Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New early "Jim Kirk lace" image.

Not long ago, we undertook a full toupological analysis of a 1958 episode of the TV show Suspicion called "The Protégé". We had to rely on a pretty poor-quality copy, but nonetheless still found that this was very likely one of the earliest on-screen examples of Bill Shatner touping-up with a "Jim Kirk lace".

Now, thanks to a recent LA Times article covering Bill Shatner, we have a new and far clearer image from this episode. And its one that displays the "Jim Kirk lace" with considerably more clarity.

William Shatner with actress Phyllis Love in 1958.

The contours of the hair are pretty much identical to the "Jim Kirk" style (doesn't Bill Shatner look like a skinny Capt. Kirk?), which the actor wore right until the end of Star Trek in 1969. Although at the back, we can see that the toup "lid" isn't quite fully integrated into Bill Shatner's real hair as it should be. Early days...

At this point, we're pretty confident that Bill Shatner still had enough of his own hair to create a kind of heavily-sprayed shell.

The toup-less heavily-sprayed "shell" option from 1957.

But with each passing day, the thinning was getting more intense, particularly at the back, as noted by this 1957 press report stating "[William Shatner] had already ordered a toupee to camouflage a thinning spot in the cinnamon hair."

What we believe to be the last toup-less picture of Bill Shatner available to the public comes from a 1960 behind-the-scenes image of the making of "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?". More on that here.

Bill Shatner, likely toup-less in 1960 - or is it 1959? (see update below).

Anyway, the new LA Times image is a very welcome addition to our archives. Here's hoping more recordings (and pictures) of Bill Shatner's 1950s TV work surface!

UPDATE: The above image may actually be from a 1959 TV show called "Tactic". See the NBC archives here. Thanks to reader Tintorera for the clarification.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Poll result and a special session of the WSSTS General Assembly.

Our most recent poll sought to gauge our readers' views on whether Bill Shatner's toupee-wearing was primarily for the actor's own self-image or for the image he wishes to convey to us, the general public (of someone who has hair).

44% said that the key thing was for Bill Shatner to see hair on his own head when he looks in the mirror (to feel young and vital). 55% said that the most important thing for Bill Shatner was for the public to see hair on his head (to see an actor with a full head of hair). A question arises: If there were no public - for example, if the actor was stuck on a desert island with a box of toupees - would Bill Shatner still bother?

Thanks for voting!

The WSSTS General Assembly building. Notice the "bald dome" ceiling design; though not visible in this image, the dome is covered from above by a giant replica toupee.

Now, during this week, the various department heads and key specialists at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies went into an extraordinary session in the WSSTS General Assembly building (pictured above). Several days of fierce debate followed and yielded some fascinating observations. Why?

One of our toupologists flagged a clip of Bill Shatner's 1994 guest appearance in the short-lived sci-fi series seaQuest DSV. The episode in question is called "Hide and Seek" and a clip was recently uploaded to YouTube by user and devoted Bill Shatner clip collector "Zainin6662".

Let's first take a break with this brief and amusing snippet from the episode:


According to Wikipedia's summary, in "Hide and Seek" Bill Shatner plays "...ousted dictator and escaped UEO prisoner Milos Tezlov, who wants ... dolphins to train for militaristic purposes. However, when [Stephanie Beacham's character] notices Tezlov's autistic son Caesar taking an extreme liking to dolphins, she forges a deal for her release, granting Tezlov passage aboard the seaQuest."

Not really worth dwelling too much on a plot in which an ousted dictator goes by the name of Milos Tezlov!

seaQuest DSV
was one of a spate of mid-90s sci-fi shows that came in the wake of the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most suffered from terminal blandness, endless meddling by network and studio "suits" and were largely forgotten soon after they were cancelled. Some, like Sliders, lasted five seasons; others, like the insufferably awful seaQuest, three...

But let's turn to the clip that caused such excitement at the WSSTS:

Bill Shatner has three daughters (Leslie, Lisabeth and Melanie) by his first wife Gloria. And although they were all born bald...

...because they were female, they all soon grew thick and resplendent heads of hair. Thus, the actor never had to face the potential pain of seeing his baldness gene affecting a male heir.

But in this episode of seaQuest, Bill Shatner evidently managed to move past the risible dialogue and (perhaps in an effort to save the episode) channel some profound personal emotions related to the above.

"My son," says the actor sounding like Marlon Brando's Jor-El. "What if?" Bill Shatner appears to be thinking, pouring himself into this otherwise flat character. "What if I had a son?" Let's examine the first part of the on-screen moment again and then look at the rest in slow-motion:

"My son. My heir. My heir and my curse," the character says. But the first "heir" sounds more like "hair". "My son. My hair," Bill Shatner appears to reflect wistfully. The meaning is clear. There is both a blessing and a curse here. The latter is the baldness gene; will his son suffer as he did? The character slowly sighs, the pain welling up inside his soul into a powerful on-screen crescendo that reflects both despair but also hope. "My curse..." Bill Shatner will bequeath his son not only the curse of baldness, but also the potential power of the toupee. It's a complex and potentially volatile mix.

"You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son."

As Bill Shatner delivers these incredibly emotional, personal and heartfelt words, his hand moves gently to his fictional son's hair (brown and curly, much like the actor's own hair would have been at that age).

He strokes it lovingly, but then pulls at it. Perhaps to see if it is still strong. Or are there already terrifying signs that it is growing weak and thin? Or perhaps it is also a moment of jealousy. "Dammit, I wish I still had this! Does it come off? Can I have it?" The sheer volume of subtext that can be inferred here is truly overwhelming.

What emerges is one of the most complex, multi-layered and profoundly moving performances ever committed to the screen in the history of both cinema and television. Bill Shatner managed to mine aspects of himself, delving deep into the darker parts of his psyche to create an electric moment of television that may well be studied for decades, if not centuries. It's a shame that Bill Shatner himself speaks not of the toupee, for his thoughts on how he, as an actor, prepared himself for this gruelingly personal scene would be as priceless as hearing from Shakespeare how he wrote Hamlet. But that is not to be...

And that is why the WSSTS convened a Special Session. There was so much to discuss about this moment and so many at the School who felt that it so perfectly encapsulated the essence of what makes toupology such a stimulating and rewarding field of study! And we didn't even get to the mustache!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"De, don't die! But if you die - give me your hair!"

Our tireless Internet research team recently stumbled across a DeForest Kelley fan site, which contained some rather remarkable and moving Bill Shatner toupologically-related passages. After a little extra research, we managed to confirm their authenticity and also identify their source: the biography From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy.

First, a few steps back... As hard as it is to believe, DeForest Kelley, alias Dr. "Bones" McCoy from Star Trek, hasn't been with us since June 11th 1999, when the actor passed away aged 79 after complications related to stomach cancer.

Even ardent fans of Bill Shatner will admit that because of his complex and extravagant personality, you'll find plenty of people out there who aren't particularly fond of the guy. DeForest Kelley was the opposite. Contented, mild-mannered, totally un-celeb, a gentleman - there really may not be a person on this planet who has ever had a really bad word to say about him.

So what kind of a relationship did this vastly contrasting pair of actors have?

De Kelley and his turtle (image sourced here).

Judging from the wealth of mostly Trek-related behind-the-scenes materials out there, we'd guess that Bill Shatner and DeForest Kelley weren't close in a Nimoy-Shatner brotherly kind of way (more like McCartney-Harrison than McCartney-Lennon). We suspect that deep down Bill Shatner was both puzzled by and also rather terrified of Kelley's internal contentment. For Bill Shatner, life is about running until that inexplicable terror known as death finally catches up with you - hence, you must never ever stop or even slow down.

How could De be so contented? Happily married for more than five decades to his wife Carolyn. Mostly retired at a relatively young age after a long career, asides from Star Trek, playing heavies in Westerns. Happily reciting his poetry at Star Trek conventions. As a commenter at one blog we stumbled across put it: "Save for smoking like a fiend he didn't do drugs, never trashed a hotel room or got caught with a 15 year-old Taiwanese hooker or with 3 pounds of uncut heroin in his suitcase or went into a rant condemning Zionists and taxidermists as the twin scourges of the Earth on an awards show, etc."

De Kelly and his dog (image sourced here). Click here for a Bill Shatner, De Kelley dog story.

Yet, for all of their vastly different approaches to life, we can't help but think that were De (pronounced dee) Kelley alive today, Bill Shatner and he would have developed a far deeper bond. As Bill Shatner has grown older, as some of his demons have eased and both toupological and marital stability have cemented themselves in his life, he may have found his relationship with his friend (they certainly were friends) deepening; the appeal of this wise old eternally unperturbed dude growing. And De would no doubt continue to be rather in awe of Bill Shatner's energy.

There's anecdotal evidence that the pair did grow closer in the final years of De Kelley's life, particularly as a result of the considerable time they spent together on 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (it's worth noting that Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy didn't really become close friends until the Trek movie years either; the original series was pretty much three years of hard work, followed by "adiós!"). The aforementioned book (also quoted at the De Kelley site) notes:

"During these nights [they shot all night long] Shatner and Kelley got to know each other better than they ever had...it seems however, that Shatner found out what it was with Kelley during those long nights and days of shooting. From then on, there was an undeniable devotion in Shatner's already high regard for his older brother."

Our team hasn't yet read the entire book, so we're not quite sure what is being referred to here. Perhaps an allusion to De Kelley's health...

Earlier in the book, Bill Shatner recalls meeting De Kelley for the first time back in 1966, and we get our first hair reference:

Shatner later recalled [on meeting De]..."I was an admirer of his work. I had seen him in several things. I always loved the way he looked. I wanted to look like him, with his hair combed that way and his lean build and his unique way of talking."

William Shatner and DeForest Kelley first shared screen time in the Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". Image via Trekcore.com.

For Bill Shatner to admire someone else's hair and to openly state it is a very rare occurrence indeed. Of course, the actor isn't revealing anything to those not in the know. But to the rest of us, the statement presents yet another toupological morsel to add to the overall puzzle. De Kelley was almost eleven years older than Bill Shatner, yet his hair was his own. It's no wonder Bill Shatner found this admirable!

The famous Trek triangle. Shatner-Nimoy-Kelley.

Atlanta, Georgia-born DeForest Kelley spent the last few months of his life in the Motion Picture and Television Fund hospital in Woodland Hills, California (not too far from his home in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles) progressively weakened by terminal cancer. From Sawdust to Stardust notes that during this time, an old friend came to visit:

"And after his death, Anja [Schilling, a German fan cited in the book] recalls [...] Bill said that he visited De at the hospital and told him, 'De, don't die! But if you die - give me your hair!' That's very typical for Bill. He hides his sorrow behind jokes. I learned to know Bill...to know him is as hard as to like him...Sometimes it's too difficult to get him. He's a man with a thousand faces. But we saw his sorrow, and we heard it through the jokes he made. And later when we got our autographs from him, we saw it in his eyes."'

A nervous toupee-related joke from Bill Shatner, and once again noteworthy for the actor's apparent decision to share it with a third person after the fact. But imagine the scene itself. Was Bill Shatner trying to use the energy that his toupee inspires to reinvigorate his dying friend? Did it work at least momentarily?

How did De respond? Perhaps he felt a little chilly and retorted "If it gets any colder in here, I'm gonna need your hair to use as a hat!" Maybe Bill, suddenly dead serious, looked his friend in the eyes and said "Of course...any time."

Although, come to think of it, the "Denny Katz" was born around the same time as De Kelley's passing. Might it really have been made of something that his friend donated to him?


In a 2002 post on his website marking the 3rd anniversary of DeForest Kelley's passing, Bill Shatner wrote of his final encounter with the actor (obviously no mention of the hair joke) and revealed a pretty cool-sounding idea De had expressed:

...I visited him when he was in the hospital shortly before he passed away. Instead of succumbing to fear and resignation, what he wanted most of all was to make a western with Leonard and me! It was on that note that I left him and he left us a few days later. I've never forgotten how his optimism spoke of his true character, even in the most difficult and awesome of moments.

I will miss Dee with all my heart. Star Trek will miss him and his family and friends will miss him. I know you will miss him, too.

Hear, hear!!