The WSSTS is a strictly secular institution, but since it's the festive season, we thought it might be fun to examine a few questions related to the theological implications of William Shatner's toupee. What if stories of the toupee survived and flourished well into the future? What if such tales were passed on from mother to daughter and father to son for hundreds of generations? A thousand or ten thousand years from now (assuming we're still here), how might such stories have evolved and what strengths will humanity draw from them? Which brings us to a story we have written especially for the the holidays. We hope you enjoy it:
The Parable of the Toupee
It was a bitterly cold Christmas Day morning. The air was chilly and damp; the sun's rays were suffocated by a thick, impenetrable gray blanket that seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon. Shatner, still half-asleep, looked out of his window, flakes of snow gently landing on the misty glass pane right in front of his eyes. He decided, without much hesitation - this being his nature, after all - that he needed to brave the cold. For he had run out of milk and if he wanted his morning coffee just the way he liked it, he really had no choice but to go out and buy some. Stuffing five dollars into his pocket, Shatner wrapped himself up thoroughly, putting on a pair of gloves, a woolly jumper and a thick coat before stepping out into the icy weather.
The streets were almost empty. Most souls were locked indoors, basking in the heat of a warm fire or a hot cup of coffee. The crunching of snow under his feet was the only sound Shatner could hear as he walked along the abandoned, eerily-quiet roads of a typical Christmas morning. There was one store he knew would be open, but it was forty-five minutes walk away. At least the walk would warm him up a little, he thought. Maintaining a brisk pace, at last he neared the small local store, his sinuses throbbing and his nose increasingly numb with cold. Stepping past a row of bare trees and then through a deserted alleyway that led to the entrance of the store, Shatner suddenly heard a sound. A cough, a sniffle...as he walked further down the alleyway, the sound grew louder.
Propped up against the gray brick walls of the alleyway, Shatner spotted the rumpled, disheveled figure of a homeless man. The man was motionless, evidently close to freezing to death after a night out in the cold. Where once there had been at least a shiver, now there was only apathy; where once there had been the will to seek shelter and warmth and all of those small hopes that life fights for in times of crisis, now there was only resignation. "Hey, are you alright there?" asked Shatner, gently prodding the old man. No response. Shatner studied the man's paltry figure. Worn out shoes, a dirty, thin coat and a bare head - without his help, the man would certainly die. Shatner ran inside the store and using the five bucks he had with him for the milk, instead bought the man a sandwich and a hot chocolate from the dispensing machine.
"Thank you," said the homeless man, stirring as Shatner appeared before him bearing much-needed nourishment. The man immediately, although slowly at first, ate and drank all that he received - it was clear he hadn't eaten a proper meal in a good while.
"That should keep you going for a while," replied Shatner, mustering a smile, hoping it would somehow transmit at least a little positive energy to this gaunt human being. Suddenly, as if revived from the brink of life, the man started to shiver. "Here, take this," said Shatner instinctively, removing his coat and wrapping it around the man.
"You're very kind," said the homeless man, mustering a glance at the helpful stranger. The old man's piercing, blue, weary blood-shot eyes focused on the mysterious figure that had been so kind to him. But he continued to shiver. Shatner gave him his gloves and then his jumper too, but the man still looked as if he was standing ominously near the final precipice.
"It's OK. I don't live far from here. You take it," Shatner said, already planning in his mind how he would have to walk home very briskly in order not to freeze in the bitter cold. But despite all of his efforts, the old man wouldn't stop shivering. Shatner studied the fragile figure once again. His hands were now covered, so were his arms, chest, hands and neck. But his head remained bare. It was the one weak link that could sever the entire chain.
Stirring again, the homeless man suddenly lifted up his right arm, slowly clasping his hand and pointing outward with his index finger. Shatner looked up just above his own forehead, for that is where the homeless man was now pointing. "I'm sorry, I don't have a hat," said Shatner, "I know how cold your head must be." But the homeless man continued to point. He tried to say something, producing a faint, wheezy, barely-audible whisper. Shatner moved closer, placing his ear nearer to the man's mouth.
"T---" said the man, evidently fatigued from even such minor exertion. He tried again: "T---t---p---eee.."
"What?" asked Shatner, almost in shock at the word he thought he just heard."
"Tou--pee" said the old man with one final, now clear, burst of energy. Shatner jumped back throwing a very direct glance at the homeless man.
"I don't...You mean, instead of a hat? For you? But I don't wear..."
The old man started shaking his head just as he was seized by a coughing fit. "I may have nothing...and I may not have much of a future," wheezed the old man, "but I can always tell a toupee when I see one." Shatner was startled. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. You've been so kind to me. Please, go now before the chill gets to you too."
"But your head. You have nothing to cover it with. I can run home, but you will surely freeze to death the way you are now." Shatner was deeply troubled. He couldn't leave this fragile man like this. "I wish I could - I know what you're asking. But then everyone will know what I am really like. I can't give you my toupee. I just can't" Almost as soon as he had said it though, Shatner began to regret his words, for he was so very moved by the plight of the man before him. And besides, deep down, he knew that unless the man could shield his head from the cold, he simply had no future.
"Yes, they will," the homeless man replied, "you'll see." Shatner didn't understand what the man was trying to say. "You'll see," the homeless man repeated confidently. Shatner stood up, looked around and took in a deep breath of the cold winter air. He had made up his mind. He had to help. The homeless man watched as the mysterious stranger, who had already helped him back from the brink, placed his hands on his head and slowly began to peel off his toupee.
