Monday, August 29, 2011

"We don't wear wigs in Canada!"

We've occasionally spoken in jest about the idea of some kind of trial in which Bill Shatner would have to argue before a judge (and spellbound world) that his hair was indeed real. It is of course unlikely that such a trial will ever take place, but what we can report is the existence of footage of Bill Shatner in front of a judge being told "...we don't wear wigs in Canada."

The footage in question comes from a second season episode of the TV show Boston Legal called "Finding Nimmo." And not only does it contain this remarkable line, but it also has Bill Shatner in a very elegant 18th century-style wig!

A "TJ Curly Retro Deluxe Edition"?

So what's going on here? Basically, Denny Crane (Bill Shatner) and fellow lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) find themselves on fishing a vacation in Canada. There, they discover a case that surrounds the damage to wild salmon caused by sea lice, a side-effect of man-made fisheries. The pair then learns that a court case on the matter is pending and decide to storm the event (a more detailed plot description is here). Mistakenly, they believe that Canadian court attire requires wigs in the same way the British system does.

What's truly priceless here (other than seeing Bill Shatner wearing a wig on top of a toup) is Denny Crane's reaction to the "we don't wear wigs in Canada" line. Bill Shatner's head slumps almost as if trying to look as innocent as possible (it's rather similar to this real-life incident).

Is Bill Shatner being inadvertently bashful and sheepish? Or is he actually having very deliberate fun with the line - a nod and a wink to us about his own toupee use. Another look at that specific moment:

We can't help but feel that Bill Shatner's reaction is playing with the moment just a little.

Thankfully, "we don't wear wigs in Canada" only applies to the courtroom, otherwise we'd have a rather unique reason for the Canadian-born Bill Shatner's long-term residence in the United States - namely that he's been exiled from a nation which oppressively bans toupee-wearing!

Meanwhile, another episode entitled "Witches of Mass Destruction" features Bill Shatner with an artificial furry substance on top his head - on top of his toupee, naturally. It's a scalp, then toup, then air, then neck, then head, then fur combo. Toupology can get very confusing sometimes...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Loaded Weapon 1 - a toupological analysis (and a poll result).

Loaded Weapon 1 is a 1993 comedy movie pretty much done in the vain of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker (and writer Pat Proft) style of comedy best exemplified by 1980's Airplane! and 1988's The Naked Gun (though technically Weapon is of the National Lampoon ilk).

Whereas some of the movies that can be considered spin-offs from these two pieces of iconic cinema featured some combination of these four figures (such as 1991's Hot Shots! or 1998's Wrongfully Accused), in the case of Loaded Weapon 1, these individuals are nowhere to be found. Instead, others do their best to imitate a very particular style of humor.

Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun.

The movie stars Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson and is co-written (along with two other writers who never seemed to have worked on a motion picture again) and directed by Police Academy 3 and 4 writer Gene Quintano. Several notable figures makes cameos in the movie including Bruce Willis, Charlie Sheen (brother of Emilio), Whoopi Goldberg, F. Murray Abraham and James Doohan, alias Scotty from Star Trek. William Shatner co-stars as the villainous General Mortars.

The plot (such as there is one) goes as follows...

A trigger-happy, somewhat unstable narcotics agent Jack Colt (Estevez)... teamed up with his no-nonsense colleague Wes Luger (Jackson)...

...after Luger's partner (Goldberg) is killed by crooks seeking a microfilm in her possession that has the formula for turning cocaine into Wilderness Girl cookies.

The pair then travels to a secure mental institution to talk with Dr. Harold Leacher (Abraham) who informs them that the case involves one General Mortars (Shatner), who happened to be Colt's commanding officer during the Vietnam War.

Jackson is unconvinced, while Colt still bears the scars of losing his dog.

Meanwhile, General Mortars and his goons are trying their hardest to recover the microfilm and carry out their plot of spreading cocaine via the cookies.

The cop duo continue their hunt for Mortars... Colt falls for the head of the Wilderness Girls...

Is she a villain too or will she help the cops?

A showdown is guaranteed with Mortars holed up in the cookie factory.

All the while...

...numerous parodies, "jokes" and "laughs" continue throughout.

So what to make of all of this? Oh, dear...! The plot could not be any more wafer-thin, containing about as many twists and turns as a well-built Roman road. The role of the missing microfilm, which is apparently needed to make the cookies - or is it? - or what the hell is going on? - is just one example of the story's shoddy, ultra-light construction.

The performances, in particular Emilio Estevez, are pretty dreadful and entirely ill-suited to the kind of earnestly silly and stupidly sophisticated tone required to pull off this kind of humor.

