Captain James T. Kirk can be a little irritating at times, William Shatner acknowledged during a January appearance in the New Orleans Convention Center's Wizard World
But, at the same time, the iconic starship captain has opened the way to high profile Hollywood career opportunities, exotic travel destinations and robust cultural exchanges that would not otherwise have been possible, Shatner told hundreds of listeners during a question and answer session held as part of the city’s two-day “Wizard World Comic-Con.”
The highly versatile pop-culture legend, known across generations, was the center of attention at the annual event. He appeared on Sat. January 28th. Other featured guests included Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who played the “Incredible Hulk” in the 1970s and 1980s opposite the late Bill Bixby.
Instead of delivering a prepared talk filled with anecdotes about his career in entertainment, Shatner told attendees that he would rather take their questions and concentrate on their interests.
“Have you ever hated Captain Kirk?” one audience member asked. In response, “The Shat,” as he is commonly called now, described his romp down Bourbon Street the previous night.
“Last night we were having dinner, and the waiter comes up and says -- what would you like? I said `oysters.” And he said --- ‘Beam Me Up Scotty!!!’ --- I mean come on.”
“On the other hand…,” he added. “I would not have been here ordering those oysters if it hadn’t been for Captain Kirk. It’s a two-edged sword. Imagine getting to do the things I’ve done as a result of playing the part of Captain Kirk.”
Getting angle or edge on Shatner in this kind of setting is a tall order; he’s battle-tested in this kind of setting. Another well-worn barb: “Have you really been where no man has been before?!”
The Shat: “It depends on the girl.”
“Wizard World” avoided playing up any single dominate theme as it blended Star Wars and Star Trek together with the larger comic book universe. To say the experience was “other-worldly” for someone who has never attended any convention of this sort, does not quite capture it.
The imagination, ingenuity and creativity that went into the costumes cannot be overstated; there were no half-measures. At times, it did feel like another planet.
Throughout the day, I encountered highly authentic versions of Batman, Superman, Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Princess Leia (yes in the bikini), a few dragons, knights in armor, an Alien creature from the Sigourney Weaver films and superheroes and comic figures I didn’t know.
But no matter who was being interviewed the conversation flowed back to Shatner and his highly durable Hollywood career.
Let’s not forget his two “Twilight Zone” episodes, and his appearances on the "Columbo" television series, where he played the villain to Peter Falk’s detective. Shatner has also been recognized for his role as Denny Crane, the egotistical, bombastic lawyer on “Boston Legal” and for the “Priceline” commercials. (His character seemingly dies in bus explosion in the last one)
But invariably the fan base wants to know about Star Trek, its timeless appeal, and the enduring legacy of Captain Kirk. Here, Shatner has some definite insight. He wrote a book called “Get a Life” based on his famous Saturday Night Live skit from the 80s; the one where Star Trek fans are lampooned. In the book, Shatner explores who comes to Star Trek conventions and what accounts for the continued enthusiasm behind the television series. He found that fans all knew each other and had become an extended family of sorts.
“I discovered all of us are participating in a mythological ritual, we in this civilization have no mythology, so part of the need for a mythology is our participation in the mythology of Star Trek,” he said. “The need for heroes is supplied by the captains and the act of getting an
autograph or buying paraphernalia is participating in the ritual of the mythology.”
Standing a little outside of the mythology, I wore a suit and tie to meet Captain Kirk, that contrasted with costumes. This helped when it came time for questions in the convention center’s upstairs auditorium.
“Yes, you in the black,” he pointed, and I had my moment. Knowing the answer, I popped the question.
“Who would you say was the most formidable of all the Star Trek villains?”
“Ohhhhhhhhh…..ahhhh….” The Trekkers really liked that one.
“How would I say it in my old age?” He purrs and puffs and gingerly says – Kh..Kh.. khaaaan.
Then draws in a deep breath and screams….
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" co-starring Ricardo Montalban is widely viewed as the standout in the movie series and with good reason. The storyline draws from Moby Dick and it would be the last time that classic tale of revenge and obsession would figure into Star Trek. The
television show: “Space Seed” the film is based on is also worth viewing.
“He really was [the best villain] wasn’t he? I mean those pecs alone were heroic. Never mind his abs, but his pecs. Women would kill for those pecs. And he was a wonderful gentlemen.”Apparently, Montalban was also a great friend and supporter of National Review
magazine. Right on!
Another key personality Shatner has encountered in his travels is conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Shatner had an interview program called “Raw Nerve” that includes a lengthy interview with El Rushbo where the two discuss health care policy and other topics. Shatner was full of praise.
“I got to talk with Rush Limbaugh and found out all kinds of wonderful things about Rush,” he said. “In fact… even brought to tears to his eyes as he remembered things from his past, and I thought what a neat guy.”
The Shat invited Limbaugh over to his home for Monday Night Football after the interview where the talk show host encountered one of Shatner’s liberal friends who was a bit put out. But it was clear from Shatner’s take on his interview with Rush that he’s open and receptive to
But there was one Star Trek co-star who did not make out so well during the Q & A.
When Shatner was asked to name his heroes audience member shouted out, “George Takei!” – That would be the actor who plays Hikaru Sulu in the original series. Apparently, Takei has an axe to grind with Shatner.
Comedy Center did a “Roast of William Shatner” involving many of his friends where he rides in on a horse to start the program.
“The line is in the air, everyone knows the line, and it’s just a matter of who they are going to give the line to,” Shatner explained. “Now George hates me, I don’t know why he hates me, and he’s also not funny. So they give him the line and he says “F… you,, and the horse you rode
in on,” and it’s not funny, and I roll the film back, and his face is contorted. That’s not a funny face. So yes, George, was at the Roast.”
The Star Trek universe appears to have come full circle now that the movie series has reverted back to the original crew of the Enterprise but with a new cast of actors. Shatner said he was very impressed the latest film directed by J.J. Abrams and with actor Chris Pine who plays the
young Captain Kirk. Shatner interviewed Pine as part of a documentary he did called “The Captains,” which includes all of actors who filled in the center seat in the different programs.
“He’s a lovely young man, who is really talented, and looks really good,” Shatner said of Pine. “He’s got the demeanor, the body and the voice. So along with being a good actor he’s got all the right equipment.”
Shatner told the crowd that JJ Abrams is moving ahead with the sequel.
The actor who started it all sees a wide-open future for Star Trek and for anyone with imagination and initiative.