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!