A few seconds later, Shatner took the layer of hair - it almost looked like a rabbit's hide - and placed it on the homeless man's head. Within a few minutes, the man's cheeks turned a healthy shade of red, a smile returned to his face and he finally stopped shivering. He was going to make it now. He was going to be alright.
"Good luck," said Shatner, clearly delighted.
"Merry Christmas," replied the homeless man, "and thank you."
Shatner smiled at the man one last time before darting off home as fast as he could. He had never been out like this before - his head as bald as a baby's backside, as shiny as a soldier's freshly polished boots, as barren as the surface of the Moon. His heart was pounding, gripped with the terror of being seen - everyone would know what he was really like. As he turned the final street corner and saw his home only a few hundred meters away, the thing that he had dreaded the most happened: a blinding flash of a photographer's camera.
The startled Shatner barely paused to make out the figure that, he was convinced, had unintentionally been given the power to turn his life upside down. A nightmare was about to become reality.
Shatner ran home and slammed the door shut, panting, frozen in that single spot until he finally caught his breath. He didn't sleep much that night. A cold sweat coupled with a crippling terror, panic, palpitations and the boundless limits of nightmarish imaginings of what tomorrow's newspapers would bring. Huge headlines "Now We Know What Shatner is Really Like!" "This is the Real Shatner!" That picture of him bald out on Christmas morning - how could he ever return to trying to maintain that his hair was real after this? It felt awful.
The next morning, Shatner awoke, having managed perhaps an hour of sleep all night. He dreaded looking at the morning papers, but decided that there could be no avoiding it.
Reaching into the letterbox, he found his newspaper as well as a strange plastic bag. Shatner walked into the kitchen, placed the plastic bag on the table and sat down to read the paper. As he saw the headline, his heart sank: "This is the Real Shatner!"screamed the paper. It was over, he thought. He continued to read:
"This is the real Shatner, the other side that the public rarely sees. A man so taken with the plight of a homeless person that he even sacrificed his own image to make sure that a homeless man stayed warm after suffering the effects of a bitterly cold Christmas night. 'It's because of him that I made it,' said 63-year-old homeless veteran Dan J. Willard. 'I had been out all night and it was so cold I almost froze to death. But then that guy found me and gave me his coat and gloves and then even his toupee to keep me warm. I didn't know who he was at the time - that he was Captain Kirk and all - but I sensed that the toupee really meant a lot to him. For him to sacrifice that for me, that's what really warmed me up and gave me the strength to live another day.'"
The story continued:
"Willard, who has since been in contact with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, was tracked down by our reporters yesterday afternoon, hours after a freelance photographer snapped what appeared to be a bald toupee-less Shatner running home from a store 45-minutes walk from his home. 'I don't know what made me do it, but after taking that picture - it was really a coincidence that I was even there - I followed Shatner's footsteps in the snow back to this alleyway and found this homeless guy wearing his toupee, warming himself up,' recalled freelance photographer Jason Leeson, adding: 'The old guy then told me this incredible story. It was really moving to see what Shatner had done.'"
Shatner put the paper down as a tear streamed down his cheek. He tried to contain it, but he couldn't and for the next fifteen minutes or so, he simply wept. He had expected a story that focused on his baldness, on why he had always been so reluctant to open up about his toupee-wearing; he had expected pointed criticism, perhaps even anger about some of the times he had denied wearing a toupee. And most of all, he had feared being laughed at; feared feeling like a small child with everyone pointing at him for being different, inadequate, bald...but none of that had happened. His baldness had become a footnote to a far more important story. In a million years, Shatner had never expected that such a thing could happen. He'd always feared that lifting the lid on the toupee would uncork an avalanche of inquiries. But instead, the story - and all the other ones published and broadcast that day across the world - focused on his selfless deed and how he had been so moved that he 'd even risked his personal secret to help another person.
That, the paper pronounced, was the real Shatner. That was what he was really like.
Wiping away his tears - now ones of joy - Shatner reached inside the mysterious plastic bag that had found its way inside his letterbox. He felt something furry, something very familiar. It was his toupee! Inside was a note. "This toupee saved me, but I think it also saved you too once many, many years ago. Thanks for what you did, but I can't keep it - it's yours, after all. Wear it with pride, even though everyone has now seen you otherwise, it doesn't matter. For me and for many others, you'll always be the man who wears a toupee. But at least now, it won't feel so heavy. You'll see what I mean next time you put it on. Your friend, Sgt. Dan J. Willard, Korean War veteran."
Shatner, filled with the kind of abandon he hadn't experienced in decades, slapped the toupee on his head, glue or correct placement be damned, and ran out into the streets of the city. "Merry Christmas!" he yelled into the air as neighbors peered out of windows and passers-by stopped dead in their tracks, reveling in the glow of such new-found redemption. The toupee suddenly slipped off Shatner's head and fell on to the ground. Shatner looked around, jokingly shrugged his shoulders at the gathering crowds and put the thing back on his head. "God bless you all - from the both of us!"
Happy Holidays to all our readers from the entire staff of the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies and thanks, as always, for your continued visits, comments, tips and interest in Shatner's Toupee. We'll be back in the New Year!