Friday, November 26, 2010

Bill Shatner: "Did you say 'To baldly go'?"

The Captain's Summit is a DVD/Blu-Ray extra made specially for the release of the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection. It features a 70-minute discussion between William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. Whoopi Goldberg serves as the moderator.

Many Trek-related subjects come up, including the issue of how the TNG cast felt about succeeding their illustrious predecessors. Discussing this issue, Patrick Stewart (alias Captain Jean-Luc Picard) suddenly mentions a joke made at him by his fourteen-year-old daughter: "To baldly go..." Bill Shatner can hardly believe his ears - "Did you say 'To baldly go'?":

Whoopi Goldberg then mutters something to Bill Shatner, which he evidently finds very amusing. Unfortunately, what she says is all but inaudible on the recording. Was it "Like you, Bill?" or "See, he should have worn a toup like you!"? Rest assured, our toupologists are working night and day trying to decipher Goldberg's comment - much like Gene Hackman's efforts in the classic 1974 movie The Conversation:

UPDATE: Reader "eldreth" has deduced that Whoopi Goldberg simply repeats the phrase "To baldly go".

A little later, Bill Shatner reveals - much to the shock of Stewart and Frakes - that he has never seen an episode of TNG. He doesn't watch TV at all, he explains. After some probing from Frakes, he adds that he particularly does not like watching himself on TV. Why?

The therapy group (it really feels like that) senses a momentous revelation could be forthcoming. "Because I don't like looking at my toupee," is what appears (at least we think so) to be on the group's mind, and possibly Bill Shatner's too. They urge their friend to unburden himself. Say it, Bill!

Bill Shatner struggles for a moment. It's on the tip of his tongue...but he isn't yet ready to do it - at least not on camera. He withdraws. His friends are all noticeably disappointed. It's over. A potentially highly cathartic moment has been lost:

The weight that could have been lifted from Bill Shatner's heart! Patrick Stewart of all people would know. He has been at ease with talk of his baldness for years - he likely wished that his friend Bill could come to feel the same way:

The entire conversation is, at present, up on YouTube, starting here. We really can't recommend watching this fascinating program enough. There's the group therapy aspect, the reflections on Star Trek, shadows of Bill Shatner's evident demons and the group's fascination with them, but mostly it's seeing a bunch of interesting individuals talking and often giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls (see below). The latter of these should certainly raise almost anyone's spirits:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Caption contest!

"Is that a toupee or are you just pleased to see me?"

What's going on in the above behind-the-scenes picture from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, sourced via Is it toupological shock or awe or both? Time for another reader's humorous caption contest, we think! As always, the winner "receives" a prize, which in this case "is" a rare 3D collector's map of the entire main WSSTS complex! Roast away - we look forward to reading your ideas!

On a side note, perhaps one of the most memorable things about the above Spock neck-pinch scene from ST:IV is the "I Hate You!" music playing on the punkster's "Boom box". Here's the complete song, which as noted in the YouTube clip, was actually written by the movie's associate producer Kirk Thatcher.

Why has this instantly memorable song never been covered properly? Perhaps by the band "Shatner's Hairpiece" (another pop-culture homage to William Shatner's toupee). By the way: Kirk and Thatcher - there's a hair association there too, one that can mess up your sub-conscious and lead to embarrassing moments like these (warning, this clip may make you cringe!):

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Poll result and some toupee wordplay.

The results are in from our latest poll, which sought to gauge your estimates on the total number of individual toupees that Bill Shatner has worn throughout his entire life. The largest number of respondents, 37% thought that it was between 100 and 500, while 18% thought it might be as high as between 5000 and 10,000. Thanks for voting!

Let's try to do a little math and see if we can't narrow it down a little: If we set 1957 as the first toupee-wearing year, then, up to and including 2010, we have a total of 53 years of hairpiece wearing from Bill Shatner.

The actor has worn many different styles throughout these years, some would have required more toupee replacements, others fewer (see here for a Star Trek memo on the "Jim Kirk lace"). The 70s evidently saw the toupees being replaced less often, in particular due to the poor state of Bill Shatner's finances at the time, while the "TJ Curly" went through many, many changes and replacements.

This being the case, an average estimate of around 4-8 individual toupees a year seems reasonable (excluding specific costume-style wigs worn for various programs like Barbary Coast).

