Monday, March 22, 2010

My best, Bill

I've been on Twitter for about five weeks now, and I'm still finding it a diverting enough waste of time when I'm waiting for someone to take their turn on Facebook Scrabble. I'm following a combination of people I know and adore, amusing strangers who have been recommended to me, and celebrities I'd like to be friends with I admire. Among the latter are Autumn Reeser, who despite having gotten married without telling me is every bit as perky, down to earth, and likeable as I'd hoped she would be, and William Shatner.

What I love about Shatner's tweets are that he signs off every one with 'my best, Bill' - almost as if he's sent you a personal letter or a greetings card. I don't know if The Mighty Shatner actually tweets his own tweets or whether he has employed a red-shirted lackey to unleash his many and random thoughts upon the internet, but the whole 'my best, Bill' thing adds a personal touch that genuinely does make it feel like the message was written specifically to you.

I've made no secret about the fact that William Shatner is one of my heroes - actually, scrub that: he IS my hero. I've been watching the remastered versions of the original Star Trek recently (the ones with the spiffy new visual effects), and it's served to remind me just what I find so entertaining and damn likeable about the guy; he's warm, funny, and charismatic, and in the role of Kirk, a commanding officer I'd follow anywhere. No wonder all those guys in red shirts didn't think twice about beaming down into a hostile situation with him.

Did I ever tell you I met Shatner once?

No? Hmmm…

It was at one of those weird signings that they used to do in the middle of the shopping centre in Milton Keynes. It never really fails to amuse me that I met a considerable number of actors who appeared in Star Trek outside Debenhams in Milton Keynes, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, it was in October 2005 that I found out that William Shatner would be appearing at one of these signings. There was NO WAY I was going to miss out on seeing The Shat in person, so I recruited Marcosy, and we zipped off up the M1 one Saturday morning. A reasonably heavy right foot (but nevertheless still within the legal limit I might add) meant that we arrived at Milton Keynes relatively early, where I immediately started bouncing around like Tigger on poppers wanting to go get in line. I think I conceded 20 minutes to grab a coffee first, but I refused to allow us to be diverted by any shops on our way to the signing area.

A short time later we joined a queue along with a load of other Shatner fans/worshippers. Somehow I'd allowed Marcosy to get in line before me, which probably wasn't a good idea bearing in mind The Infamous Starbuck Chewing Gum Incident, but I was too excited to think about that at the time. And we didn't have to wait long.

After about 10 minutes of standing in line I happened to glance over my shoulder and saw a pair of automatic doors parting - and then in strode William Shatner. It could only have been more perfect if the doors had made the Star Trek wooshing sound. He had a bag slung over one shoulder (he carried his own bag!) and was shorter than I'd thought he would be - which in a way only made him seem more formidable; he looked stout and determined, as if he'd been out doing manly things like chopping down trees before being reminded he had to go meet his adoring public. I imagined that if anyone tried to hurl themselves at him he'd Kirk-Fu them in the neck without breaking stride.

I made a mental note not to hurl myself at him.

He breezed past the queue and settled at the table where he'd be signing pictures. There was a smell of nervous excitement in the air. Either that or the majority of people had neglected to spritz themselves with their aftershave of choice that day.

A couple of other people had accompanied Shatner as he arrived, and one of them now stood beside him and shouted for the attention of the crowd. We all turned with big nerdy smiles on our faces. Unfortunately, they were not to last.


This was fine by me - to quote Star Trek V, "God's a busy man" and I just wanted a signed picture and a little chat.


A little bit disappointing, but OK.



This was a disaster! I'd come millions of miles all this way to see my hero, have a brief life-defining exchange of words with him - and now I was being told I couldn't?! Outrageous!

While she was saying this The Mighty Shat was sat at the table examining the pens that had been provided for him to sign the pictures. He was looking at them intently, as if trying to determine which one would work best as a weapon should a crazed fan decide to fling themselves across the table at him - the black sharpie or the fabulous silver one?

