to see a clip from the TV show Cheers to see how these toupees worked).

Similarly, in the below picture, we again see a back-of-the-head style that is too smooth, too full and very much in keeping with the rear component of the later "Jim Kirk lace":

...which looked like this:

Back in Febuary 1957, the rear of Bill Shatner's head was already very, very thin:

Studio One: "The Defender" - click here for more.

Compare that crown area with Bill Shatner in Suzie Wong - it's simply too thick:

Interestingly, one of the genial things about the frontal "Jim Kirk lace" is how much it mirrored Bill Shatner's own swooshy style at the front (while he still had it).

Maybe the frontal lace was also used at some point later in the play's run (or is even used in one or two photos here too) - we don't know. What we do know is that it was soon to become a staple of the more probing scrutiny of TV appearances. And by 1962, the frontal lace was also in use onstage:

A Shot in the Dark

Here's a few more pictures from Suzie Wong (see if you can spot Bill Shatner):

Click on the images below for a profile of Bill Shatner:

An officially sanctioned review of rehearsals for the play:

And a poster:

Click here and here for some other pictures from the production that we previously posted.

And let's end with a gratuitous picture of the very beautiful France Nuyen: