Friday, December 19, 2014

The (not quite) Indestructible Mr. Gore


"The Indestructible Mr. Gore" is a first season episode of a short-lived 1959-60 television series called Sunday Showcase. Much like the far better known Studio One, it was an anthology series of teleplays (though it also included comedies and musicals), and often featured writing, acting and directing (including John Frankenheimer and Sidney Lumet) talents who would go on to achieve widespread fame and recognition. "The Indestructible Mr. Gore", broadcast in color, was written by celebrated American author Gore Vidal, who also appears in the episode as an on-screen narrator.

Fred Kaplan's eponymous biography Gore Vidal (available on Google books - see pages 467-468) notes that "The Indestructible Mr. Gore" was  "one of the last television dramas broadcast live..." It also adds that the program, screened on December 13, 1959 "deserved and received superb reviews".

(Click for larger view)

Asides from Vidal as narrator, the episode stars William Shatner, Inger Stevens and E.G. Marshall (who also acted alongside Bill Shatner in Vanished, 1971, and Disaster on the Coastliner, 1979). The story centers on Gore Vidal's real-life blind grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore, portrayed by William Shatner. According to IMDB:

 Senator Thomas Gore (source:Wikipedia)

"In the early 1890s, Thomas seeks employment in the office of a Texas judge. During the interview Thomas reveals that it is his life's ambition to become a United States Senator. He also informs Judge Wingate [Eg.G. Marshall] that he is completely blind."

On a side note: Thomas Gore would indeed overcome his blindness and serve as a US Senator from 1931-1937, chiefly under wheelchair-bound US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

William Shatner's portrayal of the blind but ambitious young Gore was called "outstanding" by The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, called the episode an "expertly handled hour", and lauded the performances of the three stars performing alongside Gore Vidal.


We wish we could offer our own review of this episode. But unfortunately the master tapes of this show were erased by NBC in 1973. Thus, it may have been wiped from existence. In the UK, this phenomenon has given rise to the name "Missing Believed Wiped". Basically, until as late as 1980, TV stations were wiping tapes of previously broadcast programs to free-up space. Reruns? VHS? DVD? Historical value? No-one seemed to give a hoot.

A brief detour: Perhaps the most publicized wiping and subsequent re-locating of lost elements surrounds the BBC's Doctor Who series. Dedicated fans have spent years tracking down episodes believed wiped by the BBC, locating copies in places as afar as Nigeria. This also led to some fascinating restoration technologies being utilised (ever heard of "chroma dots"?). But some episodes are still missing.

Even if, like us, you have no idea what Doctor Who is supposed to be about as a dramatic presentation, the story of how so many of its episodes were lost and then re-found is certainly worth looking at by anyone interested in film and television.

Meanwhile, the website has an extensive section on the television works of Gore Vidal. It features plenty of stories of similarly lost episodes and calls for readers to help track down potential kinescope (a film camera recording video footage off a TV) recordings that may or may not still exist somewhere. Its section on "The Indestructible Mr. Gore" notes:

"This is one of the most sought-after of all lost television programs [emphasis ours]. There MUST be copies around somewhere, and whoever has them probably doesn’t realize that they’re anything special.."

"That is what happened to the 2 inch color quad. There is the possibility, of course, that other 2 inch color quad copies, recorded by stations that wished to delay the broadcast, might still exist. The chances, though, are vanishingly small. It is more likely that a kinescope, probably b&w, would still survive somewhere...If you have any leads, any leads at all, on where this program might be located, please contact me IMMEDIATELY. It is of utmost importance that this program be found, rescued, restored, and released."

We contacted "rj" and confirm that he is still very much interested in tracking down this episode...

Fortunately for us, the story does not end there. Two images of "The Indestructible Mr. Gore" do survive - one of which we believe to be of major toupological interest.

