Space (and Snubs): The Final Frontier
These are the voyages of a misunderstood William Shatner fan.
A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine texted me the below message:
So are you going to comment publicly on social media about William Shatner going to space?
I replied with:
I feel like I've caused him enough annoyance over the years.
The friend’s response:
He’s 90 years old. You’re not going to have many more chances.
It was a fair point, though the context of the exchange is assuredly lost on nearly everyone reading this. I’ll explain what it’s about shortly, but first I’ll offer some general thoughts on Mr. Shatner.
Simply put, I’m a lifelong fan. When I was kid, I enjoyed reruns of Star Trek and new episodes of T.J. Hooker. As far as I was concerned, there were few things cooler than the same dude who was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a lizard alien on one day…
…also clinging to the hood of a speeding car on the next.
I mostly enjoyed the Star Trek movies Shatner later starred in (the even-numbered ones anyway), I watched Rescue 911 (which he hosted), and years later I thought he did an excellent job in his portrayal of legendary trial lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal.
I’ve always found Shatner’s notorious over-acting to be both entertaining and endearing, and his Saturday Night Live appearance from many years ago produced what is still my all-time favorite SNL skit — the one where he tells die-hard Trekkies at a Star Trek convention to “get a life.”
Shatner is a genuine pop-culture icon, and when I heard that the 90-year-old would be launching up into actual space aboard the Blue Origin's “New Shepard” suborbital space-rocket, I thought it was super-cool idea. I’m thrilled the trip went off without a hitch, and I enjoyed listening to Shatner’s emotional telling of the experience once he landed:
All that said, my history with William Shatner extends a little bit beyond that of a performer/audience relationship. I’ve actually had a couple of personal experiences with the man — one as a child and one as an adult. And both times, I inadvertently managed to thoroughly annoy the guy.
That was what my friend was referring to in his text.
A few years ago, I described our first meeting in a column:
The first celebrity I ever met was actor William Shatner.
It was back in the 1980s. I was probably twelve or thirteen at the time. Shatner was making an appearance at a car show in Denver that I went to with my family. I stood in a long line for nearly two hours to get a chance to talk to the pop culture icon who boldly went where no man had gone before aboard the starship Enterprise, and fearlessly clung to countless hoods of moving cars on TJ Hooker.
I spent most of my time in line trying to figure out what I was going to say to him. I didn't want to blow the opportunity, after all. At that impressionable age, there are few people more important in the world than celebrities. And Shatner wasn't just any celebrity. He was a bonafide action hero! So, I felt it was imperative for him to like me. At the very least, I was determined not say anything weird that would make him not like me.
I decided that I would first ask him for his autograph (a no-brainer), and while he was giving it to me, I would then ask him something about one of the Star Trek films. I don't recall exactly what my planned question was, but it was something easy - something I probably already knew the answer to. Again, I just wanted the meeting to be a positive experience.
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
I was immediately thrown off my game when Shatner denied my request for an autograph. I wasn't expecting that. I had just assumed that that's what celebrities did at public appearances: They signed autographs.
I should note before continuing that fellow original Star Trek cast member, James Doohan (who played “Scotty”) was also at the event, and he was happily signing autographs for each every attendee.
"No, no," [Shatner] artificially chuckled as he held up his hands and shook his head to fend me off.
Someone on his security detail quickly stepped forward and explained to me, "Mr. Shatner won't be signing any autographs today."
My consolation prize was the extension of Shatner's hand to shake mine. This did not go smoothly because I was still holding the pen and sheet of paper I had brought with me for the autograph. He seemed annoyed as I tried to shuffle the items to my other hand, and before I knew it, one of his security guards was nudging me off the stage to make room for the next person in line. I tried to ask my question in parting, but it went unheard or most likely ignored.
Yes, William Shatner blew me off.
Now, it’s not as if this moment scarred me for life or anything. I didn’t hold a grudge. As stated above, I never stopped being a Shatner fan. The only reason the exchange is still clear in my mind is that Shatner was a big celebrity, and I was a star-struck kid.
I’ve sometimes told that story to friends over the years because I think it’s funny — an amusing anecdote from my youth. Even in my column, I evoked it only for the purpose of comparing the incident to an unrelated political topic.
