Friday, July 1, 2011

Get a Life!

Get a Life! is a 1999 autobiographical book written by William Shatner (with Chris Kreski). Unlike the author's Star Trek Memories or Up Till Now, this non-fiction scribe is not particularly well-known beyond the realms of die-hard Star Trek fans. The book's focus is the world of Star Trek fandom and it is peppered with numerous humorous and often moving anecdotes, written in the typical self-deprecatory and eminently readable William Shatner style (with Chris Kreski!!)

Many of you will know that the famous phrase refers to an infamous 1986 sketch on the satirical series Saturday Night Live, in which Bill Shatner poked fun at obsessive Trekkies and quite literally told them to "get a life!"

The premise was that it is possible to take Star Trek a little too seriously (some might say that this could also apply to those who study the extremely important and worthy subject of William Shatner's toupee, but our toupologists would certainly be as perplexed at that concept as Bill Shatner might be when outwardly trying comprehend why anyone might think he wears a toupee!).

Anyway, the next time you're walking down the street, try stopping a stranger and saying "Get a Life! may have coded mentions of the toupee!" That stranger will probably look at you like you're completely crazy. Why? Because the common wisdom that this stranger will probably have taken on-board is that mention of the toupee by William Shatner ("do I wear a toupee?") didn't happen until 2008's Up Till Now. But not so fast...

The following may be a perfect piece of trivia to impress friends with the next time you're at a party: Did you know that Get a Life! has a chapter called "The Pieces"?

While such a statement might well generate amazed and awe-filled looks from those around you (including from the aforementioned stranger), the truth is that rather than a detailed breakdown of Bill Shatner's various hairpieces, the chapter actually concerns a remarkably moving story about a Star Trek fan with multiple-personality disorder. But was it also a coded message to toupee fans?

There's more too:

Bill Shatner also tells a story in the book of how he put an artificial appliance over his head in order to conceal his natural appearance! Seriously? Seriously (see above picture)! But as with "The Pieces" chapter, one has to read between the lines. What we have on the surface is a story of Bill Shatner going undercover:

"Been to a convention over the course of the past year and a half? Been bothered by a squeaky-voiced, odd-looking attendee wearing a cheap, rubber, alien mask? ... I've got news for you. That annoying guy in the latex head was more than likely me."

Bill Shatner undercover (right).

The author then explains the details of a plan that would enable him to finally get a closer look at Star Trek's fans:

"I was dying to explore, but meandering about the convention floor without some sort of camouflage would simply be impossible. I thought about doing the whole baseball hat, fake mustache and sunglasses kind of thing, when it struck me that here, at a Star Trek convention, the subtlety of my disguise need not be an issue. With Still Putty Klingons to the right of me, sky-blue Andorians and aluminum-foil Borgs to the left, I was free to cover up however I might see fit. Large, silly alien heads, easy on, easy off made perfect sense, and so began my brand-new hobby of making brief, sporadic, unannounced convention appearances while hiding under a store-bought layer of Halloween latex."

The sheer toupological import of phrases such as "free to cover up", "easy on, easy off" and "hiding under a store-bought layer" coming from Bill Shatner is difficult to overstate. As the author then explains, he found a world of belonging via his undercover escapades in which issues such as dwarfism, disability and even mental illness proved no hindrance to acceptance in the unprejudiced and variegated world of Trek fandom.

Among Star Trek fans wearing all kinds of fake appliances and accepting every shape, size and species, a toupeed actor finally discovered what these Trekkies, that he had hitherto kept at arms length, were all about. Could Bill Shatner have gone incognito without his toupee instead? What are the cosmo-toupological implications of Bill Shatner wearing a mask on top of a toupee? And could Bill Shatner have tested this Trekkie tolerance by simply removing his toupee and the hell with it? Such questions are perhaps better left to scholars...

Up Till Now ends with the phrase "do I wear a toupee?". But, far more surprisingly, Get a Life! also ends with matters that could be seen as related to the toupee:

"And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on my rubber head, hit the nearest convention, and torment some Borgs. Maybe I'll see you there." (emphasis ours)

It may take centuries, perhaps millennia, for historians and the very best toupologists to interpret exactly what Bill Shatner has been trying to tell us about his toupee-wearing (between the lines) all these years. But what we can say is that in 1999, Bill Shatner evidently wasn't as ready to talk toup directly as he was in 2008 - hence the possible coded language.

The Weekly World News reports on the tomato juice skunk story (source).

But there's more yet. Bill Shatner also tells a story about being sprayed by a skunk and ending up in a gas station bathroom pouring tomato juice over himself (having heard that tomato juice is the ideal deodorant in such cases). "Ditching my pants, I poured the first few [bottles] right over my head." Toupee + tomato juice = ?

