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Full Speed Ahead

From Captain Kirk on "Star Trek" to Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," William Shatner has played the macho man role with no regrets.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006

(continued from page 8)

"Virgin used me as a publicity thing [and] without my permission. And they came to me later and said, 'We'll let you go on free.' And I said, "You've got the wrong idea, you've got to pay me to go!' Well, my interest in the theory of space and the theme of man's march into the unknown and the necessity of her grand goals...that's all there, but to vomit in space is not my, you know, [idea of a good time]. And the fiery crash with the vomit hovering over you?" asks Shatner. "No. So I need guarantees like, 'You will definitely come back. You're going up, but you'll definitely come back down.' I'm not saying I don't want to go—I do want to go, but I'm not going to pay $250,000 to go."

That doesn't mean, however, that Shatner wouldn't mind having a visitor from space come visit him, instead. Mi planeta, su planeta. Again.

According to Dennis William Hauck, an author and lecturer on the paranormal, Shatner has more than boldly gone where no man—or few men—has gone before; he got them to come to him.

According to Hauck, who penned the unauthorized biography Captain Quirk following a documentary project on which he consulted with Shatner entitled Mysteries of the Gods, Shatner witnessed a UFO while motorcycling with friends in the Mojave Desert in California.

It was 1967, during the filming years of "Star Trek," and Shatner and four friends had decided to take their bikes out for a spin near Edwards Air Force Base. Shatner became separated from his friends during a spill from the bike and has since recounted a story that had both him and his Suzuki Titan 500 experiencing functional changes following his sighting. There was even some modest speculation as to whether Shatner had had psychic communication with the extraterrestrials or even been abducted.

In fact, says Hauck, Shatner's infamous spoken-word album entitled The Transformed Man—dubbed the "Transformed Ham" by less than enthusiastic music critics and which became a staple on the "Dr. Demento Show"—was recorded in direct response to his experience in the desert. Hauck elaborates on how each song (or song rendering) on the album had specific meaning as to how Shatner remembered the encounter, and specifically points to "the magic swirling ship" lyrics of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and some of the potentially otherworldly lyrics of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as being messages back to his visitors that he had, in fact, paid attention to the experience.

The self-penned lyrics of Shatner's latest musical offering, Has Been, are a bit less oblique and perhaps a bit more revealing than the ones he borrowed for Transformed Man. Although still mocked a bit by critics, the effort wasn't savaged nearly as badly as his previous attempt at musical expression. Shatner's lyrics—which take on everything from politics to the grief he experienced at his third wife's sudden death—are accompanied by the music and background vocals of everyone from Joe Jackson to Brad Paisley.

While a couple of the cuts on Has Been deal with the inevitability of death and the resulting loneliness—a topic that has been at the top of Bill Shatner's "to muse, ponder and pontificate on" list for decades—the title track lays down more than a snappy little beat; it lays down Shatner's take on himself, his future and his detractors.

In the final refrain of "Has Been," Shatner offers up "What are you afraid of?/Failure?/So am I/Has Been implies failure/Not so/Has Been is history/Has Been was/Has Been might again." Aye, Aye, Captain.

Betsy Model is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

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