Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Dad... Capt. Kirk?

Capt. Kirk? My  Dad? Okay, not really. But to explain my ancient William Shatner story I have to relate several stories and in part one told to me by actor Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) one night last weekend at dinner...but it's a harmless tale. I also acted in a film with her last weekend, and she had previously "killed" me in a film a year ago.

And, I officially have Alison's voice reading The Raven, for my first and currently in production film, The Rapping (no, not rap, think, Edgar Allan Poe).

This (for me anyway) is a fun tale. One originally told and excerpted here in this blog, from a previous 2012 blog of mine and now expanded upon by way of Alison's input. I'm still chuckling over this. I just wish my little brother had lived to hear the end of it. Closure is a great thing.

William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock on set of Star Trek
Finally! Here it is! @WilliamShatner speaking (tweeting) at me. I'd waited so long with no expectation of it ever happening. I'm sure he's heard many, many stories like this one. How can you not when you're that famous, that much of a cultural icon?

Allow me to explain, to give you a bit of background on this joy, exclamation...and closure.

Back in the 1960s my younger and late brother and I tried to talk to "Capt. Kirk". Not on a communicator, but on our home phone while the actor who portrayed him on TV every week, was at the Jerry Lewis Marathon in Seattle.

He was there with Leonard Nimoy who played Spock. Do I even have to say he was the half human, half Vulcan character on that "wagon train to the stars", that " 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to the stars" TV show known as Star Trek? And now due to it's longevity and popularity, known lovingly as Star Trek-TOS (The Original Show).

One called into the week long 24 hour a day Telethon, offered to donate money to Jerry's kids for MS, and maybe got to talk to a special guest. In the end we did get to talk to the also late Leonard Nimoy. Who couldn't have been nicer. Shatner was swamped with people wanting to talk to him so we never got to. But the person answering the phone asked if we'd prefer Nimoy. Our mom, also on one of the three phone extensions at our house, was paying for this long distance call, so she said, "Yes, please."

We never did get to talk to Shatner. We were at first disappointed, but in talking with Nimoy, we were pretty floored. Like forever after that call. We talked to Spock! We actually talked to him!

Years later I came to appreciate Nimoy even more. Decades later even, my kids did too. Not just through Star Trek, though that's a big part of it, but also through his project called, Alien Voices. An awesome attempt to bring people to the spoken word of classic literature that is interesting to the masses, bringing it alive for us. One of my favorites among their catalog are the two Spock vs Q shows. Which oddly enough isn't on that Alien Voices site.

Indirectly, thanks go to actor Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie fame and many of her projects since then), Because of her, finally, I got William Shatner to say something to me!

So this one is for my long passed, little brother, Kim.

At dinner last night as of the writing of this at Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant in Port Orchard, Alison was sitting across from me. There were four of us. Kelly Hughes, and our actor friend Ernie. Alison and I got to talking and she started telling me this long story about Bill Shatner and her Twitter account... and "shipers".

So damn funny how this all worked out. By the way, I just realized, that for lunch today I ate the other half of my huge and tasty dinner from last night, and the rest of Alison's. She had asked if someone shouldn't take the last of her fajita plate (from the hot side dish). So I dumped it on mine and no one else spoke up.

Therefore this next day I ate the rest of Alison Arngrim's dinner. Fans. Such odd ones. But, it's all out of love. I never had watched "Little House", but I became a fan of Alison's anyway, once I got to know her, and in spending time working with her.

Back to Shatner. Beginning in 1966 (until 2010) while Star Trek was still on, while I was a kid, we always watched the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethons. We loved watching them. He'd get little sleep over the weekend of stars and entertainment 24/7 on air. It was interesting and entertaining, fascinating one might say watching someone deteriorate on screen and for a cause. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were on it one year in Seattle. We lived a mere thirty miles away in Tacoma.

I was a huge Star Trek fan. My little brother too. I remember the first episode I ever missed. I was at a store with my mother and grandmother. Mom went into the store to return something and when I realized we'd miss Star Trek, I broke into tears. My poor grandmother couldn't figure out how a TV show had such a hold on me.

I didn't have a great fatherly parental situation. My own dad had remarried and then had eleven kids so I never really had him as a dad after I was three. My step father didn't much like me at all and we had a turbulent relationship. So instead I emotionally bonded with my "TV Dads". Positive (in my mind) role models like Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) on The Rifleman. Lloyd Bridges on Sea Hunt. There were others. And there was Kirk on Star Trek. Hey, that's just how it was in my childhood brain and it got me through my childhood, sooo....