I decided not to fling myself across the table at him.

And then the queue started moving. Ridiculously fast. Basically, the abrupt, dream-destroying woman was taking each picture to be signed off the fan, then flinging it in front of Shatner. It was like a sweatshop production line; he was having to slam his hand down on each one to prevent it from flying off the end of the table. I seriously thought at one point that she might have a go at him for not signing fast enough.

This pic isn't mine - I just found it online - but it does show The Mighty Shatner merrily signing away. I didn't take any pictures because the abrupt woman also said we'd be chucked out of the queue if we tried.

Before I knew it, I was a handful of people away from Shatner, a recently-selected picture of Kirk from Star Trek II clasped in my increasingly clammy hands. And it was here that I decided I would not be denied my moment with The Shat. I would embody the same fearless, devil-may-care attitude that he imbued the character of Kirk with. I would speak to William Shatner regardless of the consequences.

The next thing I knew the abrupt woman was snatching my picture out of my hands and throwing it across the table to Shatner. He deftly brought his hand down on it as it spun in front of him, extended his hand, and began scrawling on it in silver.

And as I passed in front of him I looked down, smiled, and said "congratulations on your Emmy."

(This was just after he'd won his first Emmy Award for his role as Denny Crane on Boston Legal)

He paused mid-scrawl, looked up, turned toward me, fixed my gaze, and in that familiar Shatner way replied "thank … you!"

Time kind of ground to a halt in that moment, for me at least. I grinned MASSIVELY, took the picture, and then the world caught up and another photo landed in front of him, the production line starting once again.

To anyone else, this obviously wouldn't be quite such a big deal, but those few seconds are so perfectly etched in my mind that I can remember them like it was yesterday. I've met lots of actors from the various Star Trek shows over the years, but it's the stars of the original series that have always held a special place in my geektastic heart, and Shatner is top of the pile. And, of course, I got a souvenir of the event.

I don't know if the man himself will ever see this, but on today, William Shatner's 79th birthday, I'd just like to take the opportunity to raise a glass and say (in best Shatnerian-style of course): my best, Bill.


Inexplicable DeVice said...

This is quite the lovely post, Tim. Except for that bit about Autumn Reeser - I knew she'd let you down, which is why you should have listened to me in the first place.

Happy birthday, Mr Shatner (just in case you're reading. Which you should be as this is a great blog!).

Tara said...

Bwah ha ha ha, Dream Dashing lady wasn't prepared for your devil may care rebelliousness! You showed her! She can't make you take back those words, she's not *that* powerful!

I am so glad you were able to meet with your hero! You must've been on, not just cloud 9 but cloud 3,000.

CyberPete said...

Happy birthday Bubba Shatner (we adore you!)!

So Tim, you can't possibly mean me when you talk about waiting for the next move on Facebook Scrabble. Right?

Anyway I just joined Twitter. What iPhone app do you use and how does it work?

Tim said...

Inexplicable Device - Why thank you. Leave poor Autumn alone - she must be very busy being *sniff* all married and whatnot.

Tara - It was awesome; Shatner's a dude!

Cyberpete - Scrabble? No, of course not. *ahem*

Yes I saw you joined the Twitter! I don't actually use an app for it - I just keep my twitter page open on a Safari window! Simples!

CyberPete said...


I found two apps (I love apps) Twitterriffic or something like that and Echofon but maybe I should just figure out how to use the website

Tim said...

Yeah, why don't you just point your iPhone to - it automatically directs it to a native iPhone version. Simples!

Anthony Lamb said...

Wow Tim, this was a lovely recounting of your golden moments. It's like the time I met Quark in that very same shopping center, only much more legendary.

Tim said...

Cheers sir!

Was Armin wearing the ears?

Anthony Lamb said...

No, he wasn't. He wasn't even being greedy! He was a really nice chap.

Tim said...

I bet he was … but c'mon, could he not have gone the extra inch and popped the ears on?

I'd pay good latinum for that.