|When I was a kid, my four favorite actors were all leading men on popular network television shows. They were Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman) on ABC-TV's BATMAN, William Shatner (Captain Kirk) on NBC-TV's STAR TREK, Robert Conrad (James West) on CBS-TV's THE WILD, WILD WEST and Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo) on NBC-TV's THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Great actors? No but they all had dynamic personalities whose performances in those roles came to largely define the men for the rest of their respective careers. |
I've now had the pleasure and honor to meet two of those men. The first occurred as part of a June, 2010 screening of BATMAN (1966) at Austin's Paramount Theatre. The film had it's world premiere at the Paramount in August, 1966 as part of Aqua Fest. The reason the film premiered in Austin? The Batboat vehicle used in the film was built at Glastron Boats and Motors right here in River City. There were two screenings of the film, a matinee and one later that evening. The matinee featured several of the cast members in their character costumes while the stars sported formal wear for the evening screening. My uncle took me and my two cousins to see the premiere. We stood in the hot, baking August heat and steaming humidity along with hundreds of other fans on Congress Avenue to watch the stars arrive. Then we went into the wonderful, cool darkness of the Paramount to see the movie. It was one of the most memorable events of my young life (I was ten-years-old at the time). For the rest of my life, I could say with pride "I was there."
In June, 2010, as part of Austin's Bat Fest, a screening of the 1966 film was scheduled with Adam West in attendance. I was writing film notes for the theater at the time and as soon as I learned about this event, I immediately asked if I could be involved in some way. In addition to writing the notes for the film, I was granted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce Adam West and do a brief question and answer session with him on stage before the film.
Judy and I arrived at the Stateside Theater about an hour early. Mr. West was going to be there for photos and autographs prior to the screening. I was allowed to be placed at the front of the line to wait for his arrival. I had brought my DVD of the 1966 film to get signed and while waiting in line, I struck up a conversation with a very nice gentleman behind me. He had a couple of nifty commemorative posters for the event and when he found out my involvement, he gave me one of the posters for Mr. West to sign. That was incredibly generous and gracious and I owe that unknown fan a huge thanks. When Mr. West arrived, I stepped forward to his table, posed for the photograph above (I was sixty pounds heavier then!) and asked him to sign my DVD and poster. He did and we briefly chatted about the format of his appearance next door. I shook hands, told him I'd see him backstage when he was finished and left. I was on cloud nine.
When Judy and I got to the Paramount, she grabbed us two choice seats while I went backstage to wait for Mr. West. I chatted with a couple of Paramount employees while clips from the local television coverage of the 1966 premiere were projected on the huge movie screen. Finally Mr. West arrived and we once again went over the details. I had a written, prepared script to read first and then we'd open it up to questions from the audience (which was close to 1,200 people, full capacity of the Paramount). Mr. West told me about a recent injury he had incurred while driving a dune buggy. Throughout our brief time together he was charming, gracious and friendly. It was truly like visiting with an old friend.
Finally my cue came and I strolled onto the stage. Before reading my prepared introduction, I asked if anyone there had attended the 1966 world premiere. There was a smattering of applause. I confessed that I had been there too. I read my notes and brought out Adam West to thunderous applause. We took a few questions and bantered back and forth for a few minutes. I remember him asking me which episode was my favorite and I replied, "the first one with the Riddler and Jill St. John." He ended by saying that in contrast to the "Dark Knight", his interpretation of Batman was more the "Bright Knight". With that he exited the stage, I called "give it up for Adam West!" and the place went nuts. I shook hands with him once again backstage and thanked him again then went out into the auditorium to find Judy and enjoy the movie.
It was a day I'll never forget. Truly one of the great moments of my life.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet William Shatner. It was a vastly different experience than my meeting with Adam West.
About a month ago, we were approached about selling copies of LEONARD, William Shatner's memoir about the late Leonard Nimoy at his appearance at Austin Wizard World Comic Con. We quickly accepted the offer and made our plans. I asked my contact person if it was possible that we could get a photo with Mr. