Thursday, March 29, 2012

To err is human...

An interesting set of photographs (sourced here and here) of Bill Shatner visiting the US Tennis Open with his then wife Marcy Lafferty in September 1987. Interesting because they show a rare noticeable flaw in the "TJ Curly" exposing an area of scalp that hitherto toupologists (and philosophers) have only dreamed of being able to see.

Perhaps one of the most common critiques of Bill Shatner's last three major toupee designs (the "Lost Years", "TJ Curly" and "Denny Katz") is that the very thickness and perfection of follicular distribution presented by Bill Shatner (the subject) negates the possibility that they can truly be taken as real by us (the objects).

This presents something of a inverse and even paradoxical relationship. The subject assumes that the degree to which the toupee is taken as being real is directly tied to its perceived perfection. While for the object, the converse is true - it is that very perfection and excessive thickness which actually detracts from the believability of the toupee.

So what happens when there's a flaw?

Again, an inverse and contradictory relationship appears to present itself. For the subject there is probably alarm and dread - the very imperfection of the toupee could lead to the illusion being shattered. But for the objects, the reverse is true. The presence of a visual flaw actually increases the believability factor - the hair ends up looking more, not less like real hair instead of a toupee.

As to what exactly went wrong here, it is difficult to say. Or might it have been deliberate? Our staff are currently studying the position of the Sun relative to Bill Shatner's seat on that day. Could the actor have been deliberately blinding one of the players by tilting down and reflecting the Sun off this smooth, hairless piece of deliberately exposed scalp? Note this section of a report on the play that took place on September 12th 1987:

"Mecir broke Wilander's service seven times. But the usually consistent Czech made an incomprehensible 69 unforced errors to just 17 by Wilander." [emphasis ours]

Artist's impression of Czechoslovakian (now Slovak) tennis player Miloslav Mecir blinded by an unknown reflection.

Clearly there is so much more to study here...

Bill Shatner - looking guilty?


Extreme close-up of the patch.

Two additional pictures of the same occasion via Getty (sourced here and here) show a rather famous celebrity - Johnny Carson - sitting to Bill Shatner's left. But perhaps more importantly, they appear to confirm that Bill Shatner's "hair" was indeed suffering from dampness on this day (perhaps sweat, perhaps rain...).

But do these images - showing the toup in a rare moment of excessive and prolonged public exertion - perhaps reveal even more? Notice what appears to be a real hair line at the sides covered by the toup:

Is the same "glue line" phenomenon perhaps visible at the top too (exacerbated by the damp conditions)?

As to the question of whether this is still a toup, we believe the styling of the hair at the top sides in the above image is pretty strong evidence that it is. We also examined Getty's previous April 1987 image of Bill Shatner and compared it with a subsequent image of Bill Shatner from Jan 1988. Both, we would argue, show very strong signs that the "TJ Curly" era continued pretty unabated here (with obvious room for some stylistic variations).

But we always try to be strictly scientific rather than dogmatic here and warmly embrace evidence that may suggest different conclusions...

Bill Shatner in January 1988.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"These are the voyages..." - a happy 81st birthday to Bill Shatner.

A very happy 81st birthday to Bill Shatner from all of us! On this illustrious occasion, the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies humbly publishes the following open letter:

March 22nd, 2012

To: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof and Paramount Pictures.

Subject: William Shatner honorary epilogue.

Dear Trek producers,

What if there was a way to honor William Shatner by having him make a very small but significant contribution to the new
Star Trek movie currently in production? What if that way presented no storytelling or logistical or financial headaches? Simply put: what if it was win-win all the way?

Here goes...

Why not give the iconic member of the Trek family the opportunity to once again record his famous "Space, the final frontier..." narration at the end of your movie? Remember how Leonard Nimoy got to read the famous narration at the end of The Wrath of Khan? Wait a minute, wasn't Spock dead? What did it mean? One thing, it turns out - it was a nice, touching moment...

On August 10, 1966, Bill Shatner was rushed off the set of
Star Trek and into a sound studio to record what would become an iconic coda for a franchise that still flourishes 45 years later. It only took two takes. Add some shots of stars, Alexander Courage's "ping...." and a legendary prologue to endless cosmic adventures was forever seared into the collective imagination.

"Space --- the final frontier. These are the voyages..."

Wouldn't it be a nice little tribute to Bill Shatner to have the actor come in and record that coda again for the very end of the new
Trek movie? What will it mean? How will it be explained? That's the beauty of it - as with TWOK it won't have to be. It will just be a very touching nod, a salute, a passing of batons, an awesome moment...

Surely that's a win-win...

William Shatner has reached 81 years of age full of strength and vigor in part thanks to an attitude of always enthusiastically and energetically saying "yes". In that spirit, we humbly offer the above suggestion.