My little brother Kim, five years my junior, liked Star Trek too (my step dad  by the way, was HIS dad). Kim later died of liver cancer in 1975 after a couple of difficult years after diagnosis. He died days from being 15 in 1975. A real MOW story, that one. Painful.

Mom had said we could call the Telethon, donate a few bucks just to get to talk to Kirk. So me, my little brother and mom got on the phone long distance to Seattle. We waited on the line for nearly forty minutes before we got someone on from Star Trek. Kirk was the end all be all for me and my brother at that time and always had been.

Though after a short time, Spock did somewhat overshadow him. But it really was always the team of Kirk and Spock, and Bones, and Scotty, and the others. That's just how that show was. It was family.

We never did get to hear from William Shatner that day. Never have since, not that he knew any of this. Not until he tweeted back at me yesterday, May 7, 2017. Finally. I got closure to this story after nearly 50 years! I can now die a happy man in that realm.

Here's an excerpt from my 2012 blog on this:

A few years before I read the LOTR trilogy, my little brother by five years, Kim and I got to talk to Nimoy when he and Shatner were in Seattle for the Jerry Lewis Telethon in the late 60s. We badly wanted to talk to Capt. Kirk. He was after all, "The Man" (or "The Captain" if you prefer). And so we waited on the phone for forty minutes! It was long distance and my brother and I, both breathless, and our mom, all waited on different phone extensions.

Finally the phone guy who answered the phone at the Telethon said, "You know, Mr. Shatner is just too much in demand. It's going to be hard to get him online. Everyone wants to talk to him. Would you like to talk to Leonard Nimoy, Spock", instead?"

Our mom, knowing this was costing us maybe as much as the little she was going to pledge, convinced us to talk to Nimoy. We were a bit crushed. We said okay, but we were a bit disappointed. Then we realized, were going to get to talk to Spock!

So he gets on the phone and says, "Hello boys, how are you doing?"

I'll never forget it. That Nimoy/Spock voice. Amazing. We were on the phone with Spock! Hearing his voice locked up our own voice/brain/life and no one said a word. Finally our Mom said, "I think the boys are in shock. Say something boys. Mr. Nimoy is busy. Talk to him."

Nimoy just chuckled. I'm sure he was used to it by now. So he just stated talking, getting us finally to and tentatively speak to him. We talked to him for a few minutes and then he thanked us for our pledge and mom talked to him for a second; and then... it was over.

Later, when we got the phone bill, our mom almost had a heart attack. She said maybe there is a way around this. So she called the phone company and complained at there being a forty minute long-distance bill to the Telethon.

She called the phone company and reasoned with them, "Why in the world would we call and talk for forty minutes when all we were doing was to call to make a quick pledge"

That sounded rational to the operator. So they removed the charge from the bill and we got a free forty minute phone call to Seattle to talk to Spock, for free. She thought that was cooler than our getting to talk to Leonard Nimoy and would mention it from time to time. She had gotten one over on "Ma Bell"!

This is funny. About the Shatner thing yesterday.

I was (still am) beat to hell from this weekend (and allergies aren't helping...I had one beer on Saturday but yesterday probably looked like I'd been on a three day bender).

I had more fun this weekend than I've had in a month of Sundays. After telling my son that William Shatner tweeted back too me, my son said yesterday that I should tweet to him about our unknown-to-Shatner, 1960s connection... and finally how finally we communicated after the debacle of trying to talk to him decades ago when I was just a kid (see previous post). And he never even knew about it. As I'm sure there are so many of these kinds of stories when you are someone as famous as Shatner.

As a side note, it was late yesterday when I was tired and just wanted make it, staying up late enough to go to bed and get some sleep. My son said I should tweet to Shatner about this connection I had with him from my childhood. I said to my son (to paraphrase), "Maybe I'll post something tomorrow about it. What If he called me or something, who knows? I'm not really even functional at this point."

Then today my son tweeted something himself about it. So feeling rested finally, I went ahead and responded. I got that out to where Shatner could see it. He did, as you know he responded, and thus, this blog came into being.

But my son last night had started laughing when I said I might tweet something after I get rest, the next day. I asked why he was laughing. He said (again to paraphrase), "Listen to yourself. You'll post tomorrow in case William Shatner might call you? Think about that? How cool is that even to be able to say it?" And he laughed again. I thought about it, and so did I.

Point well taken.

And finally...Thanks, Mr. Shatner!

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