Talking Shat

Last week I had the privilege of having a phone conversation with the legendary William Shatner. He will be in town on Saturday, May 12 to be part of a special screening of the iconic Star Trek feature film The Wrath of Kahn. My call was in the queue behind a live radio interview and I had about 15 minutes to speak with him. This is the conversation.

William Shatner: Hello, John?

John Fuzek (Motif): Hi!

WS: How are you?

JF: Great! Nice to hear from you.

WS: So Motif is an online alternative magazine?

JF: Oh, we are in print as well!

WS: What does that mean, alternative magazine?

JF: It covers lots of topics-music, arts, alcohol, cannabis, roller derby, lots of things.

WS: (laughs) It does sound alternative.

JF: We cover a lot of across the board topics that people are interested in and actually read. So, you just finished a radio interview, how was that?

WS: Let’s not talk about the past, let’s live in the moment, it will be alternative! (laughs)

JF: Where are you calling me from?

WS: I am calling you from Los Angeles, I am in my office which looks out on a grand street called Ventura Boulevard. It goes for a length of about 20 miles across the length of the San Fernando valley and, talk about alternative, it’s an alternative road that keeps changing every block and keeps changing it’s character, various people ply their trades both in and out of the stores along Ventura Boulevard.

JF: Do you still live on a horse ranch?

WS: Umm, no, I live in Los Angeles, I live in a home but I do have horses here but I don’t live at a barn, no.

JF: but you had a horse ranch, correct?

WS: I did, well, in essence I do, and I did, in Kentucky.

JF: But you don’t do that as much anymore?

WS: I get there when I’m not working, and it’s been a busy number of years, but I get there as often and as quickly as I can because it’s buried in the woods and I have some horses there and the people are good and I do love Kentucky.

JF: I remember seeing an interview with you many, many years ago and and I can’t remember if it was before or after “Star Trek” but you mentioned you were living in a camper for a while, it that true?

WS: That is true, yes, I did. I may even have visited Providence during those years, performing one kind of play or another, at summer theaters. Because of a variety of circumstances, after “Star Trek” was over I didn’t have any money and so I went out and did a lot of theater. To save money, I had a beat up pick-up truck and a cab on the back of the pick-up, and I lived in that cab for several months.

JF: You gotta do what you gotta do, I am a musician and i have slept in my truck a few times!

WS: You got it. You’re exactly right. You know that I will be coming to Providence, RI — you know that, right? at the Performing Arts Center on May 12th?

JF: How was that set up? Who selected the film? Is Wrath of Kahn your favorite of the films?

WS: That’s a good question, ah, it was discovered that The Wrath of Kahn is among a very select few of the favorite films of the people that like Star Trek, and since we are appealing to those people, it is a good film, so, anybody who will read your material and is thinking of coming should come because in itself it is a fun film — it is an entertaining film so we decided that that was the film to play. I come out afterwards and there’s somebody on stage with me asking and fielding questions from the audience and we all have a good time. We talk about the film, talk about me, talk about them, you know, and make it entertaining.

JF: How lave you been doing that?

WS: Well, we’ve just really started. I’ve done three performances, I think. I am sort of spacing it out to three or four and then a few weeks later I will do three or four. I don’t want to be away from home too long, so I am doing Concord and Providence and Newark.

JF: How old are you now?

WS: How old am I? I hesitate even saying the words, it’s so alarming, ugh, I read of people much younger than me who die of old age and it becomes worse … so, I am 87.

JF: WOW I did not know that!

WS: Sorry, that’s why i…John, how old are you?

JF: I’m 57.

WS: Yes, I am 87.

JF: And you still want to continue doing all this?

WS: What do you feel like doing?

JF: Well, I like to play music.

WS: do you tour with your band?

JF: I get around as much as possible, i would like to…

WS: Well, why don’t you?

JF: It’s a matter of getting the bookings.

WS: It’s a Catch 22, you have to get out there to get the bookings! What is your instrument?

JF: I play guitar. Are you doing any music projects these days?

WS: I have two albums coming out this year. I have a Christmas album, laid down all the tracks, really off beat, fascinating. Now that everything is in and they are putting it all together, it will be a fascinating Christmas album for this Christmas! It’s with a group of people — I can’t remember the names without having it right in front of me — some are traditional Christmas songs, made just a little off beat and then a couple of things that are not, and I think of them as anchoring the album, a couple of things that are really not known or regular. All in all it should be awesome … I am going, in about two weeks, to Nashville to do a Country Music album, with Jeff Cook of Alabama.

JF: Wow, that’s great!

WS: And those songs which I am learning and trying to perform for myself — the songs they’ve written — I think some of them are fantastic! Now, as we both know, until the audience tells us so, your opinion of what it is may be totally off what everyone else thinks. I think the possibility of them being really good is there.

JF: Do you play an instrument?

WS: No. I wish that I did. I was taking guitar lessons long ago just never had the time to continue. But what I do have is a sense of poetry and I make the lyric my own and we go from there. I have a half dozen albums out there, one with Ben Folds called Has Been. So I’ve been monkeying around with music for a long time.

JF: I remember some of that and I have been a fan since “Star Trek” but I do remember the “Twilight Zone” episode that you were in. That was before “Star Trek” wasn’t it?

WS: Yes

JF: Have you tired of “Star Trek” or do you still embrace it?

WS: No, you know, you and I are talking together and I am going to be in an alternative magazine (laughs) because “Star Trek” came about and I got some celebrity as a result of it and I am forever grateful about it. We are here today because of it. Why would i ever think negatively of it?

JF: True, but it could weather on you after a while.

WS: You know, I saw Neil Diamond at the Hollywood Bowl when he sang Hot August Night and I was there at the concert, and some of those hit songs he continued to sing until he retired (laughs) this past year, he sang those songs continuously and he sang them well, he never tired of them because they were really good. It’s the same thing with “Star Trek.”

JF: Over your life you have acted in many roles, what was your favorite?

WS: In the same breath, it is like asking you what your favorite number to play on the guitar is, you play something sad, well that’s good, but wait, I’ll play something up beat or I’ll play a classic, and they’re all sort of really cool … There’s a lot of good stuff a lot of bad stuff, but in the bad stuff you hit a couple of chords that you really like, and it’s the same with an actor, it breaks itself down into chords for me as an actor. You live in the moment and you hit that moment and later on you think, wow, that went well, that moment. I ride competitively in a sport called Reining and it’s a very precise sport, you might have to do four spinning turns, and the way you start off and the way that you end, like a dance move, is where you get points. And if you do, you’re required to do several kinds of moves, but if you do one really good [move] and you screw up on the next, you can think with some joy that the one that you did well was really good. Then you have to work on the stuff that you didn’t do well: Again, musically, a chord that you didn’t hit well, you correct the next time. So as an actor those moments that I did well in, I think back and, “Well, that was pretty good,” and that is how I think about my career.

JF: We only have about a minute left, I was wondering if there was anything that you wanted to tell your fans out there that you never get a chance to say.

WS: Well, here is what I never get a chance to say to people: I am going to be in Providence, Rhode Island, May 12th at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Come see me, we’re going to have a lot of fun!

JF: I am sure it will be fun. I am disappointed that I can’t be there. I have my own show the same night!

WS: That’s a shame, John. Why don’t you bring your show over to my show?

JF: I would love to, but, are you appearing anywhere close by around the same time?

WS: You know I am getting an honorary degree at a university in Providence around the same time.

JF: That’s great, yes, I did hear about that. Well, time is up and I want to thank you for taking the time to call and talk with me.

WS: My pleasure. Thank you. Bye!




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