The first, reprinted at rjbuffalo, is from a Variety TV listing of the broadcast (full image atop this post). Obviously, magazines cannot show pictures from live broadcasts that have not yet aired. So the image is possibly from a dress rehearsal or publicity shoot. It shows Bill Shatner very likely wearing his easily identifiable "Jim Kirk lace". (Note the lush and rounded, rather than v-shaped, hairline at the side of the forehead.)

By 1959, this toup was one the actor was, we believe, wearing full-time for TV broadcasts. The first hitherto identified usage is back in May 1958's Suspicion: "The Protégé".

William Shatner in "The Protégé" (1958)

But as we noted in our analysis of Kraft Mystery Theater: "The Man Who Didn't Fly", which aired later in July 1958, lengthening, clever combing and heavy spraying could still at this point yield a viable (from the standpoint of concealing thinning hair) toupless performance.

But to the keen observer, the clues that Bill Shatner's hair was rapidly thinning, in particular in the crown area and moving up towards the front of the head, were evident as far back as 1956:

Goodyear Television Playhouse:"All Summer Long" (1956)

And even more so by 1957:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents:"The Glass Eye" (1957)

All of which brings us to the second available photo of "The Indestructible Mr. Gore". We spotted a low resolution version on the rjbuffalo site, taken from a 1994 book written by Gore Vidal entitled Screening History. Our staff immediately set about locating a copy of the book and subjecting the photograph in question to the full range of our latest touposcopical equipment.

The conclusion reached by the Department of Toupological Determinations, and subsequently affirmed by the Toupological Review Board, was a startling one: this was Bill Shatner in 1959 without his toupee. That would date this picture as the last toupless image we have come across thus far. Previously, the last likely toupless picture we had was a mid-1959 rehearsal image from a TV series called Tactic.

(Bill Shatner rehearses Tactic. See here for more)

Before we get into the details of how the call was made, there is the question of why this photo differs from the first one, which is most certainly one in which Bill Shatner is touped-up. Obviously, we can't say for sure. Is it possible that Bill Shatner went toupless for the actual broadcast? It's possible (though given the actor's thinning hair, we suspect only external circumstances, like a damaged lace, would have forced such a decision upon Bill Shatner). The other, perhaps more viable option is that this is some kind of unofficial rehearsal picture. Unlike the first image, it is not necessarily intended for public release. We can only speculate...

But what is evident is that Bill Shatner's hair is very different between the two pictures. In the second image, the characteristic curve that follows the upper sides of the hairline is absent. Instead, we have not only a normal v-shaped recession, but also a line indicating a parting of the hair. Along the parting line, we see an area of Bill Shatner's scalp that is usually fully concealed (and certainly not visible if wearing a "Jim Kirk lace").

Overall, our team divided the image into four specific Areas of Toupological Interest (ATI). This yielded ATI 01, ATI 02, ATI 03, and ATI 04.These areas were then studied and compared with available images of Bill Shatner both touped-up and toupless. Staff recorded the following observations:

ATI 01 - this suggests long, thinning hair.

Side-parted and quite compressed - perhaps as a result of wearing a toupee on top or hair treated with hair oil or other product.

ATI 02 - (the area we discussed a little earlier).

Side-parting. V-shape. No rounded strands of "Jim Kirk lace" sprouting up from this area. Scalp visible, extending towards mid-section of head.

(Jim Kirk lace "rounded" side of hairline. Source: Trekcore.)

ATI 03 - observable thinning.

Hair of notably different density than that visible at the sides of Bill Shatner's head. Shortening effect at rear, thinning "comb-back" clump.

("All Summer Long". Note lightened, thinning "comb-back" at rear. Beyond is "missing" section - see ATI 04)

ATI 04 - characteristic "Jim Kirk lace" smooth curve of hair arching around back/crown of head absent. Something "missing".

The "Jim Kirk lace" creates a very particular smooth, curved look to the back of the head.

(images from Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961)

Conversely, later-stage toupless performances show this curve to have the "missing" area, in which the combed-down hair was not sufficient to maintain the fluidity of this arch.

