With courage, wit, and intelligence, William Shatner deals on a daily basis with every actorís nightmare (and secret dream) : his own Frankenstein-like creation of a character so indelible, so larger-than-life, so gosh-darn popular that it threatens to overwhelm every other attempt at accomplishment. Star Trekís Captain James T. Kirk is the elephant in Shatnerís room, and he has learned not so much to ignore it as to boldly point it out, have a gracious laugh over it, and move on.
It doesnít hurt that Shatner has shrewdly managed to parlay his success as Kirk into one of the most varied, enduring, and, yes, distinguished careers in creative annals. This Renaissance Man has made his mark as an actor of stage, screen, and television ; as a prolific screenwriter, playwright, director, and producer ; as a recording artist of undaunted out-there-ness ; as a memoirist and best-selling science fiction novelist ; and as an unforgettably amusing commercial pitchman. He is a multiple Emmy nominee, and has won twice, for portraying the same character-brazen, belligerent, but somehow poignant ¸ber-attorney Denny Crane-in two different TV series, The Practice and Boston Legal. And all this indefatigable activity has earned him a place-in America and around the world-as one of contemporary cultureís most recognizable icons.
What most people donít know about Shatner is that he is an equestrian of considerable prowess and a longtime breeder of American Quarter and Saddlebred horses-and that this passion has led him to some unusual philanthropic pursuits. For nearly two decades, he has hosted the annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which benefits a number of childrenís charities, including AHEAD With Horses, offering physically and mentally challenged children the confidence-boosting thrill of riding. Similarly, Shatner and his wife are the founders of the William & Elizabeth Shatner/Jewish National Fund Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel, a venture that brings together war-ravaged Bedouin, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli children to ride, to heal, and to take the first steps towards understanding and hoped-for peace. He has managed to find time, also, to devote himself to environmental organizations-Save the Whales and Greenpeace, among them-and has lately been a vocal advocate for veterans receiving sub-par health care at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
In essence, what we have-and treasure-in William Shatner is a man of many parts : charismatic yet self-deprecating, high-rolling yet poetically inclined, proud of yet modest about his accomplishments, a serious artist who nevertheless refuses to take himself too seriously. A man, in fact, not unlike the character he has incarnated through three seasons of television and seven feature films, to the delight of fans worldwide : the swashbuckling, bumptious, brilliant, goofy, immortal Captain Kirk. Shatner, in typical fashion, may be quick to point out the differences between character and creator-ìJim was just about perfect and I, of course, am perfect.î-but we know the truth : somewhere along the line, thereís been a most effective mind-meld.