Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Captains and hearing "hairpiece".

What do a 1971 appearance by Bill Shatner on The Mike Douglas Show and the new 2011 documentary The Captains have in common? Both feature examples of Bill Shatner reacting to the word "hairpiece". Yet in both instances, the word is spoken by another party about another party - nothing directly to do with Bill Shatner at all. But the reactions, forty years apart, are still highly revealing.

In the first example, an interview with Mike Douglas is interrupted by a woman in the audience who has apparently lost her hairpiece.

"A lady lost her hairpiece," Mike Douglas tells Bill Shatner.

"Well, somebody find it. It may be kicking around down there. Then again it may be the lady," responds Bill Shatner somewhat awkwardly.

Where's that hairpiece?

Could we have expected more? Might Bill Shatner have shared some of his own tips for finding a lost hairpiece? Might the whole thing have descended into farce as Bill Shatner took off his own piece, threw it towards the woman and said "Here, borrow mine!"? In another universe perhaps, but not this one...

The toupee - note the back - is very much of its time.

The next example comes from Bill Shatner's new film The Captains, which many of you will no doubt have heard about (and hopefully seen). Basically, it's a feature-length documentary in which Bill Shatner talks to the actors that have also played captains (Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine) in the Star Trek franchise - more on that in a moment.

As part of his interviews, Bill Shatner also talks to fellow thespian Christopher Plummer, who played the scenery-chewing Klingon Chang in 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Plummer recalls how he insisted on forgoing the typical Klingon wig:

"I played...I think the only Klingon who didn't have a hairpiece..." Plummer tells his interviewer and former understudy.

So how do Bill Shatner's reactions differ between 1971 and 2011? The early 1970s were a "very tough time," recalls Bill Shatner in Up Till Now, even going so far as to say that "one of the few positive memories" he had of this era, asides from meeting his second wife Marcy, was that he began to work with horses.

"Take my toupee. No, please - take my toupee!"

A longer segment from the Mike Douglas interview, which recently appeared on YouTube, appears to underscore this state of mind. The interview is full of awkward, uncomfortable attempts at humor from Bill Shatner - the kind of jokes you make when deep down, you're not feeling that great at all.

Flash forward to 2011.

At first, Bill Shatner is momentarily shocked at that word.

But a split second later, he laughs.

Evidently, the Bill Shatner of 2011 is far more comfortable with himself and the use of the word "hairpiece". And in a sense, that is partially what The Captains is about. A man who has worn a toupee throughout his entire life is reaching out to others similar to him (Trek captains) to probe for their complexities, their stories, their hopes and pains (and maybe even secrets).

Bill Shatner hugs the bald Patrick Stewart.

In the end, The Captains ends up being not just an entertaining but often even a very moving film. If we wanted to be a little snarky, we could say "William Shatner finally directs a decent movie!" - but it's actually kind of true!

The next Star Trek captain, Avery Brooks, deliberately became bald by shaving his head.

Even the poster features Bill Shatner under an artificial lid with flaps down the side:

The movie also features a couple of rare toupologically interesting images, for example this very early "Jim Kirk lace" circa 1959 (we're not sure what from):

We also received more than one message from our readers noting seeming changes in hair thickness throughout this movie. That's something, of course, that adds another layer of interest to The Captains.

The "Denny Katz" itself appears to be something of a framework. It can be worn by itself, but it can also be upgraded in various ways - tinted, thickened etc. A canvas which enables Bill Shatner the toupological artist to experiment and attune his hair to the moment...

The above recent picture perhaps best illustrates the fluidity of this particular toup. Elements of the "TJ" - the thickness; elements of the "JK lace" - the parting - it's all there, a fusion of three different toupee styles as Bill Shatner looks back with satisfaction over a long life.

And in this above picture, Bill Shatner is underscoring some of the new-found emotional and spiritual discoveries made throughout the movie - "It's my toupee, and if today I want it to be blonde, then so what?!" The joy of this undoubtedly successful movie experience (The Captains is well worth watching) is evident not just on his face, but also on his toupee! As Captain Kirk said at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan "I feel young!"

"Beam me up, Scotty - but not just yet!"


  1. Thanks for your comment, Lene. Our Department of Toupological Nomenclature has adopted the term "Denny Katz" as a fusion of Denny Crane and Ed Katz, the apparent man behind the most recent Bill Shatner toupee style. More on Katz here:


  2. Another fun post!

    Take a look over on the DVD Verdict Review site, where they put out a review on the Medical Center Season 1 DVD set recently released from Warner. To show how nice the remastered picture is, the author included a screencap of guest star Shatner, pointing out how it's easy to see the outline of his hairpiece.

    And it is! :o)

  3. Thanks R.A.M.'67 - some interesting things going on at the back there. For ease of finding, the related link is here. -ST

  4. James Brown!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And Bill's toupee, well never mind.

  5. Just One More ThingAugust 4, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    uncomfortable attempts at humor aside i think shatner came across very well in this interview. like the way he talked about why sci fi captures the imagination - talking about the mystrey of the future. (little did he know at that point his own future would be an a abundance of riches thanks to the Trek movies)

    he's looking quite good there. its a shame they didnt do another 2 seasons of TOS and see out the 5 year mission. they were fools to cancell when they did (1969 - the year of the moon landings!)

    thered have bound to have been a few more classic eps in the extra 50 or so theyd have made (even the lackluster season 3 managed a few) and maybe even a series finale...The Enterprise finally coming back to earth after its 5 year mission...Kirk gazing at it longingly from space dock...a last look at the enterprise...waiting for him to return...

  6. Thatch
    While make-up departments can create any look, wigs are still a hairy problem

    Referring to the TJ Curly: "Shatner's glistening, curly black thatch, which added a full two inches to his modest height, looked as if someone had painstakingly glued 2lbs of currants to his head."

    Now I can understand where that young man that tried for an impromptu interview with Shatner came to call him "Mr Thatcher".

  7. interesting photo here of shat on a beach. notice the possible real hair at the base above the ears.

  8. That long black toupee he wore in the early 70's was clearly his worst... Even with the poor quality of the clip it still looks extremely fake. I wonder how it looked in real life. I also wonder what everyone who saw him in real life was thinking.

  9. @ TMK: shatner was so off the Hollywood radar at that time, probably few people noticed or cared how he looked.

  10. TMK:

    Look at mike douglass's hair. In the 70's even real hair looked like toupee's!

  11. mike douglas DID wear a toupee. Do a google image search and you'll see. BTW, he could afford a better toupee as he was earning much more than Shatner at the time of this interview (1971).

  12. Well of course it does. that's why you're here!

  13. Speaking Shat's reaction to hearing the word "toupee", here is a link to a Match Game clip from 1974 where Shatner says how he would keep the toupee on the head: Who am I to disagree with the expert?

  14. That's Mr Thatcher to you, toupee boy.

  15. Thanks for your comments.

    We have been trying to encourage non Google-registered commenters to select the "Name/ URL" option in the "Comment as" tab and type in a username (anything at all). This eliminates multiple occurrences of the "Anonymous" tag and helps other commenters to know just who is saying what.

    Thanks! -ST

  16. @Touper-up - I think this blog may have done a post on that clip already. I find it quite a sad clip - poor Shat!

  17. @TMK @Touper-up we have indeed - here's the link. An awkward moment! Thanks! -ST

  18. Many thanks. I think that the words "not me" uttered by Shats were an instinctive reaction to hearing an unorthodox way of applying a sacred toup. As in: a nail? "not me" . . . I use "glue". And then came a cringe in a realization of what he has done. I sense a need for WSSTS to apply some additional toupological analysis. Set touposcopes on stun.