It’s always been said that you should never meet your heroes, but when I had the chance to meet William Freaking Shatner, you could almost say that I Shatner’ed myself in anticipation.
It was 2013 and William Freaking Shatner and several other celebrities were coming to the Dallas Fan Expo. Now, I want you to understand… I love this man. Ever since I was a little kid and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan appeared on Showtime in the early 80’s, I have wanted to be Captain Kirk. This guy… he is my childhood and now my childhood was going to be right in front of me and I was cautiously giddy.
I say “cautiously” because we’ve all heard stories of what an arrogant jack-face that William Freaking Shatner can be. Wil Wheaton has famously recounted his story of meeting William [Freaking] Shatner when he was a kid working on Star Trek: The Next Generation and, if you were to check out Reddit, there are dozens of stories of William Shatner being an unbelievable jerk to his fans.
Just… be a human, dude. Be a human and let me stand in the presence of my idol for just a moment.
Did I mention that this was my first convention experience? My kids too and they wanted to come when they learned that I had purchased tickets to get an autograph from and a picture with Captain Kirk. My girls were squealing in delight which surprised me. My son, a nerd just like his handsome dad, could barely contain himself. They got even more excited when they learned they could wear costumes. My son put on his Spider-Man costume, my oldest daughter dressed up as Supergirl. My youngest was Wonder Woman and my second oldest dressed up as a cat because that was how she rolled at the time and I respected that.
The day of the con came and, before I knew it, I was standing in line within eyeshot of William Freaking Shatner — the man who inspired me as a kid, my hero, my idol. My hands began to shake and my breath came in quivering rasps. He wasn’t being rude to those people who were getting autographs, rather, he was… dismissive. Dismissive I could live with. The man, after all, was in the middle of signing hundreds of autographs. There would be no time for idle chit-chat.
Just don’t be a jerkburger. Please remain my hero, Mr. Freaking Shatner. Please.
William Freaking Shatner’s assistant would take the 8×10’s that the convention goers would bring, hand them to my hero who would sign them (no personalizations, please) and would slide them back with his index finger. No touching please.
Hey, he was in his late eighties. I wouldn’t want to touch that many people either if I were in my late eighties. As a school teacher, a person who works in places that are veritable petri dishes of disease, I barely want to touch people.
Perfectly understandable. Nothing jerkish about that.
Finally, there he was… right in front of me. William Freaking Shatner. Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise. The man who warded off the Romulan’s secret weapon at the Neutral Zone, the man who went toe-to-toe with Khan, the man who fought a Gorn with his bare hands… the man who didn’t care if you were a green woman. Right in front of me… four decades of hero worship had come to this and I couldn’t speak as the assistant took my 8×10.
William Freaking Shatner looked up and all of those stories came flooding back to me. What horrible, dismissive, jerkish thing was he about to say. I braced myself.
“Oh… my… GOSH!” he said, his eyes lighting up, “Look at all of you!”
He motioned with both hands to my children.
“Aren’t you all just the most precious…. Are you Spider-Man!?”
My son nodded.
“And Supergirl! You are so beautiful!”
My daughter beamed.
“You are all so wonderful, are you having a good time?” William Freaking Shatner asked my children who nodded an affirmative. “It was so good to meet you all,” he said with a smile, “I hope you have a wonderful day!”
He signed my picture and passed it back to me with his index finger and it hit me that nothing he said had been directed at me and so I said, “Thank you, Mr. Shatner!”
He cut his eyes at me and said, “You’re welcome.”
He spoke to me!
We got out of the line and I, with a shaky hand, looked at my autograph from William Freaking Shatner.
“So, when do we meet Captain Kirk?” my oldest asked.
“What?” I blinked in confusion.
“When are we meeting Captain Kirk?”
I pointed back to where we came from, William Freaking Shatner was lost in the crowd. “That was Captain Kirk,” I said.
She looked at the 8×10 that I held, a picture of William Freaking Shatner from 1966.
“What HAPPENED to him!?” she asked in shock.
She thought we were meeting Chris Pine. I’ve never felt more like disowning a child than I did at that moment.
That wasn’t our last interaction with William Freaking Shatner for we had a photo opportunity with him the next day. We entered the room where William Freaking Shatner was sitting on a stool and, the moment he saw us, his face broke into a huge smile. “Hello again!” he cried.
He remembered the kids. As a matter of fact, the photo we got with William Freaking Shatner is an odd one because he was still talking to my son when it was snapped.
And so, there you go… I’m sure that William Freaking Shatner has probably acted like a douchecanoe to a multitude of people over the years because, being a celebrity — especially one with so many fans, it’s probably a necessity just to have a life, but to me, he will always be my hero, Captain Kirk… champion of the universe and hero of the Federation and, because of his simple kindness, my children will always remember him that way as well.
William Freaking Shatner, man… William Freaking Shatner.