Monday, November 15, 2021

William Shatner Called Me a Liar! And Then Blasted Off into Space!

William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain Kirk, has gone where no Star Trek actor has gone before: outer space. Real outer space, where no one can hear you scream (oops, wrong franchise). At 90 years old, Shatner is the oldest person to travel above the Kármán Line, which is the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

Shatner’s trip aboard the Blue Origin rocket only lasted a few minutes (yeah, I wish he were in orbit around Earth, too), but it profoundly moved the nonagenarian. Upon landing back on terra firma, he tearfully said, “Everybody in the world needs to see it. This comforter of blue that we have around us. We think, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then suddenly you shoot through it, all of a sudden, like you whip off a sheet when you’ve been asleep, and you’re looking into blackness. Into black ugliness…Is that the way death is?...I hope I never recover from this.”

Mere few weeks before Mr. Shatner’s epiphanic space flight, I encountered him at Fan Expo Dallas, the biggest comic book convention in North Texas. And it didn’t go well. Prior to meeting Shatner, who was one of my childhood heroes, I had a blast at the show. I love going to conventions, and this one was no different.

I had fun watching the many cosplayers roaming the convention halls and vendor’s room. I had my picture taken with a guy who, thanks to an impeccable costume, had an uncanny resemblance to Baron Boris von Frankenstein, as voiced by Boris Karloff in the 1967 stop-motion animation classic, Mad Monster Party. As you might expect, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone cosplaying as a character from that film. Pretty darned cool!

I caught up with friends, some of whom I only see at conventions, grabbed some cool comics (including a mint copy of The Super Friends—my favorite cartoon when I was little), ogled some licensed metal lunch boxes from the ’70s and ’80s that were in drop-dead gorgeous condition (with prices to match--$250 to $350 each), and had a quick chat with Dan Parent, one of the better Archie Comics artists. He was set up at a table covered with comics he had drawn, and I knew I wanted to buy something and get it autographed. I quickly decided on a nifty mashup graphic novel: Archie Meets Batman ’66, which is just as much fun as it sounds.

Perhaps the highlight of Fan Expo Dallas 2021 was meeting Charles Martinet, who voices Mario in various Nintendo video games. My adult children Ryan and Katie were with me, and Ryan wanted to buy a poster and get it signed by Mr. Martinet so he could hang it up in his classroom (he teaches middle school). A selfie with the voice actor came with the purchase of the poster, so Martinet posed with Ryan for a pic. Instead of just mailing it in and collecting a paycheck, he spoke comically like Mario, took several poses with Ryan, joked around with us a bit, and insisted that Katie and I join him and Ryan for an additional photo. He was super nice, and I can definitely see why my gamer friends have told me that he is one of the nicest celebrities they’ve ever met.

Was William Shatner just as nice? Not even a little bit. Sure, he’s much more famous than Charles Martinet, but that’s really no excuse to treat your fans and the press poorly. I did indeed cover the show for the press, and as we were leaving late that afternoon, I told my kids I wanted to say hello to Shatner and perhaps get a photo of him sitting at his table for the inevitable article(s) that would follow. I had heard that he could be difficult, but I wanted to find out for myself. And I wanted to get a glimpse of the legend, to be perfectly honest.

As I approached his booth, there were just a few fans in line, so I only had to wait a few minutes. When it was my turn, I flashed my press badge and directed my question toward Shatner’s handler, asking if I could take a photo for an article. The handler looked at Shatner, and good ole Captain Kirk said, “Write the article first, and then we’ll send you a photo.”

I must have looked a little puzzled because he basically repeated what he said. “We’ll send you a photo after you write the article.”

I just smiled, thanked him for his time, and told him something to the effect that it doesn’t really work that way. As I turned and started walking way, Shatner leaned over, chuckled, and told his handler, “Press photo. Oldest gag in the book.”

He thought I was out of earshot, but I heard his remark, as did my kids. I turned back—yes, I turned back to Captain Kirk to confront him about what he said—and told him, “It’s not a gag, it’s my job.” He just smiled and said something that I don’t recall because I was a bit flustered at this point. He didn’t say “got lost” or anything like that, he just brushed us off.

For his part, Shatner looks really young and vital for a man his age. He’s also still busy working on an assortment of projects, including a new movie and TV show. I admire him for that, not to mention his esteemed place in pop culture history And I’m sure people ask him for favors all the time, including free pics and free autographs. But I wasn’t wanting a selfie or anything like that. Just a simple photo of him doing his thing at the show. For my job. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, because he thought I was running a scam. Okay, whatever, I’m still a fan—just try to keep me from watching the original Star Trek series for the umpteenth time.

All in all, Fan Expo Dallas was great fun, the Shatner incident notwithstanding. The show returns July 17-19, 2022, and I plan on attending. Tickets go on sale online this month. For more info, click HERE.