Monday, July 19, 2010

"Put my hair over it!"

We've previously looked at one very overt mention of the toupee in Bill Shatner's autobiography Up Till Now, in which the actor ends his book by asking "Do I wear a toupee?". We've also looked at a far more oblique toupee inference in the book, in which Bill Shatner mentioned "my little makeup secrets".

Well, there is one more toupee-related mention in Up Till Now, in this case related to a stunt Bill Shatner performed during the 1980s that went slightly wrong:

"The most serious injury I've ever suffered doing a stunt took place when we were filming an episode of
T.J. Hooker in Hawaii. We were shooting a fight scene on the top of a hill overlooking, I believe, the North Shore and the Pacific Ocean. It was about a thousand-foot drop off the edge straight down into the ocean. Now, I admit it, I'm afraid of heights...I'm terrified I'm going to fall."

Bill Shatner continues:

"This scene had been carefully choreographed by our stunt coordinator. We'd rehearsed it several times: the villain and I are fighting on the top of this hill, he knocks me down, and I roll to the precipice, right to the edge, then he takes a sword-a sword!-and slashes at my head. His sword comes down just to the right of my head, I move my head to the left, then he slashes to my left and I move my head to the right. Right-left, right-left. Got that?"

The action rehearsed, it's time to finally shoot the scene:

"Now I have never been certain whether I was to blame or if it was the stuntman's fault. I went one way, he went the same way and he slashed me right in the forehead. I started bleeding. The stuntman was mortified. 'Oh jeez,' he said. 'We gotta get you to the hospital.'

'I'm not going anywhere. I'm never going to be able to get this close to the edge again. Just patch me up and let's get this done.'

'But there's a flap of skin...'

'I'm not moving. Push it back, tape it down, and put my hair over it.' They stopped the bleeding and wiped off the blood."
(emphasis ours)

There are a number of points that we can analyze here - the first being the decision to mention the hair at all. The story would still work without the hair mention and since it is a subject that Bill Shatner clearly does not enjoy people lingering on, the question arises: why mention it at all? Perhaps the answer lies in the actor's nature - he is a risk taker; he enjoys the thrill of the adrenaline rush, and what better way to peak a story than to add a sense of double jeopardy? Not only is Bill in danger, hurt, on the edge of a cliff - but now the toupee is brought into the mix too! Great storytelling!

Naturally, there was little chance that Bill Shatner was going to write "put my toupee over it", but the word "put" is interesting. Not "comb" but put. Perhaps subconsciously, Bill Shatner was revealing that his hair could be moved in ways that the hair of mere mortals could not be. It is detachable, flexible...

The phrase "my hair" we find to be entirely correct. It is his hair not because it is "of him" but rather because he paid for it! But more than anything else, it is the universality of the toup that comes through in the story. Not only does it cover mere baldness, but it also extends to covering wounds, perhaps even healing them. And during times of danger and injury, Bill Shatner turns to the toupee for an infusion of strength and resilience. Thus, it's not a glimpse of the actor's baldness that is revealed by this anecdote, but rather an extraordinary relationship to a toupee that truly provides Bill Shatner with universal coverage!


  1. lumpenproletariatJuly 19, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    There is a toupee malfunction where a large bald spot is present in this 1 minute scene from 1978 How the West Was Won (0.26 - 0.29)

  2. Ratty Lost Years PieceJuly 19, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    "...a toupee that truly provides Bill Shatner with universal coverage!"

    Such is the power of the T.J. Curly!

  3. I love that scene from the Star Trek movie (the one you picture - can't remember the number - the one with Sha Ka Ree, and Kirk says "I NEEED my pain") where Kirk is rock climbing. Possibly my favourite Shatner moment - and there are so many.

  4. @lumpenproletariat - I don't see the baldspot?

  5. The Enemy WithinJuly 20, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    I noticed a bald spot at the back of Shatner's head in the following Star Trek TOS blooper video, from 0:11 to 0:16 as Kirk rolls around on the floor with Janice Rand. Don't know if this was posted here before, but I just barely came upon it myself.


  6. not sure if this has been covered before on this site but its interesting urban legend : (from a recent post)

    "On a humorous note, some Trek V production trivia. When Shatner was filming a horse riding scene..maybe he was subbing for Lawrence Luckinbill in the opening the camera was rolling, the fierce winds were so strong that it blew off his toupee!!! The few crew that were around broke down and laughed but, reportedly, Shatner was so incensed that he fired them on the spot. I wish that scene made it to YouTube, but I suspect Shatner burned the print, himself."

  7. I think the "put my hair over it" line goes to show how far in denial he was over his toupee. Either that or it was a subtle device to reinforce the idea to hair change skeptics like Sarah that it was living grown hair

  8. On a side note, I always found it amusing in TJ Hooker that prostitutes were always called prostitutes, and the euphemism so freely employed in other cop shows was scrupulously avoided.

  9. imagine if Shats had never given up the Jim Kirk lace and hed worn it for the Trek movies and strange would it be to see Shatner stepping out of the shuttle in TMP - the audience gasping at seeing the familiar frosted blondey brown JK lace looking a million dollars in its triumpant silver screen debut?....or yelling "KHHHHAAAAANN!!" with a blow dried blonde quiff and a lock of hair falling down his pespiring forehead instead of that trembling angry black afro attached to his head...or the lace all tussled season 3 style in his mano e mano with Kruge at the end of III...or running about LA with that baton and thick strands of hair flowing in the wind in any given Hooker..

    i think the closest he came to anything that resemabled his Jim Kirk lace post TOS was in Trek VI where he had a curious hybrid of the (season 3) JT Lace (blondey/brown, parted over to his right) and the TJ (curly, thick)

    did we catch Bill in a nostaligic mood during the filming of that 25th anniversary movie? i think so!!

  10. Bloopers?
    How about this curly disaster?

  11. How did he climb the mountain in Star Trek V if he was afraid of heights?

    He told himself there was a golden toupee waiting for him at the top of that mountain.

  12. Wow, lots of tips! Thanks!

    @lumpenproletariat, that's an interesting shot - while we don't see a bald patch, we can definitely see the toup line.

    @The Enemy Within, our toupologists tell us that's likely just an overhead spotlight (sorry)!

    @anonymous (no. 1 - on that point, we've been trying to encourage (please!!!) users to write in usernames in the name/url section of the "comment as" tab to prevent numerous "anonymous" comments) thanks for that anecdote - we heard a similar story from STV from an inside source a while back who worked on the film. It's also featured in the Captain Quirk book - see here:

    Thanks everyone! -ST

  13. Does anyone recall this episode or watched it recently? I'm curious to know how well the recollection in his book matches up to what eventually aired on TV.

  14. As a child, I would watch reruns of TJ Hooker, Star Trek and Rescue 911, and I would always be perplexed by the variation of Shatner's hair. They don't teach you about toupees in elementary school. I think that's definitely a topic that should be covered. Pardon the pun.

    Great site!