Classic Shatner

Monday morning in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom William Shatner once again entertained and captivated his audience with stories that ranged from his humble attempts at frying turkey to unexplained mysteries of the brain.

After wishing all a happy Labor Day, and wondering about BBQ, Shatner recounted his misadventures with deep frying a turkey. On one occasion while in Kentucky, he got an invitation to a gentleman’s home to experience “blastoff,” which is part of the deep-frying process. He was so impressed he decided to try it himself. Shatner bought all the equipment, and plenty of peanut oil, but every time he tried, some portion of the turkey got burnt. He never mastered the art of deep-frying turkeys, but he provided great entertainment to his family on holidays without setting himself or his home on fire. Eventually his wife had the fryer removed and replaced it with a smoker. In the wake of his experience, he shot a commercial about the dangers of deep fryers which, he has been told, has saved a number of lives.

When asked about his recording work, which now spans decades, Shatner let the crowd know that he’s recording a blues album. He’s been reading extensively about the origins and history of the blues as a genre and has been struck by its history and depth. As he learned more he actually became quite concerned about whether a “white guy from Montreal” could sing them! He discovered his ability to do it while working on “Mannish Boy,” the blues standard by Muddy Waters. So far Shatner has laid down six tracks of what should be a fascinating album.

Shatner’s diverse tastes and sense of curiosity is once again playing a role in his work. He is part of a new project The UnXplained, airing on the History Channel. The program, examining mysteries that have yet to be solved, offers Shatner an opportunity to feed his own innate sense of wonder. Through the program he has been able to debate dark matter with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and consider the complex mysteries of the human brain. Over the last fifty years medical science has made tremendous progress in understanding the workings of the human heart, developing treatments that save countless lives every day. The brain, however, has yet to be unlocked in that way. Shatner offered the example of the man who before a coma couldn’t play the piano but once awake became a concert pianist. No one can explain why.

When a fan on the front row used sign language to ask her question, he immediately noticed nuances in her style. Ever curious, he asked about whether regional differences in sign language existed. No one could give him a clear answer but when the fan signed “kinda,” he immediately spotted it and argued that was a regional usage. Subtleties of language also became the focus of a dust up he once had with an audio book producer. Shatner was reading an autobiographical work for the audio book version and hit the word “garage.” When he pronounced the word in the way that was natural for him, the producer interrupted him and insisted he change it. After going back and forth, Shatner finally proclaimed “it’s my book and my voice!”

As the hour ended and he left the stage to yet another standing ovation, it was clear that William Shatner remains classic!

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