Like the idea? Please feel free to link to or copy and paste the letter to your blogs and websites...



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Poll result and a roundup of other toup news...

Our most recent poll asked for your take on what goes through Bill Shatner's mind when he sees himself without his toupee. 6% said "That is the real me"; 15% suggested that he doesn't really emote on the matter at all; 31% said "That's not the real me" and 46%, the greatest number, suggested that he simply can't bear to look.

Thanks for voting! Now for a quick roundup of other toupee-related news:

We wanted to bring to our readers' attention a recent appearance by Bill Shatner on The Howard Stern Show, notable for two key reasons: firstly, Bill Shatner came on with his wife Elizabeth - a very rare occurrence indeed. Secondly, the level to which this married couple good-naturedly subjected themselves to some of the most intimate, explicit and incredibly personal questions was really something to behold.

Here's a video clip from the show's YouTube channel:

After listening to the Shatners answering an endless stream of questions about their sex lives, one can't help but think "This is OK, but the toupee is off limits?" How can that be? Perhaps offering the public more in this arena (the couple would certainly have known beforehand to expect such deeply intimate questions - that is, after all, what Howard Stern does) is a way to compensate for the lack of discourse on the toupee.

Or was this a subtle signal by Elizabeth to her husband that if he decides to open up about the toup, she will stand by her man? Is she perhaps even pushing behind-the-scenes for more disclosure?

The people must hear the truth about the toupee.

The entire audio is currently up on YouTube in three parts and we certainly recommend this fascinating and very funny exchange to our readers.

Next, the good folks at My Star Trek Scrapbook have posted an interesting snippet from a 1987 issue of the spoof magazine Cracked (which as of 2007 exists only as an on-line publication). Here's the crucial image...

Notice the detail of the toupee - the overlapping lace at the front is perfectly rendered. over to My Star Trek Scrapbook for more context.

And finally, a trailer for the 1974 William Shatner TV movie Indict and Convict recently appeared on YouTube:

This is a movie our staff (and other Bill Shatner fansites) have long sought to locate in order to conduct a thorough toupological analysis. The following quote from an IMDb user review may help to explain our enthusiasm for tracking down this particular title:

A lost classic? William Shatner in the 1974 TV movie Indict and Convict.

"Without divulging anymore than the title of the movie does, I can tell you this: ABSOLUTELY, SPECTACULAR, TOTALLY OVER THE TOP PERFORMANCE BY WILLIAM SHATNER. Completely out of control with his searching looks, pauses (extended) during dialogue, made every effort to steal every single scene in the move. (I wouldn't have respected him if he hadn't) But wait... there's MORE. He's wearing those Gow-Awful Choclote [sic] Brown double knit suits complete with matching vest, plaid collared shirt with no button down collars... but worst of all... It was the dreaded and feared 1970's Necktie."

Need we say more?

Image sourced here.

Add to all of the above, the movie also has a soundtrack scored by none other than Jerry Goldsmith - there's a clip of the score here ("Perhaps my #1 unreleased Goldsmith grail!" notes a commenter at Film Score Monthly's board).

If any of our readers can help us track down a copy, we would certainly be very grateful!

And that's it for this post!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" - a toupological analysis.

"Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" is a fifth season episode of the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This installment, broadcast in April 1960, is Bill Shatner's second appearance in the series, the first being the classic third season episode "The Glass Eye" in 1957.

Star Trek alumni Herschel Daugherty directs with William Shatner starring as John Crane, privileged mamma's boy. Our story begins with Crane attending a coroner's inquest, apparently the subject of a murder investigation.

Cue flashback: John's mother Claire (Jessie Royce Landis) is off to visit her daughter Alice to tend to sick grandchildren, while John is heading off to Vermont to indulge his photography hobby (his mother says she will join him there later).

Mother and son are evidently very close. Claire has even adapted part of the family home to create a separate apartment for her pampered son.

Up in Vermont, John meets an attractive young lady while buying film for his camera.

The pair then take a walk to a nice nearby waterfall and strike up a bond over their mutual experiences of loss. John suffered polio as a child and, as a result, walks with a limp. Lottie (Gia Scala) is an orphan from Germany and carries vivid childhood memories of WWII. "When my father died, he left us fairly well off" remarks John on his present-day sense of security. He then tells Lottie that his mother is coming to Vermont and that she will soon get to meet her.

But then John abruptly leaves: his mother always calls at 9pm!

In spite of Claire's ubiquitous presence in John's life, romance soon blossoms.

And it isn't long before marriage is on the cards.

But what will John's mother make of Lottie? And can John really fully tear away from his mother and devote his attentions to his future wife?

Claire (her son often refers to his mother by her first name) finally arrives in Vermont...

...and John, sure that his mother will love her future daughter-in-law, arranges for the three of them to have afternoon tea.

