Dear Mr. Shatner (or rather, “his people”, which is perfectly respectable and very hard work)
I may have started writing a song for this, unsure what to say. I don’t like asking for things; my parents hated that I refused to write letters to Santa. But then I found something, tucked between a flyer for the first convention I ever went to and the program for my first grade play. I thought I’d thrown it out years ago, having had an odd love/hate relationship with this keepsake from my first time meeting a celebrity. I wanted to tell you about when I first (and last) met you.
It was a tiny bookstore in my hometown of Louisville, KY; probably 1990. There was an ad in the paper that William Shatner was having a signing, so my mother, brother and I went (probably carrying my copy of TekWar). Star Trek was our family show; one of my earliest memories is space adventures on a tiny black and white TV in the basement. The event was chaotic; in hindsight it probably wasn’t very many people, but we were crammed in between mystery and self help, and everyone was shouting and waving for attention. Suddenly, there was William Shatner standing on a table, truly larger than life, and trying to bring some order in a booming voice. I don’t remember the words very well, something about how we were all rather silly for coming, and ending with the infamous catchphrase “get a life”. It was all over in about 15 minutes, and my brother and I were left standing there holding headshots and wondering what exactly had even happened.
My mother was somewhat angry. She told me recently that you looked straight at her when you said to “get a life”! But as a kid I didn’t think “a life” was something you had to acquire, so that photo was very treasured for some time anyway. It was pinned to my wall. I secretly signed the back, pretending it was a real autograph.
As I got older, I met a few other celebrities, and then even more. The more time passed, the less I was sure that I’d put my faith in the right person (or whether I should’ve put faith in any of them). I didn’t forgive myself for being quite absurd and precious about a photo, and I wasn’t sure I forgave this Mr. Shatner for being so sure what kind of person I was once I understood what he meant. For a while, I was angry with him. He’d pop up here and there, and I’d wonder a little what sort of person he was now; but didn’t find out. But, apparently, I never could part with that photo.
Now, I think I might’ve been right to hold on to the idea of it. It was Misha Collins’ fault, since I heard William Shatner was on Twitter (quelle surprise) when I heard he was talking about “us” (GISHWHES). So I spoke to this person I no longer had any idea of, and he answered. If he was interested in my life now, then it would have been unfair not to take interest in his. So I started to seek him out. I won’t say that the “Get a Life” documentary changed my life, but it changed my idea of who William Shatner was, what my fandom meant, and pushed me to try again in earnest to take up film again. Now having spoken to you about charity – I think, Mr. Shatner, that you are a better person now than you or anyone else is likely to give you credit for. Certainly better than I had given you credit for, even when as a child I thought there was something sacred about a glossy 8×10. There’s nothing any of us could aspire to more than to keep asking questions and caring about the answers, to have the courage to keep reinventing ourselves instead of letting others invent us, and to try to use whatever boons we have in life to improve the lives we touch while we’re here. A life IS something we have to acquire; something we have to build and fight for and make count. And we should never let our good or bad assumptions about others – or ourselves – prevent us from doing so to the fullest.
So instead of trying to say the “right” thing here, I’m trying to say the true thing. If I can’t tell you in person, then hopefully I’ve told you here. I missed Shatner’s World twice (live in JAX and in theaters) both times because I couldn’t stop working, so I just felt quite bad about not supporting it (and that I missed out). No matter who gets chosen, I hope I get to “meet you” again some time, and maybe get that photo signed for real. I hear you’re worried about drunken hecklers, and so I can offer this – I don’t drink, and you’ve more than earned my defense from any such abuse (whatever I can offer, being 5’6” and generally non-threatening). And I will certainly forgive you that I never heard back about my application to your GISHWHES team. Or maybe I’ll have to take it to Whats-his-name and have him do it… but now I can see that photo like I did as a child again, as something special that represents a person I’m glad to have encountered in the world.