4 x 1 x 53 = 212 (low estimate)

8 x 1 x 53 = 424 (high estimate)

Seems kinda low either way, doesn't it? Enough to fill up a room? Just for fun, if Bill Shatner had worn 10,000 toupees in those 53 years, he would have had to have purchased/worn a brand-new toupee every 1.93 days, according to our "Department of Toupological Calculations".

Lastly, we've also been looking into a relatively recent interview Bill Shatner did with Access Hollywood's Laura Saltman as part of the actor's publicity blitz for $#*t Mt Dad Says!

It's a particularly boisterous affair, with the subject revolving around how good Bill Shatner looks for 79 - something with which we certainly agree, toupee or no toupee. During the interview, Laura Saltman asks "How do you stay so wrinkle free - is it Botox? What are the William Shatner secrets?".

Bill Shatner then replies confidently "No, I don't do any of that stuff." Any of that stuff is quite a broad assertion if we take "that stuff" to mean external forms of self-improvement. Clever wordplay? Should he have said "I don't do any of that stuff if 'that stuff' is to be defined as self-improvement specifically related to the skin. If it's a broader definition then I can't make that claim and might have to consult my lawyers as to what exactly I can say because of my toupee-wearing."? Admittedly, such a statement might have adversely affected the rhythm of the interview, as would the sight of a team of lawyers suddenly rushing into shot and whispering into the actor's ear!

The full interview can be watched here or listen to the relevant segment below:

Click here for more Bill Shatner toupee wordplay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Intruder - a toupological analysis.

The Intruder is a movie filmed in 1961 by legendary renegade producer-director Roger Corman featuring William Shatner in his first ever feature-film role as a leading man.

The movie is set in the Deep South following the historic 1954 Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Board of Education) in which the Federal Government of the United States denied individual states (or at least tried to) the right to segregate their schools along racial lines.

Enter the racist, yet eminently charming demagogue Adam Cramer (William Shatner) into the fictitious small southern town of Caxton. Cramer has come from Washington D.C., sent by his organization, the also fictitious "Patrick Henry Society" (based on real-life anti-federalist Patrick Henry - echoes, no doubt, of the "John Birch Society") to see if he can't rouse the masses to oppose the legal ruling.

The white townsfolk of Caxton are overwhelmingly opposed to the recent Supreme Court ruling - but, they are also overwhelmingly resigned to the fact that their ignoble battle has been lost - the law is the law. The first black students have already enrolled in the local school and local life seems just about ready to enter a new integrated reality. But is the law the law? "Whose law?" asks Cramer - the clever subjectivization, planting seeds of division, has already begun. (Warning: clips contain racial epithets.)

Cramer rents a room in the town and sets about gauging and carefully stoking opinions in his role as a "social worker" seeking to correct one of the "greatest wrongs the government has ever perpetrated". Many of the townsfolk are simple, God-fearing folk, listening to fire and brimstone preachers on the radio and TV. Perfect fodder. A subtle, well thought-out campaign is initiated against them, including push-polling on the subject of racial integration. Tensions in the town begin to rise...

Cramer then enlists the support of the town's leading business figure Verne Shipman (Robert Emhardt).

It isn't long before violence erupts and the local black church is set ablaze - Cramer stands at the very heart of the Ku Klux Klan-style violence.

But, Adam Cramer is also very smart, doing all he can to publicly denounce violence, lest his movement lose credibility. "We're not a mob, we're a citizen's committee," he reminds his supporters. The black students finally march to school; Cramer rouses the town's citizens further:

A violent attack takes place against a white non-racist newspaper editor who came to the defense of a black man...

...while Cramer's efforts are doing little to actually prevent blacks from attending integrated schools.

So he hatches a more sinister plan: Seducing a young local girl...

Cramer persuades her to trick one of the newly enrolled black boys to come down into the school basement...

There, she suddenly screams out and falsely claims that the black student tried to rape her.

This whips the townsfolk up into an even greater fervor. "See? This is what happens when blacks are allowed to study with whites!" - is the reaction of the mob. There may even be an old-style lynching.

But, fortunately, not everyone is jumping aboard the Cramer bandwagon...

And that's where we'll leave the plot as we don't want to give away too much.

We thought this movie was outstanding and also one of the best, most meaningful roles that Bill Shatner has ever had. As we've observed here on several occasions, Bill Shatner, perhaps sourcing sub-conscious aspects of his own personality (including his toupee use), is remarkably engrossing when playing craven insanity. And that is what he plays here, although the role is more subtle, more insipid, more calculated than mere madness alone.

As Bill Shatner notes in his book Up Till Now, the actor was so enthralled by such a deliciously nasty role, that he took a percentage of any future profits (which ended up being essentially nothing) plus expenses instead of a salary, just so he could help make this controversial low-budget movie happen.

The Intruder was based on a novel of the same name by Charles Beaumont and according to Bill Shatner's book was shot in a mere three weeks on a shoestring budget of approximately eighty-thousand dollars. The actor also notes that The Intruder was shot in and around Charleston, Missouri, which isn't too far from neighboring Mississippi, Kentucky or Tennessee - this meant that performing certain incendiary scenes for The Intruder represented a genuine risk to the cast and crew. "...the town had found out what this movie was about and they were not happy about it. Really not happy," he writes.

The latest DVD release of this movie feature a video in which Bill Shatner, Raw Nerve-style, converses with Roger Corman about The Intruder.

Adam Cramer studies the "Denny" - or is it the "Denny Katz"? - from above.

In this discussion, Corman conveys just how difficult it was for him to finance this particular project despite already being a successful producer at the time. The subject matter proved to be too hot to handle for his usual backers - so he and his brother ended up re-mortgaging their homes to pay for the film. The troubles didn't end there. Distributors had the same fears and a major cinematic release never occurred. Sadly, The Intruder ultimately ended up being marketed as an exploitation B-movie (which it most definitely is not) under titles such as Shame or I Hate Your Guts! and finally just about broke even on its production costs. In the ensuing years since its release, The Intruder has, thankfully, gained many new fans.

It is also important to underscore that The Intruder is not a cheap shot movie about "bigoted redneck Southerners". Without giving too much away, there are other important voices inside the town that do not go the way of the mob. Some become convinced that Cramer's way is the wrong way, others are cynical from the start.

On the surface, The Intruder is a movie about the civil rights struggles of African-Americans. But the movie also succeeds as a powerful case study of the power of demagoguery. What exactly is demagoguery? The traditional definition is of a person who manipulates popular prejudices, misconceptions and fears for his or her own self-aggrandizement or to achieve a particular political, monetary or other goal. Imagine a trial in which a lawyer asks leading questions of a witness: "Hadn't you had enough of your husband's lies?" as opposed to "What was your opinion of your husband's conduct?" - that kind of language, often requiring potentially untrue assumptions to be taken as fact, and altered into the form of statements, is demagoguery. It is a true craft and is, to some degree, practiced by almost all politicians and public figures.

In the US, demagoguery specifically targeted at uneducated, white rural populations, as depicted in The Intruder, has arguably existed in one form or another for centuries. From the "snake oil salesmen" of the Wild West to the televangelists of the 20th century to today's fire and brimstone "preachers" such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and political populists such as Sarah Palin. All have something to sell, if not necessarily a commodity alone, often an entire belief system, and many potential buyers.

Glenn Beck

Adam Cramer feared that blacks, resentful over slavery, could take over the South, mongrelize the white race, carry out violent acts of revenge against whites, bring down the "superior" civilization etc., etc. Today's demagogues convince their followers of a conspiracy hatched in Kenya, implemented by ACORN, financed by George Soros, which can partially be resisted by buying gold from Goldline etc., etc... The manipulation of emotions; the promotion of beliefs over reason and knowledge; the calculated shift from the objective fact to the subjective belief ("Whose law?" asks Adam Cramer); the half-truths and innuendo and lots of UPPER CASE YELLING!!! are arguably all the same tricks as used by Cramer too.

Anyway, who'd have thought that William Shatner was such a major pioneer of socially conscious dramas? There's slavery and the responsibility of power in The Andersonville Trial, torture and the human will in The Tenth Level, war crimes in Judgment at Nuremberg and of course a myriad of themes addressed in Star Trek. And The Intruder isn't the only time Bill Shatner has played a bigot either - but we'll get to that in a future toupological analysis.

Let's move swiftly to the hair.

Bill Shatner wears his standard-for-the-time "Jim Kirk lace":

This being a movie and him being the star, the toupee really is perfectly presented at all times. The only deviation here from the norm is that the frontal swoosh is a little more restrained than usual.