Finally, there's also a story of the actor taking his daughters and then wife Nerine to the Okavango River in Botswana, Africa. Spending the night in a hut, the tour guides warned the Shatners not to venture outside, lest they "be a midnight snack for a lion, or pack of hyenas." Later in the night, Bill and Nerine are awoken by the sound and strong smell of an elephant outside. What to do?

"...I made my way to the window and lifted a flap...One square foot of elephant covered it entirely. I moved down the side of the tent to then next window, opened it and was greeted by another square foot of elephant. I moved to the door now...unzipped it very slowly, very quietly, stuck my head outside, squinted in the darkness, and realized that I was standing between the elephant's hind legs."

Bill Shatner with his three daughters in Africa.

The author continues:

"My eyes widened. I opened my mouth to yell, but caught myself...just in time to hear the elephant bleat again...and crap on my head. I kid you not. Have you ever tried to remain 'still and quiet' while an enormous pachyderm evacuated its bowels on your head? I'm guessing 'no'. Let me tell you, it ain't easy. Imagine twenty gallons of mashed potatoes falling on your head at one time."

Nerine then wakes up and sees her husband "covered head to toe in Dumbo poop." Toupee + elephant poop = ?

A traditional hut in Botswana - is the toupee-like style what really drew Bill Shatner to this country?

Sadly, no mention of: "thankfully, my toupee was off at the time" or "thankfully, I had a spare toupee with me" or "thankfully, my toupee was easily cleanable and odor-resistant. I threw it in the Okavango river, and with a few rinses, it was good as new." Or perhaps the opposite: "For the next few days, I was forced to travel around with pieces of elephant shit stuck in my toupee. It wasn't pleasant." But maybe that's what the scholars and historians are for - to read between the lines. Oh, and by the way, Bill Shatner seems not to bear malice towards elephants since that incident!

And even more curious: Up Till Now tells the same elephant story, but without the poop!


  1. And such a terrible TJ Curly toup on the cover!

  2. Like the book, hate the cover. Same goes for "I'm Working On That."

  3. shats own real syrupJuly 1, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    so william shatner, walked around for a few days, wearing a poop-pee. Absolutely love the sound of that...they should have pooped on his albums, as there totally useless. Good actors dont, always make good singers...well we all know bill can not sing, he talks everything.

  4. "For the next few days, I was forced to travel around with pieces of elephant shit stuck in my toupee"

    hahahahahahaha, hahahahahahahahaha, hahahahaha

    ok, now that it's out of my system, wasn't that toupe he wore on that eppy of snl a good loking one for the 80's?

  5. No, even in the 80's it was a horrible hairpiece by anyone's standards. Kevin Nealon of SNL did have to resort to a toupee some years later, and his toups are OK. Maybe he learned from Shat's bad example.

  6. @shats own real syrup

    All art is quite useless. -- Oscar Wilde

  7. Just finished reading Up Till Now and he has similar stories in there of how he's on vacation, or swimming and/or rescuing somebody, and I always found myself wondering how his toup was doing in those situations.

  8. But it definitely holds up well in that recent documentary he did with the whale shark.

  9. shats own real syrupJuly 6, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    @tmk for many years now,actors who have toupees have done swimming in movies, you can go back to the 1960's and the old james bond movies, with sean connery, he did a number of shots with him swimming, and he always had a toup on, he started going bald even before bill did, he was only 21!

  10. off the general topic here but does anyone actually have real hair like Shatners toups? over the years ive tried a variety of his toup styles with my own hair. the JK lace style (which was my fave) with the lock hanging down, bit of gel through my teens...then as my hair was naturally curly i threw away the blow drier and went all TJ Curly real thick/helmet like..(i could pull off a trek VI no problem but when i REALLY went to work on it could occasionally pull off a Trek III helmet style with the ultra thick sides) also looking at some old photos of myself I seem to have unbeknownst to me then, adopted a ratty Lost Years style - all combed forward ultra thick wavy Ceaser style…(that’s about the time I wasn’t too interested in my hair…funnily enough several people at the time commented on how my hair looked ‘wig like‘)

    now as its thinning out abit i seem to have (reluctantly) gone all Denny Katz really does look like the Katz.

    i miss doing the JK lace and TJ curly though - one day i'll have a good transplant and be great again

  11. random suggestions for further threads on STB:

    -analysis of toup in each Trek movie (that hasnt been done yet right?)

    -Shatner/Chris Pine Toup/real Hair comparison

    -fun photoshops of TOS shatner with the various TJ Curlys and Movie Kirk with the JK lace etc


  12. @shats own real syrup - ya that's true, but in movies there are tons of people around to manage the toups if there are any problems...

    The Shat was down in Africa with his toup - if anything happened, he'd be stuck with no help! Reminds me of that Agassi story where his wig started to fall off in the shower the night before the 1990 French Open final.