It's April 1968 and the musical Hair has just opened on Broadway, underscoring a crucial component of the ever-growing hippie counter-culture movement of the time. Being with it wasn't just about politics, Vietnam, "Turn on, tune in and drop out", great music, expanding your consciousness etc. etc. - but many involved also viewed growing their hair long as a quintessential component of this anti-establishment movement - and that's what this musical sought to reflect.
Might a toupee have sufficed if the real thing was not in abundant supply? Who knows... But that's all besides the point. In 1968, Bill Shatner was evidently in no mood to Let the Sunshine In, feeling introspective rather than exuberant; morose rather than jovial. Star Trek was a flop, hanging on for dear life, and the idea that this series would one day be remembered as an unmistakable part of the Sixties, on the same lists along with the Beatles, the moon landing, Woodstock, RFK, MLK and all the rest of it would have seemed like so much pie in the sky had anyone suggested such a thing at the time.
Bill Shatner in character as Captain Kirk at a parade in South Carolina. More here.
And not only was Broadway housing such counter-cultural hair-related fodder, not only was Bill Shatner's starring show falling apart, not only was the archetypal leading man concept atrophying under such increasingly sterile and morally dubious titles as A Guide for the Married Man (New Hollywood would soon wash all of this away), but the actor's marriage to wife Gloria Rand was also all but over. Which brings us to a contemporary profile of Bill Shatner in a 1968 issue of TV Guide, via the good folks at "More Shat, Less Shame".
The piece (in the journalistic sense of the word) is characteristically upbeat about the star it is examining. There's the "Golden Boy" in the title as well as a flattering look at the actor's career.
But for Bill Shatner, "the dream [meaning the joy of stardom] was hollow". His father's death, the breakup of his marriage (played out in many a magazine of the time), and ongoing career struggles lead the actor to note "Out of a great deal of personal sadness, I feel I'm able to see behind people's masks." Perhaps the toupee is being subtly inferred here: a man with his own mask wishing to learn about others. (Did that desire culminate years later in Shatner's Raw Nerve?).
But if only that was the only toupological inference - subtle, nuanced... No, TV Guide underscores just how much times are a-changin'. Only two paragraphs into their profile we get something rather stunning: "At 37, and with only a tell-tale hairpiece marring his intergalactic Golden Boy image, Shatner doesn't look very different from the way he did in the early 1950's when he was labelled a theatrical Wunderkind."
So one of the most popular publications in America announces to the world that Bill Shatner wears a "tell-tale hairpiece". Yikes! What happened to the days when profiles were a little more respectful of concealing stars' foibles? What was happening to the world?
And what of the hair pictured in the similarly morose-looking photograph that accompanies the article? Is it one of the the little-seen personal "ratty-looking" toups? The lack of the characteristic "real" hairline suggests that it's not a "Jim Kirk lace". Could it be the toup from Perilous Voyage? Or is it really one of the actor's own? At this point, we just don't know...
But what the image perhaps suggests is that the new times were offering Bill Shatner more than just unwanted toupological TV Guide revelations after all - his real hair a little longer, and of course there's those rather bushy sideburns - he was about to get with it; the ashes of past defeat cast aside, he was about to become The Transformed Man and popular culture would never be the same again:
Now the 60's could really take off! Humanity was about to enter the Age of Touperius!