There are Bill Shatner movies where the toupee gives hints about the character, others where it performs stunts, others yet where there is a notable cry for help, but here the toupee is very much in the background, albeit providing solid support throughout. It is perhaps because of this that there is a singular toupological moment in the film. A "real hair reflex", where Bill Shatner's character looks into the mirror and strokes his hair:

We may never know if Bill Shatner asked Roger Corman for this moment: "Roger, I've read the script and I'm a little worried that there isn't enough for my toupee to do. Do you think we could at least put in one scene where I sort of at least acknowledge it? It may sound funny, but my toup is kind of like a pal and it would really mean a lot to me if I could give it just this one on-screen moment."

"Sure, Bill. I noticed you two had a special thing going from the moment I met you."

The version of this movie known as Shame has since fallen into the public domain and can be watched online with a clear legal conscience, for example here. But we don't hesitate to recommend purchasing The Intruder and placing it in your permanent movie collection. A terrific, powerful and absorbing film of which Bill Shatner should rightly be very proud.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Toup Throat.

Many of you will have seen the classic 1976 Alan J. Pakula movie All the President's Men. Based on the book of the same name, the movie covers the investigations of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein into the Watergate burglary of 1972 and its connections with the then US president Richard Nixon.

In the movie, Woodward and Bernstein pursue numerous leads, search hundreds of sources, and gradually piece together a chain of events, which connects a simple hotel burglary to a cover-up instigated within the highest office in the country.

As part of his investigations, Bob Woodward had frequent meetings with a mysterious figure identified as "Deep Throat" (revealed in 2005 to be FBI associate director W. Mark Felt). "Follow the money..." is perhaps his most iconic phrase.

Much of the kind of work depicted in this movie mirrors the efforts of the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies - one of the world's foremost scientific and research institutions.

Which brings us to reader "tmk" - or "Toup Throat" as we have labeled him (or her). Before the days of the Internet, "Toup Throat" would possibly have met in person with one of the staff of the WSSTS, much in the style of All the President's Men. Today, the comments sections of Shatner's Toupee can serve a similar purpose (but unlike Woodward and "Deep Throat", we don't know who "Toup Throat" is - inside contacts or good detective work?).

On November 7th 2010 "Toup Throat" posted a message in one of our articles that, although speculative, appeared to at least suggest potential revelations akin to Watergate. He too had followed the money.

-The first claim made by "Toup Throat" was that Bill Shatner's toupee (the argument is that the post-2000 "Denny" is still a toup, albeit one not necessarily removed at night) is provided by a company called "Edward Katz Hair Design" based in California. We should note that this company writes on its website of its "many celebrity clients" that can be "perfectly confident on a set, even under the unrelenting glare of lights." It naturally also promises discretion to its clients.

-The second claim attempts to underscore the first: hair expert Edward Katz (a self-confessed sufferer of male pattern baldness) openly wears a toupee that is essentially identical to Bill Shatner's own "hair".

Sourced from the "Edward Katz Hair Design" website.

-For his third and final claim, "Toup Throat" offers some hard evidence, circumstantial, but evidence nonetheless. On the company's website, listed amongst Edward Katz's philanthropic efforts is a donation/donations to William Shatner's "Hollywood Charity Horseshow" (a show that raises money for "Ahead With Horses" - a charity which helps provide therapy, education and recreation to disabled children through the use of horses. The show also helps several other children's charities - please donate if you can here). What's the reason for this connection? How did Katz come to make such a donation? Via his friendship with Bill Shatner, which grew from the latter's toupological visits?

Screengrab from the aforementioned website - emphasis added to image by us.

-To this, we can add a fourth piece of - again entirely circumstantial - evidence: "Edward Katz Hair Design" is located in northern Los Angeles (marked with the red "A" label in the below image):

It is literally just a few minutes drive from a certain legendary celebrity toupee-wearer's home (which we haven't identified). Very convenient. A toupological fitting and tuning station just minutes from your home.

So what to make of all this?

Firstly, the above, though fascinating and highly plausible, is entirely speculative - were it a newspaper article, the editor would simply tell his reporters that they couldn't write a story asserting that this was Bill Shatner's toupee station because they lacked conclusive proof. Woodward and Bernstein's initial Watergate stories were constrained in the same way; their initial stories were about the affiliations of the burglars to the Republican Party and the CIA and a CREEP slush fund - the "big" conclusions would only come later. In this sense, a viable headline could read "Top Toup Maker Tied to Shatner Charity".

