Off-Topic: William Shatner profile in NY Times Magazine

It’s a holiday, so I figure I can go a little off-topic to say how much I enjoyed the bemused and affectionate profile of William Shatner in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine.

As an apprentice at the Playhouse on the Mall, in Paramus, NJ, in the early 70’s, I worked as Shatner’s personal assistant for a three week run of his production of Tennessee William’s Period of Adjustment. The Playhouse, located in one of the first malls in New Jersey, was a summer stock house that hosted traveling package shows.

Actually, the theatrical term for what I was, was Shatner’s “dresser. ” That means I was in charge of his costumes and making sure he had everything he needed. But in reality, it’s more of a personal assistant gig (which I also did for Dana Andrews, Hugh O’Brian, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara among other stars).

I had to drive into NYC every day to pick him up, help him with any costume issues, make sure he got the right food at intermission, and drive him back to his NYC hotel after the shows. We spent a lot of time together.

I was, and still am, a huge Star Trek fan, and the first time I met him, I could barely utter a word or stop staring. They told me the important thing was not to call him Captain or make any flip Star Trek references. They said he could be “difficult.”

But he was, flat out, a delightful guy.

It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at college, Shatner allowed me, between a matinee and an evening performance one Wednesday, to do a whole 2-hour interview with him about acting in and directing a play (I got an A for the paper in my Theater History course that fall!).  He was always generous, kind, and funny (dressers can be subject to all kinds of abuse from their stars).

When he felt like talking theater, I heard some cool stories and learned a lot of acting lore (oh man, I wanted to be just like him, or his buddy Christopher Plummer, when I grew up).

But the key was not to bother him if he was studying a script or reading.  We got along great, and he gave me a huge tip when the show closed.

From then on, I followed his career and enjoyed everything (well, maybe not TJ Hooker :-)) he ever did. He’s a great trouper, and he sure treated me, underling of underlings, with a lot of respect.

So  I can say, without reservation, rock on, Bill!

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8 Comments

  1. Tim September 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    Bob there is the funniest YOU TUBE Video of William Shattner from what believe is a scene from an episode he is currently in. He is being robbed at gun point and if you have not seen it , I strongly recommend it. 5-STARS

    • Tim September 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm #
      • Bob September 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

        Tim: Thanks for the link. That’s a classic from Boston Legal, the last series he did before this new sitcom he’s on in the new season. Great stuff! Bob

  2. Jack Kurtz September 7, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    I enjoyed Shatner on Star Trek, not so much on TJ Hooker and not at all in Priceline ads. But his work on Boston Legal was great. His relationship with James Spader was fun and their cigar moments on the balcony a real joy. I thought the two of them sitting on the balcony, lighting up their stogies and pondering the meaning of life would have a made a great series of You Tube videos.

    I’m really looking forward to his new series. S#*! My Dad Says.

    I hope you’re still doing well. I really enjoy your blog.

    jack

    • Bob September 7, 2010 at 9:18 am #

      Jack: Still doing well, struggling with video editing. Looks like you’re busy too! Busy is good…cheers, Bob

  3. Carl Rollyson September 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Bob, I’m writing a biography of Dana Andrews for the University Press of Mississippi. I’d like to hear from you.

    • Bob September 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

      Carl: You know where to find me! Bob

  4. Howard September 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    Stiller & Meara?? I bet it was hard not to laugh all the time, I can’t look at Jerry Stiller without laughing or thinking about Festivous or a mansear.

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