William Shatner Live! — with tripod

Writer Mike Poteet interviewed me recently for a profile of Collecting Trek on the site Redshirts Always Die and wrote a really good article. Give that piece a read

We did a quick video tour of my Star Trek room and I ended up relating the story of William Shatner’s photo shoot for the album Captain of the Starship. William Shatner Live! The autographed and framed album on my wall is the Canadian version of the US LP. The Encyclopedia Shatnerica has this to say about that album:

This 1977 live album captures Shatner’s performance of his one-man show in the mid-1970s. Recorded at Hofstra University (in Hempstead, New York), the two-disc set was produced by Shatner and released through his company, Lemli music (named after his daughters Leslie, Melanie and Lisabeth). A remarkable performance before a mostly stoned college audience. 

The cover of the US LP William Shatner Live, showing the actor on stage surrounded by 10 microphones on stands.

The US product has a fairly cool photo of Shatner on stage surrounded by 10 microphones, but Canadian compilation powerhouse K-Tel International could not use that image for some reason, so it needed a new cover photo. Therein lies a tale I have heard Shatner tell on at least one occasion. 

Shatner arrived for the photo shoot and glanced around the fairly empty room. He asked what the plan was and received only blank looks from the photo crew. They had the same question.

An action pose was needed for the picture, so Shatner grabbed a tripod, flipped it around, and held it like a ray gun. Luckily he had chosen a sort-of yellow sweater when he headed out that morning. The photo works well enough on the album cover but it’s even better if you know that back story.

Shatner signed the LP for me in 2014 at Fan Expo in Toronto but, sadly, he used a black marker, so the autograph does not stand out well against the dark photo. 

I cannot play these two discs, as I do not own a record player. Until recently, all four sides of the recording were on YouTube but the uploader has removed those videos.

The first disc is Shatner doing a number of readings from classic plays and novels. The best of those is “Ways to the Moon” from the Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac. I say that because the performance is quite good and because Cyrano is my favourite play.

The second disc is mostly our captain answering questions from the audience. Notably, he relates the story of why Leonard Nimoy was reluctant to sign on for the first Star Trek movie. I tell the story of the Heineken poster incident here.

Speaking of Leonard Nimoy

Joining the Shatner album on my wall is Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space, signed for me at Fan Expo in 2009. I don’t have an interesting story about that one, but at least its tracks are on YouTube.

Postscript

The text on the back of Shatner’s album was written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. They were fans and semi-professional writers and I was often baffled by their Star Trek novels as a kid. I have not read those books in years but the prose they penned for the album reminds me why their writing style bothered me.

“What is becoming increasingly clear is that the legendary Kirk is finding a place in the history of heroes which is unique, one-of-a-kind, unprecedented.” Those three terms are synonyms. Someone apparently paid good money for a thesaurus and wasn’t about to not use it.

“The dramatic performance speaks of the flying, and is the flying.” What?

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