‘We’re All Nerds in Atlanta!’: William Shatner

 Photo by Rendy Tendean

Photo by Rendy Tendean

William Shatner fielded a wide range of questions Sunday morning in the Hilton Salon. He apologized for his limited movement but explained that a pinched nerve in his back, caused by an accident at a horse show in Kentucky, had slowed him down a bit. He may have slowed a bit physically but Shatner’s wit and stage presence were in full form.

The questions launched with a question about Better Late than Never. The reality-travel show starring Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman, Jeff Dye, Henry Winkler, and Shatner premiered with a trip to Asia. Not only has NBC renewed the program, but they have just completed shooting a European adventure. The group traveled to Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, Spain, and Morocco. The challenge with this kind of format is not the weeks on the road (NBC took care of all that); it’s coming up with funny things for six weeks. That led him to tell the tale of the fermented Herring. One percent of Swedes love fermented Herring, the aroma of which is, in Shatner’s view, worse than the smell of rotting flesh. The producers thought it would be entertaining for them to try some, so he handed them a can that had begun to expand. George Foreman opened the can. The ensuing release of gas blew herring juice all over the men. The smell made a cameraman sick to his stomach; it was just that bad. Shatner actually tried it, and then took a piece and chased four-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw around until Bradshaw fell. Shatner then proceeded to smear herring on him while Bradshaw screamed. Bradshaw now considers being run down by Bill Shatner to be one of his greatest humiliations.

A fan asked Shatner to recite the opening monologue to Star Trek. Shatner admitted that he could not remember and never got it right. In fact, while trying to recite it on his own, he kept saying “Peace, the final frontier.” A lady then stood up, showing him her t-shirt, which just so happened to have the prologue emblazoned across the front. He called her up, and read (with many a comment) the prologue with the “majesty” he’d always hoped to bring to it.

Shatner has long been famous (or infamous) for his albums, and he wanted the crowd to know that he is working on a Christmas album that will probably be out for Christmas 2018. He envisions a combination of narration and music throughout. Shatner expressed some concern over White Christmas, given its definitive performance by Bing Crosby.

When asked if he was aware of the internet game “Shatner,” not only was he not aware but he asked if he could play it! According to the fan, “Shatner” is a game played among friends in which whenever one yelled “Shatner” you had to say your next sentence “dramatically.” He asked the young lady to demonstrate and she gave an entirely over the top rendition of her question. His response: “I don’t talk like that!” While discussing this game, Shatner proudly declared: “We’re all nerds in Atlanta.”

On Nimoy, Shatner became a bit reflective. He spoke of Nimoy in terms of brotherhood. While actors stick together during a production, they often loose contact when the show ends. This is what happened to his relationship with James Spader after Boston Legal. In the case of Nimoy, however, it was their ongoing contact through fan conventions that deepened and cemented their bond. He and Nimoy shared a lifetime together. He remembered once, while on an outdoor set during the production of Star Trek, watching the sunrise with Nimoy on a cliff while eating a breakfast of fried egg and onion sandwiches.

Shatner emphasized that he had no input or involvement in the decision to kill Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations. Kirk’s death on film led to a series of novels in which Shatner brought Kirk back and explored his life. In fact, many of the life events explored in the Kirk novels were based upon events going on in Shatner’s life. Nevertheless it was quite a moment handing the “keys” to the car over to Patrick Stewart.

The exploration of life and death echoed through more than one of his comments. Shatner reflected on the connectedness of all life on this earth, the uncertainties of knowledge and death. In November, he begins work on a film based upon a story built around a family of heroes. After a near-death experience, the protagonist develops a fear of dying. The film will explore this dynamic and its impact on the hero and the conflict he has to resolve with his family.

After a question referencing his work in Naked City, Shatner turned to a discussion of his early career as a starving artist. He was working but not making much, and trying to raise a family. He spoke of having $1800 in his account and not being able to get above that amount for years. Every time he saved an extra hundred dollars the car would break down, or the kids would need new shoes. He remembered those days well.

The final question of the day asked about Kirk’s many romantic conquests, including the “green women” (Orions.) Shatner simply answered: “Remember, the green paint comes off!”

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