I’m in my car, waiting in the traffic line to exit a parking garage outside of the Palace Theater in Schenectady, NY. We just viewed an airing or “The Wrath of Khan” on a 30 foot screen along with a few hundred other cheering Star Trek fans. That would really have been cool enough.
But, what made the event truly special was that it was followed by an hour long interview, live and in-person, with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
He is an incredibly engaging speaker. And he is just plain fun… a smart and funny guy. At 87 he looks and acts more youthful than people half his age. With a 60+ year career under his belt, the stories are numerous and usually hilarious.
The moments that struck me most though were those in which he scratched a bit below the surface. He spoke lovingly of Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalban. It was touching, honest, and sad. When he spoke of his own mortality he immediately ceased being a celebrity and made a connection with everyone in attendance. He openly and loudly said, “I don’t want to die! I want to live. I want to wake up every day, breathe the air into my lungs, and feel as good as I do right now.”
The inevitability of that plan’s failure, for him and for us, hit me hard. Sure, he is old. But he is only a few decades older than me. And decades move fast. If I am lucky enough to make it, I will be 87 in 39 years. I remember 39 years ago. I thought it would have taken longer to get here.
The subject also led him to open up about his love of all life, not just his own. He expressed regret for some hunting he had done years earlier. He told a story about how he almost killed a gnat and then stopped and asked himself, “why”. I really loved it. And it affirmed my admiration for a man that I already viewed as a hero.
If you get a chance to see Shatner speak, do so.