Friday, November 18, 2011

Sure he is great, just ask him

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, memoirs, celebrities

During my last two years in my parents' home, there was a ritual a couple nights a week: Mom would prepare dinner, then take her plate to the next room to watch Star Trek. I, and at least one or two of my brothers, would join her there. For a show that was generally considered "not well received", it obtained quite a cult following that continues today. The cultus was vindicated when the cast was reassembled over a decade or so to produce seven feature films.

I have also read a lot about how the cast members didn't get along, particularly with the star. Several of them considered William Shatner to be insufferably arrogant, and some would never be seen with him off the set. In Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large, written with Chris Regan, Bill Shatner lays out all of his career. By 1970, he considered Star Trek as little more than a blip in the road, until the uproar arose that led to those films. And he has his own take on the arrogance thing. Yes, he was arrogant, and he still is, with good reason: he's good (just ask him).

The young Captain Kirk is how I and many of my friends remember William Shatner. The more mature actor who starred in Boston Legal and several other TV series is less familiar to us (at least to me; I seldom watch TV series). Now, at age 80 (the second pic was taken on his birthday), Bill is still going nonstop.

The book is constructed around a number of his Rules, the first being, "Say 'Yes!'". As long as we are about rules, here is one my father passed on to me:
Jim's First Rule – Don't say bad things about yourself. The world is full of people who will do that for you.
And as for arrogance, I don't mind it so much. I first learned about "creative arrogance" from my Dad, of course, and I also love the jokingly arrogant attitude Rush Limbaugh adopts, to the point that I sometimes open an inspirational speech by saying, "Rush says he has talent on loan from God. I've never felt I needed to borrow any." (Spoiler alert: In case you hear one of my speeches, you need to realize the message is simple. If two people agree on everything, one of them is redundant. Don't be afraid to differ. Just don't differ to the point that children run for the exits or hunker under chairs.)

Bill Shatner is someone who knows his strengths. He is an actor. He has been an actor since he was six. As of March 22 this year, that makes 74 years in which the only thing he has been paid to do is to act. Or so he says. He has produced and participated (perhaps starred, at least in his estimation) in several albums of music. So he's been paid to do just a bit of singing. He directed one of the Star Trek films; did he accept a director's salary, or was he sufficiently compensated as the star of the film? Yet, first and foremost, he is an actor.

Finally, I have to say, one thing I really liked about Star Trek was that the Captain, and others, were literate. Literary quotes were used in a number of episodes. I sometimes wondered if that was all the writers' doing, or if William Shatner was literate himself? At least to some extent, yes he is, not that he has a great deal of time to read! In one chapter he takes us through an ordinary "Two Shatner Day", meaning a day in which he has about twice as much stuff scheduled as the clock allows. Somehow, he accomplished it all. He does admit that a "Four Shatner Day" makes his head explode.

As long as you are going to turn 80 anyway, it's better to keep active. And while you are at it, remember who you love.

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