But far more importantly, this movie just isn't funny. Most of the jokes are of the roll-your-eyes variety rather than of the laugh-out-loud kind. The fault lies with an uninspired script and an atrociously poor sense of comic timing from director Quintano, who telegraphs and under-paces even potentially funny humor, pauses and all, to the point of tedium.

From the legendary 1982 TV series Police Squad! to the disastrous An American Carol (2008), which essentially served as a nail in the coffin for this particular sub-genre of comedy, one can find both amusing hits (such as the Naked Gun sequels) and complete disasters. Loaded Weapon 1 contains a couple of laughs, with those spotting the various film parodies likely to be a little more amused, but all in all, this movie definitely ranks in the "complete disasters" category.

The various celebrities who have cameos in Loaded Weapon 1 just end up looking like C-listers in need of a career lift or some money - they just seem cheapened...

"Why the hell am I in this movie?!"

...and even humiliated:

Career wise, for Bill Shatner too the mid-90s were something of a "Lost Years 2"; but Shatnerologists will know that the actor has rarely, if ever, been averse to partaking in a bad movie!

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

While as a movie, Loaded Weapon 1 pretty much lacks any merit, as a toupological case study, the reverse is very much the case. What we have here is a pretty remarkable case of an outlier toupee; a "Denny Katz" years before that style was fully adopted.

In 1992, Bill Shatner's hair looked like this:

In 1994, it still was fully in the "TJ Curly" mold (although perhaps from here on in, the subtle straightening that would ultimately morph into the "Denny" began):

Thus, 1993 brought us a definite outlier - shorter, straighter and less thick:

Why? Did the producers do the unthinkable and suggest different hair for the role? Or did Bill Shatner, perhaps sensing the weakness of the script, decide it was crucial for his hair to try and save this movie?

Did this bring about Bill Shatner's first meeting with Ed Katz?

But there's more yet.

Not only does the movie contain a new hairstyle, but it also features wet hair, hair fanning and even hair combing!

It's all pretty astonishing to see...

...and helps to turn an otherwise forgettable movie into an unforgettable one!

Loaded Weapon 1 is available on DVD. Worth watching only for Bill Shatner's hair.

Finally, to our very next full toupological analysis. We really had no idea beforehand which Star Trek movie you would favor. But in the end, you spoke clearly and decisively (52%). It will be Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Thanks for voting and our team is beginning its work!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The TJ toup takedown.

A reader recently brought to our attention a third season episode of TJ Hooker called "The Lipstick Killer" noting that a wig removal scene was contained therein. We were compelled to investigate!

The plot involves a murderer who is dressing up as a female nurse (including wearing a wig). This aspect features prominently in the episode as TJ Hooker deduces that the killer may be a man dressed up as a woman:

At the end of the episode comes a showdown between TJ and the bad guy in which the police sergeant tears off the bad guy's fake hair:

To our knowledge, the episode's director Sigmund Neufeld Jr. has never spoken publicly about the toupological aspects of this episode. But if he had, here's what we think he might have said:

"This town ain't big enough for two wigs!"

"When Bill Shatner first got his copy of this script and realized that the episode would be dealing with fake hair, he immediately called the production staff to his home for a meeting. 'Hair is something I know about,' he said 'And I want to help make this episode as believable as possible.' Bill then went through the script line by line and was extremely helpful, telling us 'artificial hair wouldn't behave like that' or 'here in this scene, you need to make sure that wig is lit from behind because wigs have different spectral properties' and those sorts of things. He took the whole thing very, very seriously and turned out to be immensely helpful."

And what of the wig pulling scene?

"Originally, we were planning to use a stuntman for that shot, as pulling off someone's wig can be risky and should only be done by professionals. But Bill insisted that he could do it, so we finally relented. What he ultimately did was amazing. Right away you could tell that this was a guy that had great experience with and even love for artificial hair. The way he pulled the hair off in that shot - gripping it in just the right place; a firm deliberate yank - even some of the best stuntmen in the world couldn't have done it that well. It was really an amazing experience and one I'll never forget."

Curiously, the scene ends with Bill Shatner holding the bad guy's wig (in his right hand).

In the very next scene, Bill Shatner is looking a little sheepish and the wig is nowhere to be found!

A souvenir for TJ Hooker? Or more than that...? We'll probably never know.

UPDATE: Thanks to tips supplied by our readers, we have another example for you of TJ Hooker tearing off someone's wig. This time, it's from the fourth season episode "Target: Hooker". What's really remarkable about this sequence, in which Hooker tears off the wig of a male Marilyn Monroe impersonator, is just how similar it is to "The Lipstick Killer" wig tear moment:

The editing is a little different, holding for a few frames more on Bill Shatner as he performs the stunt.

