Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poll result and where Walter Koenig leads will Bill Shatner follow?

Quite an even spread of votes, with the largest share of voters, 35%, believing that Bill Shatner's visits with his various hairstylists are all very formal and backed up with non-disclosure agreements. Only 10% believed that Bill Shatner becomes unusually unburdened and carefree in the presence of his personal toupologists, while 25% of voters believed the actor gets desperate and vulnerable in the pursuit of more believable hair. Thanks for voting!

Now, on to the subject of Bill Shatner's Star Trek co-star Walter Koenig. The guy has worn a toupee for years (he wore a wig for his first few episodes of Star Trek until his real, albeit thinning, hair grew out to a moptop length, but it wasn't until several years after TOS that the actor turned to the toup)...

...and, unlike the Shatman, he has been pretty open about his toup wearing...

...even mentioning the issue in his autobiography Warped Factors:

"[Makeup man Fred Phillips] leaned closer. 'Your hair is thinning in the back. You better come with me.'
...He whipped out a can of something called Nestles, Streaks and Tips. The brown spray covered the island of withering follicles at my crown and thus began my life of deception on Star Trek... and the resolute assault of male-pattern baldness was, at least temporarily, obscured by the magic of the paint can." (sourced here)

However, during a recent public appearance - for a screening of Star Trek V, no less - Walter Koenig boldly did something that he may never have done before.

Not only did he appear sans toupee, but he lifted up his cap and exposed his bald head for all the world to see.

Walter Koenig discussing a key difference between himself, Chekov and Monkees star Davy Jones.

Members of Star Trek's "gang of four" supporting cast have often felt overshadowed by Bill Shatner's immense, they would say overbearing, presence. And in the case of Koenig's toupee, this is certainly the case compared with Bill Shatner's. So was the above an opportunity to steal back some of the limelight from the greatest spotlight stealer of them all? Or was it a challenge to Bill Shatner? If I can do this, so can you...

We know Bill Shatner loves a challenge, and being so severely outshone (quite literally, as Koenig's head really is completely bald!) by one of his Star Trek co-stars - and all this happening during a screening of the Trek that Bill Shatner directed! - should surely be motivation enough for Captain Kirk to follow suit and reveal his dome to the world too!

UPDATE: Reader "RM" correctly points out that Walter Koenig has been photographed sans toupee before, during his work to promote democracy in the Southeast Asian country of Burma... here and see Koenig's website for more info on the actor's efforts in pursuit of this cause.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is how little it appears to matter whether there's a toup or not once the initial plunge is taken. Although Bill Shatner, because he's elevated the toupee to a whole other level, as well as denying his toup wearing on occasion, would naturally face far more media interest in this regard than Koenig, should he decide to follow in his cast-mate's footsteps (and obviously, he's a bigger star too).

UPDATE II: Walter Koenig's website has linked to this article. Seems the challenge is real!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Whale of a Tale - a toupological analysis.

A Whale of a Tale (aka Joey and the Whale) is a very obscure and very low-budget film starring William Shatner that was released in 1977 (though copyrighted in1976 and likely filmed as early as 1972-74).

The movie is set in the since-closed Marineland of the Pacific with Bill Shatner portraying a marine biologist, comedian Marty Allen playing a fisherman employed at the center and Scott C. Kolden playing Joey, a young boy who also ends up working at Marineland. This brings us to the plot, which may seem to some of you that we are relaying in a somewhat sarcastic manner - honestly, we're not! Here goes:

Young Joey, on his summer vacation, tries to illegally break into Marineland. His attempts thwarted by a security guard...

...Joey instead walks around to a side-entrance...

...and breaks in that way.

He then meets a fisherman called Louie (Marty Allen) who instead of having the kid removed from the premises, befriends young Joey.

Joey then spends a considerable amount of time looking at all the great attractions in Marineland.

All the while continuing to evade the security guard.

The boy then meets the top marine biologist at the center (William Shatner).

Instead of having the trespassing kid removed from the premises, Bill Shatner's character, Dr. Jack Fredericks...

...offers Joey a job.

Dr. Fredericks then calls the boy's mother to tell her that it is OK for Joey to be working in Marineland.

Joey gets to see all kinds of marine life...

...including dolphins...

...and even a dog!

But soon Joey gets a little hungry, so thank goodness there's a McDonald's near by!

Where the boy orders a Big Mac!

Yummy! But not for you, Mr. Whale!

Meanwhile, Joey's mother and aunt - alas, no father - are becoming slightly concerned at Joey's new and potentially dangerous job.

So Bill Shatner's character makes another call, this time inviting Joey's mother to come and visit the center - which she does.

She gets to meet Dr Fredericks, who takes an instant liking to the single mom.

They then sit down for a drink.