It's a sort of "hen peck" effect. Something has been "gnawing" at the back, leaving an area of disruption.

A similar effect was observed in the "The Indestructible Mr. Gore" image. The rear area does not appear to follow the smooth, thick curve indicative of a "Jim Kirk lace". Something at the back is noticeably missing.

Thus, for the above reasons, as well as due to some more detailed sub-toupular readings detected by our touposcopes...

...the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies (WSSTS) "felt that enough evidence exists to conclude that the image in question is very likely one in which William Shatner is not wearing a toupee, or in the modern vernacular, is 'toupless'". The full 567-page report can be obtained by writing to the WSSTS.

Toupee delivery delight? Via Twitter.


  1. Great post. I do enjoy seeing the film industry and interesting vignettes of history through the swooshed prism of Shatner's hair.

    We are almost certainly looking at a rehearsal/blocking run. Being broadcast live, the camera movements and the lighting have to be choreographed in sync with the actors. Also note that Shatner and his wasp-waisted companion are wearing 1950s street clothes, rather than the turn-of-the-century attire necessary for this historical piece.

    The lighting is harshly bright and directly overhead, most unflattering to Bill's thin hair. Saying 'yes' to the lace toupee was the best move he ever made. He always looked great with the light JK lace on.

    Thanks again for the incisive article, hope it helps to bring a kinescope of this lost show to the surface.

    1. Terrific point about the 50s street clothes. Well spotted! -ST

    2. Glad to bring something positive to the blog. Always a great read, so much to ruminate on.

  2. Christmas has come early!
    This must mean the poor quality Judgement at Nuremberg rehearsal image was toupless, as it shows the same temple recession as here, but more severe

  3. Excellent find. Good resolution also. I vote this the best toupless photo yet! Excellent work researchers

  4. Excellent piece. Kudos to WSSTS! I agree that this is the best toupless picture of Shatner uncovered to date, which clearly demonstrates the level to which his hair receded in the late 1950s. In fact, based on the speed at which the hair loss was progressing, I think that the mock-up picture of what Shatner looked like without his toupee during the original Star Trek run (that Roger C. Carmel hairdue) was perhaps a bit too generous in amount of hair on Shatner's head. I posit that Shatner's dome looked more like that of John Fiedler than Roger C. Carmel.

  5. shats own real syrupDecember 24, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    As soon as I saw, that photo it looked toupless! There is absolutely no sign of a "cover up" and bill does look rather uncomfortable, without he thick toupee too cover as everyone can see is a balding head! The gap in his hair at the parting, is pretty big I would say close to an inch wide, at it's worse point! Great find, great post! Indeed everything we have come to expect from this great site! And a little more.

  6. I had a dream. Shatner went bankrupt due to unwise investments. He needed money and needed money fast. The roles werent coming in and his books werent selling. He needed money to pay for his lavish lifestyle fast. He asked friends for advice on how to make a quick buck. His wife who was desperate for money for new clothes and jewellery said you have an ace in the hole. Make a short film of you removing your touppee and demonstrating the procedure of putting it on again. Heres m two questions. Would the world be ready? and how much would you pay for this DVD?

    BillshatnersWig (my user name)

    1. Thanks for your comment. "BillshatnersWig" can be placed atop your posts (instead of "Anonymous") by selecting "Name/URL" in the "Reply as:" menu under the comment box and writing your user name into the box called "Name" (URL can be left empty).

      We do encourage this as multiple "Anonymous" comments can be confusing.

      Thanks! -ST

  7. More Shatner in 1959. It's an interview with Dick Clark. As you see, the toupee is already ready and set

    1. Good spot, Baldkirk365. I put a reply link for that one in the Suzie Wong Toupological Analysis post. It's a great little interview, Bill's so confident and hip.

      The early toupees seem to vacillate between a darker, more traditional 'leading man' shade and Shatner's cinnamon natural hair shade. Very noticeable in the 'Nick of Time' episode are bright highlights vented into the front.