Bill Shatner in 2002 - was the beard a tribute to his new good friend Katz?

Secondly, do we really want to know? Despite the fact that Bill Shatner has never admitted it directly, the actor's toupee-wearing has become as legendary as the man himself. But does it help to know where he gets his toupees made? Doesn't that get a little to close to spoiling at least some of the magic and wonder associated with the toupee? It may well be that Bill Shatner's toupees (if that is indeed what is on his head) are made here, and while we've mentioned All the President's Men in this post, a scene from another movie comes to mind as perhaps being more appropriate. That scene is from the 1985 children's adventure movie The Goonies.

Transposing the story in the movie to our own search for information about Bill Shatner's toupee: Mikey and the other Goonies have just met Bill Shatner, bald in his secret toupee den, surrounded by hairpieces and a wealth of toupee-related information.

Mikey is overwhelmed not just by this treasure trove, but also by respect for his toupee-wearing hero, whom he calls Toupeed Billy.

While his friends are mesmerized by the value of the hoard of old laces, wigs, hairpieces etc., Mikey wants to make a symbolic tribute.

He believes that there are some things that must be left alone.

"Take all this toupological information," he tells the others, before pointing to a pot full of receipts paid by Bill Shatner to his hairstylist, "but not this - that's Billy's".

They agree, some things must be left alone...

Edward Katz could very well be Bill Shatner's own personal hair replacement guru (read a fascinating and detailed interview with Katz here - laces are mentioned, as is Jack Klugman). But the relationship between a hair artist and his client is like that of a priest and confessor, or therapist and patient. That being the case, unless Bill Shatner decides to talk (as Nixon did to Frost), we'll likely never know the truth and the bond of confidentiality will remain intact, just as it should - trying to breach that from the outside would, we think, be a step too far. "Everything else, but not that..." as Mikey said.

"Second star to the right, and straight on till morning..."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shatner's toupee in pop-culture: Garfield and Friends.

Garfield and Friends was a children's animated series that ran on US TV from 1988-1994. The second season's "Show 29" featured a segment called "Swine Trek", essentially a parody of Star Trek - the segment also contains some not-so-subtle lampooning of Bill Shatner's legendary toupee-wearing:

Orson Pig (the characters in this segment are from the "U.S. Acres" comic strip by Garfield creator Jim Davis) has a fever. Lying in bed, his spaced-out state leads him to have a dream...

...the barn becomes an Enterprise-like starship flying through space...

...the animated farm animals are now its crew.

The characters' respective new idiosyncrasies in this dream closely match those associated with the original Star Trek crew - we have a Spock (Sheldon), Uhura (Lanolin Sheep), McCoy (Wade Duck), Scotty (Bo Sheep), Sulu (Roy Rooster) and a Chekov (Booker). There's even some subtle jesting (see Galaxy Quest) about the lesser characters not being given enough to do.

Meanwhile, Orson Pig is the captain, modeled on Captain Kirk...modeled on William Shatner!

The parody is very much of the original 60s Star Trek-era styles - except for one thing: the captain's hair. Orson is wearing a very thick (and surprisingly accurate-looking) "TJ Curly" toupee (the kind that Bill Shatner wore during the period when this episode was made).

The episode has a considerable amount of fun with Orson's toupee. Virtually every movement that the character makes leads to it becoming momentarily dislodged - sometimes in dramatic fashion. It's a joke that many young viewers (particularly those unfamiliar with Bill Shatner or Star Trek) would likely have missed - to the rest of us, the joke is surely impossible to miss!

Indeed, the producers of Garfield and Friends also appear to demonstrate an understanding of the tremendous potential for knowledge that Bill Shatner's toupee-wearing represents: this particular toupological depiction helps to highlight the principle of weightlessness caused by free fall rather effectively.

In one sequence (pictured above and below), as Orson's body (and head) quickly falls to the ground as part of his sharp downward steps, the toupee is momentarily left in a state of weightlessness before gravity and atmospheric effects take over.

It is, in effect, a microcosm of the Vomit Comet effect (flaws in our science? - please let us know).

Here's an extended segment from the show:

Garfield and Friends is available to buy on DVD.

Our thanks to reader "Ratty Lost Years Piece" for the great tip. You can read his "first suspicions" story regarding this episode here.