Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Has Been

This Magazine Staff

UPDATE OK, listen up Annette. Shatner has been given a Fame Audit by Fametracker, and you know what? It’s bitchin’. In fact, it is probably the best Fame Audit they’ve ever done. And that’s no surprise, you know why? Because it was written by Fametracker’s Man From Funkle, aka Adam Sternbergh, former Postie and Saturday Night editor. Adam was there, at McGill, in 1992, toiling away for the McGill Tribune, in the very basement of the very building that is now the William Shatner University Centre. Give up. We’re Everywhere.
My fellow Montrealer William Shatner turns 74 today. He is one of my heroes.
1. Fall 1992, I was editor-in-chief of The Red Herring, McGill University’s “only deliberately funny magazine.” With the Student’s Society threatening to cut off our funding, a co-editor and I sent a letter to William Shatner. The students of McGill had just voted to rename their student union building The Shatner Centre. We asked him to give McGill students the gift of laughter, by giving us a gift of, er, $3000.
Shatner wrote back within a week. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You want me to give you $3000 so that, 25 years from now, you can show your friends you were the biggest twits at McGill University? NO WAY.”
I still have the letter.
2. CBC Television airs “At Home in the Universe” the Life and Times of William Shatner. It is one of the most riveting hours of television I have ever seen. While they were filiming it, Shatner’s wife Nerine Kidd drowned (suicide?) in their pool. The last scene has Shatner, staring into the distance, near tears, talking about life being “an endlessly curling wave… and you don’t know whether to stay on or get off…”
3. Last fall, Shatner released Has Been, an album of spoken word/prose poems put to music by Ben Folds. The album leads with a great version of Pulp’s Common People, with guest vocals by Joe Jackson. The record — I kid you not — out Cohen’s Leonard Cohen.
I saw Shatner interviewed on the CBC, and they asked him why he called the record “Has Been.” He said that he’d seen a journalist calll him that, and it struck him that it was one of the worst things you could say about someone. “Has Been? What does that mean — that you were a somebody, and now you aren’t?”

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