      Perhaps this was an effort to remain flexible for different characterisation nuances, but as Bill becomes more established the Kirk lace settles into the familiar strawberry blonde swoosh.

      Another point, hair and makeup were constantly being adjusted for every different working medium- TV, film, colour, Black and white. The light levels were cranked so much higher than is needed nowadays (kleigs were used even on outdoor daytime filming!) that many actors with perfectly good hair found the need for extra coverage when working.

  8. ...dammit, I missed this blog. O, did I ever. :-)

  9. Amazing, truly inspiring work by the WSSTS. The toupless photo actually reminded me of the previously posted, possibly-toupless (but inconclusive) rehearsal photo from "Judgment at Nuremburg": The thinning patterns (albeit hard to see in the Nuremberg photo) may be mutually consistent.

  10. Is the bald patch that appears to be visible in this 1959 video actually just an illusion caused by light reflecting off a toupee?
    Id guess so, but it does appear quite consistent eg seems to be a fixed patch around 21 seconds, and again around 3:36. Infact, watching again, theres never not a light patch at the crown. Doesnt look bald enough at the front for 1959 though

    1. The shine is most probably from the styling product used- likely a pomade such as Royal Crown or Black & White Pluko. That's the greasy kid stuff Elvis used to use. In this instance, it flattens down the longer strands of the rear flatback section of the toupee to give the impression of a shorter, military cut. It holds very firm, creates a glossy shine and also makes hair seem darker. The shine is enhanced by the overhead studio lights. This is all very indistinct because of the low-fidelity kinescope recording we see.

  11. I'm new to the blog so please accept my belated commendations on your work.

    Has Shatner ever worked with Jeremy Piven? I'd be interested in a toupee comparison/ toupee off.

  12. That touposcope puts the Large Hadron Collider to shame....

  13. Thomas Jefferson CurlyJanuary 5, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    ****EXCULSIVE SCOOP!!****

    just received the new book of the making of Star Trek TMP - "Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek TMP" by Preston Neal Jones.

    the whole book is basically a series of interviews conducted during the making of the movie. it was supposed to be published in the film magazine Cinefantastique at the time of the movie but never did for some reason (maybe as it was abit too revealing?) and has been attempted to be published in book form several times since but not until now. Anyway on p122 make up artist Fred Phillips talks about his work on the movie - intriguingly he begins with talking about the decision to let the actors look themselves 10 years later despite the film being set only a couple of years after the series. apparently he and GR talked about using 'lifts' a common procedure in Hollywood at the time where sections of skin would be tied with a rubber band and hooked up on top the head or in back of the ears!! to make the actors appear younger and he even discussed it with Nimoy (now actors/actresses in Hollywood just have the frozen face botox procedures). Nimoys hair and ear procedure was talked about saying that they had to find another barber to cut his hair in the iconic Spock style as the usual barber they employed for the tv show was demanding too much money. also that Nimoys long hair at the start was obviously a wig.

    then he gets to Shatner - and we have an interesting description of how the decision to go with the TJ Curly 'hairstyle' (as its described in the book) was arrived by The Shat himself as he had a 'good feeling about that hair because he had worn it in other shows recently' and that it was oked by Gene Roddenberry despite Phillips (who had worked on the tv show) thinking shatner would be better with his original series hair (Jim Kirk lace), as it seemed to give shatner 'a stronger feeling.' Apparently the matter was discussed for days but shatner got his wish as Philips explains that the actor has to be comfortable with his makeup/appearance or the performance can suffer.

    FP goes on to then talk about Nichelle Nicols in a similar way saying she had also gone from the hair 'she wore in the series' to something more modern and that she wanted to have her natural afro that shed had in recent shows instead of TOS look (i.e. those straight hair wigs)

    anyway theres a ton of interesting stuff in this book and any self respecting Trek fan should own it as its like uncovering a lost TMP double issue of Cinefantastique only better

    (P.S. I guess this post ties in more with the 'But is it Jim...? ' article but wanted to post it on the newest article so people would see it)

  14. Thanks for the tip, TJC. Could you possibly please email us a scan of the page?

    For anyone interested in buying this book, it can be purchased here


  15. Toupee or not toupeeJanuary 16, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    What meticulous research, I doff my hat to you all.