But the way the artificial hair is torn off is almost identical.

So why was such a moment repeated on TJ Hooker within the space of a year? Was it the volume of fan mail that came in after "The Lipstick Killer" applauding any moments in which Bill Shatner overtly interacts with hair?

Or was it Bill Shatner himself demanding more toup-pulling scenes? To distract from his own hair? Or, conversely, to make subtle hints at it? Perhaps the suggestion is that you don't wear fake hair if you have enough real hair of your own! So many questions...

As a toupological bonus, "Target: Hooker" also contains this:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Captains and hearing "hairpiece".

What do a 1971 appearance by Bill Shatner on The Mike Douglas Show and the new 2011 documentary The Captains have in common? Both feature examples of Bill Shatner reacting to the word "hairpiece". Yet in both instances, the word is spoken by another party about another party - nothing directly to do with Bill Shatner at all. But the reactions, forty years apart, are still highly revealing.

In the first example, an interview with Mike Douglas is interrupted by a woman in the audience who has apparently lost her hairpiece.

"A lady lost her hairpiece," Mike Douglas tells Bill Shatner.

"Well, somebody find it. It may be kicking around down there. Then again it may be the lady," responds Bill Shatner somewhat awkwardly.

Where's that hairpiece?

Could we have expected more? Might Bill Shatner have shared some of his own tips for finding a lost hairpiece? Might the whole thing have descended into farce as Bill Shatner took off his own piece, threw it towards the woman and said "Here, borrow mine!"? In another universe perhaps, but not this one...

The toupee - note the back - is very much of its time.

The next example comes from Bill Shatner's new film The Captains, which many of you will no doubt have heard about (and hopefully seen). Basically, it's a feature-length documentary in which Bill Shatner talks to the actors that have also played captains (Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine) in the Star Trek franchise - more on that in a moment.

As part of his interviews, Bill Shatner also talks to fellow thespian Christopher Plummer, who played the scenery-chewing Klingon Chang in 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Plummer recalls how he insisted on forgoing the typical Klingon wig:

"I played...I think the only Klingon who didn't have a hairpiece..." Plummer tells his interviewer and former understudy.

So how do Bill Shatner's reactions differ between 1971 and 2011? The early 1970s were a "very tough time," recalls Bill Shatner in Up Till Now, even going so far as to say that "one of the few positive memories" he had of this era, asides from meeting his second wife Marcy, was that he began to work with horses.

"Take my toupee. No, please - take my toupee!"

A longer segment from the Mike Douglas interview, which recently appeared on YouTube, appears to underscore this state of mind. The interview is full of awkward, uncomfortable attempts at humor from Bill Shatner - the kind of jokes you make when deep down, you're not feeling that great at all.

Flash forward to 2011.

At first, Bill Shatner is momentarily shocked at that word.

But a split second later, he laughs.

Evidently, the Bill Shatner of 2011 is far more comfortable with himself and the use of the word "hairpiece". And in a sense, that is partially what The Captains is about. A man who has worn a toupee throughout his entire life is reaching out to others similar to him (Trek captains) to probe for their complexities, their stories, their hopes and pains (and maybe even secrets).

Bill Shatner hugs the bald Patrick Stewart.

In the end, The Captains ends up being not just an entertaining but often even a very moving film. If we wanted to be a little snarky, we could say "William Shatner finally directs a decent movie!" - but it's actually kind of true!

The next Star Trek captain, Avery Brooks, deliberately became bald by shaving his head.

Even the poster features Bill Shatner under an artificial lid with flaps down the side:

The movie also features a couple of rare toupologically interesting images, for example this very early "Jim Kirk lace" circa 1959 (we're not sure what from):

We also received more than one message from our readers noting seeming changes in hair thickness throughout this movie. That's something, of course, that adds another layer of interest to The Captains.

The "Denny Katz" itself appears to be something of a framework. It can be worn by itself, but it can also be upgraded in various ways - tinted, thickened etc. A canvas which enables Bill Shatner the toupological artist to experiment and attune his hair to the moment...

The above recent picture perhaps best illustrates the fluidity of this particular toup. Elements of the "TJ" - the thickness; elements of the "JK lace" - the parting - it's all there, a fusion of three different toupee styles as Bill Shatner looks back with satisfaction over a long life.

And in this above picture, Bill Shatner is underscoring some of the new-found emotional and spiritual discoveries made throughout the movie - "It's my toupee, and if today I want it to be blonde, then so what?!" The joy of this undoubtedly successful movie experience (The Captains is well worth watching) is evident not just on his face, but also on his toupee! As Captain Kirk said at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan "I feel young!"

"Beam me up, Scotty - but not just yet!"