But Claire and Lotte have a chance meeting (unaware of each others' real respective identities) before this fateful event - and it doesn't go very well at all as Claire acts rather snobbishly toward the foreigner she sees before her in the store...

Oh, that was you! Oops! The formal introduction is ruined as the pair recognize each other. Lottie excuses herself.

Lottie and Claire are evidently not going to become fast friends. But can they ever learn to co-exist? Or should the happy couple simply wait for Claire to die before they can live in peace in the home John will inherit?

Or is there perhaps another, darker solution?

And that's where we'll leave it...

So what to make of all this?

Of course there's a major twist in this episode, which we won't reveal here. And the story is really set up with that as the climactic payoff. Judging from the 9.5 (out of 10) rating "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" received at, this is quite a popular episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. We don't disagree that it is good, but at only around twenty-five minutes long, it all feels more like an hors d'oeuvre than a main course. Kind of like a Columbo episode comprised of only the first act (the murder) or imagine Psycho ending after the shower scene!

What does it all mean? What are the implications and the emotional consequences of all that unfolds before us? A story under the Alfred Hitchcock banner about a voluptuous blonde and a man who has an unusual relationship with his mother. So much raw material there...

It's all good and fun to watch, with solid performances and fair direction. But the truncated length and the way the story is geared towards that one wow payoff doesn't really allow for a more developed and richer tale to be presented. Bill Shatner's other effort in this series, "The Glass Eye", had a twist too, but it also made better overall use of its brief running time to present an atmospheric, unsettling and ultimately far more rewarding drama than "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?", which never quite seems to escape the weight of presenting necessary exposition in order to instead make a forceful emotional or stylistic case to the viewer.

1957's "The Glass Eye" - a more effectively presented story.

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

As with other early 1960s Bill Shatner performances like "Nick of Time", there is a definite spring in the actor's step evident as the resplendence of the "fresh out of its wrapper" "Jim Kirk lace" is subtly shown off from every conceivable angle. The young actor happily tilts his head towards the camera in a manner that not long ago - struggling with sprays and combing techniques to conceal his thinning locks - was becoming increasingly impossible.

One can only imagine how Bill Shatner must have felt after saying "yes" (“It’s easy to say no...saying yes carries more danger to it. Saying yes is risky business — but how much richer my life has been because of it.” source) to this new toupee and, after having it fitted, realizing that a whole new chapter was opening up in his life...

As for toupological moments, there's really only one very subtle one: an interesting close-up of the rear of the toupee showing some carefully trimmed neck hair:

But the toupological import of these early sixties performances are far less about individual moments of toupologcal interest than they are about a wider symbolism. A new decade. A new, youthful toupee. And in America a new youthful president was about to be elected. Was JFK's Inaugural Address inspired by Bill Shatner's toupee-wearing?

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to hair and scalp alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of toupees—designed in this century, tempered by lace, disciplined by the hard and bitter pieces worn by others, proud of a since withering heritage of real hair—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of that follicular plenty to which this scalp has, until recently, always been privy, and to which I am re-committing today both at home and in public. Let every person know, whether they wish me well or ill, that I shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of my new toupee."

A toupee that would symbolize the spirit of the New Frontier...

We should also note that the Master of Suspense served as a presenter of each segment of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. And in a very subtle manner, the famous director also appears to pay tribute to Bill Shatner's new toupee, leaning down in the episode's prologue to expose his bare scalp (we suspect that a toup-less Bill Shatner today would strongly resemble Alfred Hitchcock)...

In the closing segment, Hitchcock tosses away an artificial device covering his head (an umbrella).

Is this too a subtle message? "The toupee is all very well when you're young, but if you're still wearing it when you reach my age, it may be time to lose it..."

Bill Shatner may have failed to heed the apparent advice of his mentor, but in a way he has paid the late director an even greater tribute. By wearing the toupee for so long; by denying its existence save for a few very clever teases; by undertaking all manner of stunts over his career that unnerved the viewer as to the stability and resilience of the toupees he wore, the actor has both honored Hitchcock's stylistic legacy and himself laid claim to being known as the true Master of Suspense.

"Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" is available to purchase as part of the newly-released fifth season Alfred Hitchcock Presents box-set. A good episode in the series, but perhaps not a classic...

We should also note that a couple of times, including in our previous post, we alluded to what we thought was a (toup-less) behind-the-scenes photo from the making of this episode. Thanks to our eagle-eyed readers, it turns out that the picture in question is actually from a TV show called Tactic and features William Shatner (apparently in a very late-era toup-less performance), Alfred Hitchcock and actress Diana Van der Vlis. There's really nothing out there on the web about this specific episode that we could find, and we wonder whether footage from it even survives. The prospect of seeing Bill Shatner act with Alfred Hitchcock in a 1959 toup-less performance is certainly a very tantalizing one! Double the suspense!!