    Why did his hair get darker as the years rolled by? It got noticeably darker in series 3 Star Trek and even darker thereafter with the lost years wigs! Did he have to dye his remaining real hair before placing said wigs? Seems a lot of trouble to go to. I think the cinnamon/sandy natural hair colour suited him best so why make the toupees glaringly obvious with a dramatic darker shade. Was he throwing everyone into confusion by expecting us to believe it was actually his own hair because he was able to dye it? Perhaps the toup team could ponder this mystery. What was going on in his head or should that be on his head, hee hee.

    1. Well, to be fair my own (real - but I would say that wouldn't I?) hair has got progressively darker over the years. It was white when I was a kid, still blond in my twenties and early thirties and is now more a medium brown (with a few grey bits, dammit).

      So that bit of it would be not especially unusual even if it were real.

  16. shats own real syrupJanuary 17, 2015 at 2:25 AM

    Shattoup blog! I was just reading something, that you may well like, to get on too! In an article in the huffpost entitled "William Shatner, why he's still going strong, most recently in escape from planet earth" he mentioned the word "wig" in connection to himself! I may have got that wrong, but hay even if that's half right, then wow! I honestly believe, that very very very slightly, on his own terms, he is getting, a bit less ratty about the toupee! I hope, you enjoy the article should you read it.

  17. with John Travoltas seemingly care less attitude to his wig wearing/non wig wearing I wonder if this might influence the shatner?

  18. Is this the closest will will get to seeing the extent of shatners baldness? Something tells me no. Considering how he spent his tenure on start trek not wearing his rug while not filming something tells me that one of the film crew or guest stars has a snap of a toupless shatner out there.

  19. but then why hasn't it surfaced? Fear of the wrath of shat?

  20. "but then why hasn't it surfaced? Fear of the wrath of shat?"

    Possibly. Also, if the pic is in someones private album at the home of a some guest actor or grip or someone since the sixties ,it's possible that the person is an older individual that isn't aware of the controversy of shats toup or isn't computer savy enough to leak one online.

    It reminds me of the pics you see online sometimes of sinatra sans toupee taken in the sixties that his daughter will post occasionally on the families website. not being aware that the public might be surprised at seeing him bald.

    1. Or maybe they just respect his privacy on it.

  21. if that the case then someone could be sitting on the proverbial holy grail and they don't even know it.

    Just imagine a clear Polaroid of a toupless Harry Mudd haired Shat in full TOS costume smiling/laughing away as it wasn't such a big deal/was more of an open secret on TOS set..

    Or what about a sneaky snap of Admiral Kirk TWOK Shatner sat in the make up chair in full uniform sans toup. dyed black curly hair in that Sir Patrick Stewart horseshoe pattern. The generous thick black TJ Curly slowly carefully being lowered by Fred Phillips ... about to be applied to the Norwood 7.. glistening under the powerful make up lights

  22. shats own real syrupJanuary 24, 2015 at 9:46 PM

    It was well known, that bill was wearing a cover up by the mid 60's. Well in certain circles, it was known anyway! I bet mr nimoy, has seen bill san toupee, on many occasions, and his never said anything nor would he on the subject unfortunately!

  23. ShatToup, I think we are all in dire need of a new toupological analysis. Of course, I would settle for another bombshell toupless pic any day.

    1. shats own real syrupFebruary 3, 2015 at 8:02 PM

      Absolutely, touperup! We need more. Shattoup, has done a grand old job, we now need more.

  24. Received this message from one of our labs: "TWOK FTA NFW" Any ideas? -ST

    1. NFW: "nearing final...?" um... ST has me stumped here.

      Maybe ST is warning us to brace for shocking revelations, or... promising an emotional wallop too hard to bear in public, thus NFW means "not for work" (the STB counterpart of "NSFW"): read in the safety of home.