Fast-forward to five years ago, when I briefly (and jokingly) told that story again — this time on Twitter, specifically the part about Shatner declining to give me an autograph. I was responding to another guy on the platform who was griping about having just met one of his childhood idols… and the idol being quite rude to him.
As the old saying goes: Never meet your heroes, because they're sure to disappoint you.
Anyway, I made the mistake of using Shatner’s Twitter handle when mentioning his name, not thinking the actor would take notice; I figured he didn’t spend much time online anyway.
Well, apparently he was (and is) quite a bit more active on social media than I had realized, and after others saw my tweet and started giving the actor a hard time about snubbing a kid asking for an autograph all those years ago, he became very defensive.
“Yes shame on me,” he tweeted in response. “I'm sure it was an inappropriate time but that was left out of the story.”
I replied to him that it was actually at a fan meet-and-greet, but that it was fine — a harmless, amusing story from my childhood.
His response was to block me on Twitter (where he has kept me at bay ever since).
It was as if I had been ushered off that stage by security all over again. Twice rejected. My feelings shattnered… er, I mean shattered. It’s all fun and games until you piss off Captain Kirk.
I later found out that this is actually a common practice for Mr. Shatner, and thus I shouldn’t take it personally. Whenever anyone on social media tells a story about him that portrays him in a less than flattering light, he goes straight for the “block” button. My guess is that he has blocked an extraordinary number of people over the years, because — as I also later discovered (and is no longer really a secret) — there is a ton of stories out there about Shatner being… well… a jerk.
By the way, Shatner also blocked that guy for telling that story. And if you do a Twitter search on “@WilliamShatner ‘blocked me’”, the results are not only seemingly endless, but also hilarious to read. There are even several instances of him blocking people who’d paid him a compliment… because he had somehow misinterpreted their compliment as an insult.
Of course, it’s not just on social media. The “jerk” stories are also plentiful in Hollywood among his work colleagues, including his old Star Trek crew.
A couple years ago, I saw comedian Dana Gould perform stand-up in Denver, and I about spit my drink out when he started working in stories of Shatner's infamous rudeness (he and Shatner are neighbors). After the show, I told Gould about my experiences.
He laughed and said something like, “I’m telling you, everyone who’s met him has stories! The guy’s a jerk!”
I guess I should have realized that much earlier than I did, especially immediately after that childhood incident, as I watched Shatner interact with others who’d been standing in line behind me. I described what I saw in the aforementioned column:
I spent the next ten minutes or so watching more of the meet and greet from afar. I observed Shatner’s interactions with other fans, and I couldn’t help but conclude that he held a general contempt for just about everyone he met. At least that’s how it appeared.
He didn’t really make eye contact with any of them, and he clearly had no interest in what they had to say. He wouldn’t sign autographs or pose for pictures. Underneath a forced grin, he gave off a vibe that his fans were beneath him. Occasionally, he even appeared to be whispering snarky comments, about some of the fans, to the security guard standing next to him.
What struck me more than anything else, however, was that none of the people who walked up to meet him seemed to notice this. They were absolutely ecstatic just to be in the man’s presence, and were gushing over him and singing his praises.
I’m sure that’s the same warm reception he gets from fans today. And you know what? That’s totally fine. He’s left lots of people with fun screen memories that they will forever cherish.
I mean, this image certainly still brings a smile to my face:
As do these:
And, of course, who can forget…
Anyway, congratulations again, Mr. Shatner, on a safe, successful flight. Hopefully you were nice to your fellow travelers. Live long and prosper.
Have a good celebrity “jerk” story you want to pass along? If so, I’d love to hear it. Email me or leave a comment in the section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Guardian of the bathroom mats.
Okay, so I freely admit that this album purchase came from a position of pure nostalgia. I loved Billy Ocean’s stuff when I was a kid, and always found it sort of interesting that his hits all seemed to fall within one of two categories:
slow and swaying
Well, Love Zone has both, with the title track and “There’ll Be Sad Songs” falling into the former, and “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” (from Romancing the Stone’s strikingly inferior sequel The Jewel of the Nile) making up the latter…
When the going gets tough
The tough get going, tough, tough, huh, huh, huh
I was a fun little song, and Danny DeVito’s saxophone work in the video cracked me up.
By the way, was anyone else as shocked as I was the first time they heard Bill Ocean talk, and discovered he has a non-American accent?
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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