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William Shatner

Pop culture icon continues exploring strange new worlds

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 February 2014 | 3:23 pm   ::  

Space is not the final frontier for William Shatner.

These days, the veteran "Star Trek" actor is contemplating the mysteries of life and death, rolling his exploration into "Shatner's World: We Just Live In It." He's bringing his one-man Broadway show to the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on Jan. 22, and he couldn't be happier to share it with some of his favorite people: Eastern Iowans.

"I love Cedar Rapids -- I've been there in the past, and I'm looking forward to coming in and being there," Shatner, 82, says by phone from his office in Los Angeles. "The one-man show I'm going to present there is full of laughter and a tear or two. There’s been such a reaction to the show -- standing ovations almost everywhere -- and I'm so glad to be coming to your town and your theater, and to be able to bring the show to you."

The details:


One of the most talked-about times he came to this vicinity, the stalwart actor duped the entire town of Riverside, the future birthplace of his iconic "Star Trek" character, Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. While Shatner and his crew pretended to film a sci-fi flick called "Invasion Iowa" in September 2004, they really were there to shoot material for a cable TV reality show.

Some citizens cried foul, but most were good sports when the ruse was revealed. Their grace made a lasting impression.

"We fell in love with Riverside and the citizens of Iowa there," Shatner says. "This was a concept of mine, but I made very sure that we mocked ourselves, not the people who were being punked.  That was very carefully designed into show.

"These people of such good spirit and good souls -- I shall never forget them," he says. "They were such good sports about it. At the end, we gave as much as we could to their library and their city hall."

(According to Gazette archives, the "Invasion Iowa" production company gave the city $100,000 and the cast and crew donated $12,000 for the Riverside Elementary School Book Fund. Several local actors also received gifts.)

"It was an enormous experience in many ways. First of all, it was entertaining and it was unique, but also the people of Riverside were the salt of the earth and I've never forgotten that experience, as a result of the people I met there," Shatner says of the Washington County community that will stage its 30th Trek Fest on June 27 and 28.

Fast-forward 10 years, and Shatner is still out on the road, meeting people and loving every minute of it. Sure, he could retire anytime and fill his days with his family -- wife Elizabeth, three children from his first marriage and five grandchildren -- and riding and showing the horses he raises on his farm near Lexington, Ky. But those passions keep his feet on the ground while he continues to fly around his various worlds, from writer and recording artist to Emmy-winning actor, director and celebrity pitchman for the Hupy and Abraham law firm.

"I'm anchored very securely," Shatner says. "I love riding my horses in competition and elsewhere, but ... I've never done anything else since the age of 6 but be an entertainer. That is who I am, and I say that in the show.

“I'm an entertainer and that's my life,” he says. “I want to make you laugh and I want to make you cry. It's my gift and it's what I’ll die doing."

Beloved for exploring "space, the final frontier" in pop culture, the Shakespearean-trained actor and Montreal native is a spiritual man who contemplates other realms equally mysterious. He turns the tables when asked what intrigues him about the real final frontier.

"What is the final frontier? In my show, I say death is the final frontier and expound on that a little bit. So it depends on what your definition is of the final frontier," he says. "I've only ever heard rumors about what happens after you die. If the final frontier is space, we seem to be sending robots out, and not men at this point, which is good."

He's turned his musings and ruminations into a new CD, "Ponder the Mystery." It's a progressive rock concept album, embracing a sub-genre developed in the '60s and '70s, to give rock music more artistic weight. (Think Moody Blues and Pink Floyd.) Shatner explores such themes as the passing of time and the agonies and ecstacies of aging to the depths of depression and the wonders of life.

He wrote the lyrics, prog rocker Billy Sherwood wrote the music and A-list musicians jumped onboard 14 of the 15 tracks, including Vince Gill on "Imagine Things," Edgar Winter on "Twilight" and Dave Koz on "I'm Alright, I Think." Shatner uses some of his music in his stage show, including "Real," written by Brad Paisley for Shatner's 2004 album, "Has Been."

Far from a has-been, after his January performance tour wraps up Jan. 24 in New Bedford, Mass., he'll head the next day to a Portland, Ore., comic con -- then blast off on further adventures.

So what frontiers are left to conquer?

"That's the mystery I'm pondering," he says. "There's so much to do. I’ve got all kinds of things that I'm looking forward to doing. I've got a book coming out in March; I've got this album that I'm promoting; the last of my one-man shows; I'm doing a reality show in February; I've got a series of appearances to make in the month of March -- a lot of stuff I'm doing.

"I'm very, very busy -- and I'm loving it."

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