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Father figure Shatner’s influence still growing


When I was a boy, my single mom worked (three jobs in lean years), so on lonelier afternoons, I raised myself in front of the TV, learning how to be a man from surrogate fathers Alan Alda, John Ritter and William Shatner.

Now, all these whiskers later, I’m an entertainment writer in Las Vegas, and Shatner calls me so we can discuss his local endeavor, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It,” Thursday to June 21 at the MGM Grand.

I can’t stop myself from telling him my surrogate-daddy story. He gives me the impression I’m not his first long-lost metaphorical stepson.

“I don’t know what that feels like to you. It must feel strange,” I say.

“Not at all,” Shatner says. “I understand it. I understand you gravitated toward the strength and the ability to take command, and the ability to make decisions, and the security of it.”

“Right,” I say.

“That never leaves you,” he says. “You’ll be that way until you die, but you’ll understand it more.”

“Isn’t that fascinating,” I say, “that you are going to be part of the fabric of my entire being for the rest of my life?”

“That’s exactly right,” Shatner says. “There is a strain, whether it’s fictional or fact, that you will conduct your life with, peripherally, but it will have reverberations with many of the things you do.”

Shatner asks me if I have any kids, which if I had any, they could be considered Shatner’s metaphorical step grandchildren, however I am as barren as the Vasquez Rocks where, in the “Star Trek” episode “Arena,” Shatner’s Captain Kirk rolled a boulder on a Gorn lizard-man dude.

I tell Shatner I don’t have any kids. But hopefully, someday, I will write something that will serve as my surrogate child by carrying on my legacy and, therefore, part of Shatner’s legacy.

I tell Shatner, 83, he’s become better with age.

“You are a rare person in that you’re a boulder going down a snowy mountain, getting bigger, stronger, more powerful every year,” I say. “I imagine your confidence and power got stronger as you get bigger and better every couple of years.”

Shatner is glad to hear this truth.

“It’s interesting you say that,” he says, “because I feel more confident in my powers as an actor, as a competitive writer, as a man, as an intellect. I feel more powerful. I feel more creative than I ever have before. And I’m creating more things than I ever have before. I ride a horse competitively better than I ever have. Why that’s so, as age goes on, I don’t know. But it may have something to do with comprehending the mystique.”

I ask him what that means to him, “comprehending the mystique.”

He says he’s gotten “technically freer, and thusly more creative,” because he’s not bound by technique.

“You mean you’re in the zone, like basketball players?” I say.

“It’s the very zone I’m talking about. It’s the zen,” he says. “It is the oneness that you feel, whether it’s in conversation and you feel a spiritual bond, or whether it’s the same thing with a horse, or whether it’s the same thing as an actor. When I am right with the one-man show, it is an experience for me and the audience, and something mystical happens, and they stand up and cheer at the end, they don’t know why, they just had a great time.”

Shatner and I talk more about his one-man Vegas show. Then I say:

“When people come to see you at the show here, what do you want them to bring with them, physically or metaphysically?”

“Money,” he says. “Lots of money.”

Shatner laughs. I laugh. He gives me the real answer:

“An openness, and a desire to laugh.”

Doug Elfman’s column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/entertainment/reel.