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William Shatner
Photo by PR Photos

Captain Of Industry

New York Jewish Week - NY, USA - He’ll never shake the association with a certain science fiction TV icon, nor does he want to.

But the older he gets, the more William Shatner seems determined to eclipse that role with an astonishingly diverse litany of credits.

Star of a hit ABC legal drama; recording artist and master of the spoken word with his ... penchant ... for ... dramatic pauses; author of memoirs and science fiction novels; horse breeder and champion of an equestrian charity, as well as celebrity spokesman and fundraiser for the American Tinnitus Foundation; huckster for Priceline.com; and the man who, as host of one of the first reality shows, helped millions of Americans remember the number for 911.

Add to that list host of a game show (albeit a canceled one) and, coming soon to the cable channel A&E, host of the talk show “Raw Nerve.” His eponymous Web site offers the latest details, as well as a host of merchandising, and live ShatnerVision allows the star to personally keep fans up to date.

Is he a workaholic?

“I’ve never thought of myself that way,” he told The Jewish Week in an interview to promote his just-released memoir, “Up Till Now,” published by Thomas Dunne Books. “But I suppose there are some lazy people who would look at it like that.”

Among the memoir’s stories of growing up in a Montreal family of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Hungary is one about how, after graduating from McGill University with a degree in commerce, Shatner was expected by his father, Joseph, to follow him into his moderately successful clothing business.

But after several years of theater work in summer camp and college, the younger Shatner had other plans. He was going to go to New York to pursue a full-time acting career.

Perplexed and disappointed by his only son’s decision, Joseph encouraged him to do what he wanted, with one provision: Don’t be a “hanger-on,” someone who can’t earn his own keep, depending on the generosity of others.

“That was definitely the skywriting in my personal universe,” Shatner recalled last week.

While he kept the promise to his father, the years before stardom were lean and tough.

Even after his breakthrough role as Capt. James T. Kirk on “Star Trek” from 1966 to 1969 (his father passed away during season two), there was a period in which Shatner slept in the back of a truck behind the theater where he was appearing and worried incessantly about supporting his three daughters. He accepted roles in films so bad they were never fully released, or not released at all, and worked so hard on them that he occasionally risked his life performing dangerous stunts, all the while dreaming of having more than $1,800 in the bank. He jokes that when the phone rang with acting jobs, he often said yes before picking it up.

It was only after “Star Trek,” canceled after three struggling seasons, gained a much larger life in syndication that major doors started opening for Shatner. He became the industry’s most sought-after host and narrator of science and technology documentaries, and later starred in seven “Trek” features and the four-season cop drama “TJ Hooker.”

“Up Till Now” contains more than everything you ever wanted to know about Shatner’s life journey and didn’t think to ask, from his early days at a Canadian Jewish Federation summer camp, where his innocent reading of a scary story to a child Holocaust survivor so disturbed the boy that he had to be sent home, to his battles with anti-Semitic bullies on the way to Hebrew school (sadly, no phasers were available to fend them off).

“They were kids that didn’t know any better,” Shatner recalls.  “I just thought of it as normal.” He notes that he later got into McGill because of a Jewish quota, which no longer exists.

Shatner also writes of his long, sometimes rocky friendship with “Star Trek” costar Leonard Nimoy, another child of Jewish immigrants who became the family black sheep by heading to Hollywood.

While Nimoy famously tweaked his character with Jewish characteristics, notably the Kohanic hand gesture that would become Mr. Spock’s salute, Shatner said he gave no such nuance to his character. “Leonard was much richer in that regard than I was,” he said.
Source : Originally Published New York Jewish Week - NY, USA, May 28, 2008
Celebrities : William Shatner
Categories : TV Actors, TV Personalities, Celebrity News
Posted 5/28/2008 12:05:35 AM | Permalink
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