      Regardless, posting this little teaser is mensch-ish. Anticipation is half the sweetness of the experience ...

    2. NFW = needs further work

    3. Oh. But it would be funny if “NFW” meant that the TPA is going to thrill or astonish us such that we become useless flesh bags and unfit for society (or work).

      Ideas for TWOK. As everyone knows the plot centers on a 15-year space rivalry and its origins were dramatized beautifully in Space Seed. The two rivals meet again with Kirk pensive and self-doubting and Khan changed from a cruel but rational authoritarian to a psychopath! Both have experienced life and grown (or regressed), but importantly, they bring to the renewed conflict a completely different makeup and styling crew! Khan's breeding for intelligence and productive follicles is of course very, very significant and relevant. But ST is already exploring all these contours and brilliantly... so I can’t exactly help

      Another thing to consider is the follicular status of the film crew and the changes since TMP and Space Seed. Nicholas Meyer's head seems to be covered with nice fur; James Horner looks balder than Jerry Goldsmith, but it is hard to see how that is relevant to Shatner. Maybe this observation helps: Merritt Buttrick's (R.I.P) hair looks real in TWOK, but he's sprouted a very conspicuous lace line by Search for Spock. So there is that bit of true-to-hair casting, even if Meyer didn't realize it at the time!

    4. Sorry I meant FTA not TPA.

  25. We can't wait . . . and TWOK of all things!

  26. One more amusing thing to ponder. I do not remember if this particular parallel was raised in the toup-on-toup entry, but this little anecdote is of inetrest:

    I wonder if Geoerge Takei would be willing to share a toupee story about Bill with the same level of directness.

  27. Has anyone here read These Are The Voyages, TOS, Season One (Volume 1) Paperback by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn? The first book is almost 700 pages. Might it contain any Kirk toupee info?

    1. I believe there is none in Volume 1. I will do a word search in Volumes 2 and 3, but I doubt it.

    2. I must admit I was wrong. There is, indeed, a reference to Shatner's hairpiece right at the beginning of Volume 2. In discussing the responsibilities held by Charles Washburn in Season 2, Cushman matter-of-factly mentions the times of day several cast members reported to the set, each depending on the amount of pre-shooting preparation that was required. Shatner was scheduled for 6:30 am, along with Nimoy (ears) and Nichols (make-up), for hairpiece application.

    3. This fellow deserves credit for re-creating the Shatner of TWOK.

    4. The feat would be even more impressive if he could faithfully recreate Shatner's TJ Curly, Phase 1.0, toupee from TWOK.

  28. Look, i struggle with transgender feelings, some time ago i had a dream where i was in a car co-piloted with Jesus pursuing Shatner, Shatner obviously represents my ego who wouldst bring me to self-destruction by effecting drastic - sinful - anatomical changes. Because i am bald/balding i would become as a transwoman - ego-corporeal Shatner-with-a-Toupe. Thanks for reading this very odd comment.

  29. Incidentally, i was brought to this website cross-referencing "principle of reflection" & appearance & God. Believing as i do that God is beyond appearance and the principle of reflection, what does man amount to, what does woman amount to, man or woman who is entranced by their own reflection is ignorant of his or her spiritual nature.

  30. I'd like to order a copy (if this isn't too late) of the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies (WSSTS) report. PDF is fine if you have it? There are people who read the Daily Mail (UK website) who are still commenting on his "marvellous, full head of hair at 85". If not the report, they could use a good read of this blog. Another question on "Star Trek Continues", the amazingly well-done new version of TOS : Is that a weave on Vic (can't pronounce his name even though I'm just typing it) Mignognagnugna's hair? Or has he had his hair done to look exactly like Shatner's TOS weave? Anyway, it's pretty damn close, along with his spot-on impersonation-without-parody.