That's right, it's that unsung holiday of geeks across the galaxy: William Shatner's birthday.
The Shat turns 81 today, March 22.
Now, it's possible that you are not a momumental nerd. I am - and some of my earliest nerdliest memories involve the crew of the Enterprise 1701 boldly going where no man (or woman) had gone before. TBS was, in the 80s, a local Atlanta station - and they would play Star Trek marathons at least once a year.
Shatner has become a parody of himself in some ways - he's such a well-known figure in popular culture that even people who have never seen an episode of original series Star Trek know who he is. And can emulate his... unique line delivery.
But I love the Shat without irony, unreserved and as a constant in my life. Y'all, when William Shatner finally does die, I am going to be a wreck. And I don't get wrecked by celebrity deaths.
(The other two celebrities that are going to hurt are Leonard Nimoy and David Bowie.)
Here are some things you may not know about William Shatner:
He's Canadian! He's Jewish! He's a classically trained Shakespearean actor!
That last, perhaps, explains why he rapped the Friends, Romans, Countrymen speech in a little movie called
Shatner comes to bury Ceasar, not to praise him, y'all.
We've been watching William Shatner in movies for 61 years now. Sometimes I look at facts like that and my mind just staggers to a halt. That is a long time - that is long enough to become part of our cultural consciousness. That is AMAZING.
(I am trying SO HARD not to fall down a YouTube blackhole of Shatner vids right now, you don't even know. And, uh, it's not really working - so many vids!)
He debuted on Broadway in 1956, and on television in 1954. We've watched him in T
he Brothers Karamazov
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The thing that always gets mentioned, especially when people are making fun of him, is that Shatner appeared in two episodes of
The Twilight Zone
, most famously an episode called "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." This episode is the reason why every single time I have the window seat on an airplane I cannot resist saying, if only to myself, "There's...something on the wing!"
But that's small potatoes compared to Star Trek. The show ran for three seasons (and, uh, the quality of the third season is... debatable). It featured what was at the time an incredibly diverse cast, including a woman named Uhura (played by the utterly magnificent
In an episode named
, Captain James T. Kirk and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura shared what is popularly cited as the first scripted interracial kiss on tv. I can't find confirmation of this - but it was a great kiss. For the 60s.
Shatner isn't a perfect man by any means. He's been married four times. He's had some very public struggles with his former castmates. But I kind of don't mind any of that - William Shatner is living out his flaws in front of us and that's a hard thing for anyone to do. Especially someone who became an unwilling cult figure the way he did.
George Takei really doesn't like William Shatner. And I love the hell out of George Takei. But I have room in my heart for both of them, I really do. Takei has said that Shatner has "a big, shiny, demanding ego" - and that seems to be 100% true.
I just don't think it makes Shatner a bad person. Of course, I don't have to work with him.
Have I mentioned that William Shatner had an exceptionally fine ass in the Captain Kirk years? Because he did.
When I was a kid, a kind of weirdo kid with bad self-esteem and my nose in a book, I watched Star Trek. I watched Kirk interact with Spock and McCoy and I saw an amazing friendship play out in every episode. It was some kind of revelation that people could work together like that. I never saw myself as a Kirk type - McCoy was my favorite and I had far more in common with Spock - but I didn't have to want to be Kirk to understand what made him great.
People are possibly going to accuse me of conflating Captain Kirk and William Shatner - and that's possibly fair enough an accusation for when I was a kid. But as an adult, I have watched this man in a way I really don't pay attention to celebrities. I watched him, in 1999, deal publically with the death (potential suicide) of his third wife. I watched him laugh at himself in those ridiculous Priceline commercials. I watched him on Boston Legal and I don't even watch TV.
Yes, I realize just how desperately geeky this is. I just don't care. And that's actually what watching William Shatner has given me. A model for living, with confidence and humor and mistakes and assholishness, without actually being afraid of other people. Watching him has given me an appreciation for friendships that span decades. Watching him has given me an appreciation for doing what you want to do and trusting that someone will respond to it.
That's the only explanation I have for those Priceline commercials, man. They were choice.
Or the spoken word version of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You."
William Shatner is 81 years old and he's still doing all kinds of things. He's still friends with Leonard Nimoy and Heather Locklear. He's still utterly ridiculous. He still has that distinctive speech pattern. He raises horses and talks about Star Trek and seems to have found a little bit of peace with the way people idolize him - even if it is through overweaning ego. He is fluid and thoughtful and always fascinating.
If I can be half as fearless in my life, I'll have accomplished something.
Happy birthday, William Shatner. And happy Shatnerday to the rest of us.