Leafing through the Los Angeles Times one day I read that the Director' Guild was hosting the 2004 William S. Paley Television Festival. On the 10th Brian and I would spend an evening with... William Shatner! That's right, a year and 4 days from our last encounter with the Captain we had another opportunity to meet him. To the Batmobile, Robin.
Since the seating was general admission and knowing that the place would be filled to capacity we left early for our battle with L.A. traffic. West Hollywood is no easy place to get to during rush hour so we didn't even take time to eat.
Once there we found a place in line and settled down for the hour plus wait. And what a line it was. Brian played the "Evening with Shatner Trivia Game." The rules: figure out which Shatner show the person was a fan of - Star Trek, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, TekWar or Priceline.com. Yeah, it was creepy.
Still hungry we decided to order a pizza. 411 got us connected to Pizza Hut which got us delivered some scrum-diddly-umptious food. The people around us tried to look disinterested , but c'mon, this was some good pizza.
After generous amounts of pizza and a bottle of Aquafina I had to see a man about a horse but Brian reminded me that I didn't want to miss out on the prime seating. After dancing around for a few more minutes they finally opened the doors and we headed in. After securing second row center seats I headed for the restroom. As I turned the corner out of the theater I almost ran into some cameramen and photographers surrounding someone. Sweet Jesus Almighty, it was HIM! Forgetting my bursting bladder for a moment I whipped out the digicama and joined the photogs (from behind the velvet ropes, of course). Then I joined him for a Kodak moment . While I was standing there shocked that I was the only fortunate member of the paying public to be here security finally noticed me and I was bumrushed. One of the quite large and menacing guards informed that there will ample opportunity to take pictures after the show. Content with a couple of shots under my belt I headed off to drain the main vein.
Shortly after returning to my seat and showing Brian the pictures the show began. It started with a retrospective of Bill's work from the late 50s to the recent Priceline.com commercial with Leonard Nemoy (including his truly awful rendition of Marc Antony in Julius Caesar). Then he talked... and talked... and talked. Now I seriously dig William Shatner. Not in a ask-Rosie-O'Donnell-to-stand-by-our-side-on-the-San-Francisco-courthouse-steps way but in the this-is-one-bad-muthafucka way. But damn he just rambled. Brian put it best when he said Bill was a greatstoryteller without a story. There were some high points but they were more the exception than the rule. Earlier Brian had offered me $75 to ask The Man if he killed his wife; as he droned on I became increasingly tempted to take that bet.
After a few boring questions from the audience the coup d' grace was delivered by a woman who asked Shatner if he had had any say in Kirk's death scene in Star Trek: Generations. Damn. Talk about a mood killer. Shatner knew that he died a weak-ass death. For those of you that did not see the death of one of science fiction's greatest heroes, he was essentially crushed by a tower and his last words were, "It was fun...oh my." WTF? This was James Tiberius Kirk, commander of the USS Enterprise, the first white man to kiss a black (and green) chick on television. He allowed himself to be surgically altered so that he could infiltate a Romulan Bird-of-Prey in order to steal their cloaking device. This was the guy who beat the Kobayashi Maru, the training scenario that tested how hopeful Starfleet captains dealt with a no-win situation. This was the dude who not only defeated Gorn but then refused to kill the intergalactic reptile. His eulogy at Spock's funeral still brings me to tears. Kirk was a beloved leader, an intergalactic lover, a more Bond-than-Bond spy, a tactical genius, a compassionate warrior and a loyal friend all in one. He was, simply, my hero. And he went out like a bitch.
So when the question was asked the audience knew the end was near. To his credit Bill did give an empassioned and philosophical explanation of the death: he had attempted to convey the moment just before death when the person realizes that there were still greater adventures ahead of him. But at the end of his somber soliloquy he quietly and mournfully admitted "the death" didn't sell. It was a strangely enlightening moment. Having just finished teaching Heart of Darkness I was reminded of Marlowe's words as he watched Kurtz' life slip away: "Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror -- of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision -- he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath." Then Brian, showing he was thinking the exact same thing as I, whispered Kurtz' final words, "The horror! The horror!" It was a moment that we all suddenly realized this man, this legend, continues to wear an albatross around his neck, and he had allowed us all inside to feel the weight.
Then just as quickly as it began, Shatner ended it. Clearly drained he clapped his hands once, said, "Thank you for coming," stood up and made a beeline to the stage exit and was gone. Damnit! He did to us again. Brian and I went out and waited around for a few minutes but there was no hope.
So we hopped back into the Saturn and began to head home when Brian instead headed for the Hollywood Hills. There was no destination but uphill . The greater the ascent and darker the road the better. Why is this man laughing? Because as I got out of the car on this freaky sideroad to read the signs he starts taking off as if to leave me stranded. Fucker! The last place I want to be alone in the dark is an overgrown narrow road with multiple signs that read "Beware of Dog." We eventually make it back to civilization (in Hollywood I use that term loosely) and head home. After Brian dropped me off at my car I followed him and got a parting shot of the Saturn returning from the heart of darkness.