Meanwhile, Louie (suspiciously eager to be alone with the young boy?) takes Joey out shark hunting.

This doesn't sit well at all his his mom and aunt!

Back at Marineworld, Bill Shatner's character thaws out an octopus:

Did Bill Shatner's knowledge of handling toupees prove useful when dealing with the toupee-resembling octopuses?

But then Joey's aunt turns up at Marineland threatening to spoil all the fun.

Joey panics, steals a boat and heads out into the Pacific Ocean.

Oh, dear...

Everyone heads out into the ocean to try and find poor Joey...

But, warns Bill Shatner's character, the chances of finding a boat so small in an ocean so big are remote. Joey is in real danger!

Thankfully, a dolphin comes to the rescue and pulls Joey's boat towards the other ship...

All's well that ends well!

Back at Marineland, Joey has his old job back! Hooray!

And everyone (meaning two newly-paired couples) is just delighted with that!

What on Earth can we possibly say about a movie with a plot like this? Some of you will no doubt have childhood memories of being asked to write stories for a school assignment. Inexperienced in storytelling, you'd just string together a sequence of highly improbable events: "and then my friend landed a spaceship in my garden and then we flew it to school and then some aliens came and then and then and then...". That's how this film is written - a series of ever more improbable events strung together, seemingly unconstrained by the rules of storytelling (causes and consequences) or the need for any kind of viable plot or characterization - and padded out with plenty of drawn out sequences of performing marine animals.

All this would be understandable if A Whale of a Tale had actually been written by a child. But it wasn't - the writer-director Ewing Miles Brown was indeed an adult when this film was made. The idea that a children's film, because it is targeted at children, shouldn't need to adhere to the basic rules of storytelling is just complete nonsense. The best children's movies (The Flight of the Navigator, anyone?) don't make the mistake of patronizing their young audiences, and are actually just as watchable and enjoyable for an adult audience as they are for children. Surely even a child would have severe believability issues with A Whale of a Tale.

We suspect that this film may have been funded by Marineland as little more than a glorified promo for the center (with an additional several thousand bucks provided by a gratuitous visit to McDonald's in the movie). Yet, despite all this, it's hard to get too worked up about the sheer awfulness of this movie. There's an innocent charm that runs throughout, almost as if the movie wasn't really even made by professional filmmakers, but rather a bunch of people just having a little fun in attempting to make a feature-film (though some have other theories).

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

Along with Incident on a Dark Street, we felt that this movie represented that absolute nadir of Bill Shatner's 1970s "Lost Years" period. You can't help but watch A Whale of A Tale and wonder how the hell Captain James T. Kirk's career managed to sink to such a level as to have to take work like this. And it's surely no coincidence that both of these two movies feature an equally fitting (meaning ill-fitting) toupee style that just seems to scream "Help!" to whoever will listen.

We have a high hairline, that is also very, very thick. While the color of the toupee, almost black, is also unusual and noteworthy. Was Bill Shatner subtly lobbying to be cast in the next Superman movie?

The toupee is exposed to considerable wind in parts:

While a color mismatch at the back is also visible:

And that's about it! A truly terrible movie, though not without some charm, that for some reason feels like a kind of bastardized "I'm Just an Employee at Marineland" version of the classic Schoolhouse Rock!: "I'm Just a Bill" animation from 1975.

We doubt that A Whale of a Tale will ever be released commercially again. So, in the interests of film preservation, we've put the whole thing up on our YouTube page.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Now you see it, now you don't...

An interesting behind-the-scenes image from Star Trek we found at We don't know if the little girl having her pigtails tugged by Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy was an evidently delighted young fan allowed to visit the set or the daughter of a member of the production team...

Nonetheless, from a toupological perspective, it's always of interest to us at the WSSTS to see images of Bill Shatner interacting with hair of any kind.

In this case, the positioning of Bill Shatner's cup is notable - perhaps subconsciously, it is positioned in the perfect place for the actor to be able to easily hide the girl's pigtail should he find that it could be quickly and surreptitiously detached from its owner. We're not saying that Bill Shatner was actively trying to snip or rip the hair off the girl's head, but as someone who was always on the lookout for toupological opportunities, it just must have seemed perfectly natural to have some kind of container at the ready - just in case!

UPDATE: Reader Margaret remembers a perhaps relevant quote from the Star Trek episode "The Squire of Gothos" (did a young Shatner - expressed here through Kirk - already know in childhood that he would go bald and thus envied little girls' pigtails?):

Spock: 'Mischievous pranks', Captain?

Kirk: Yes - dipping little girls' curls in inkwells, stealing apples from the neighbors' trees, tying cans on - forgive me, Mr. Spock. I should have known better...

Spock: I shall be delighted, Captain.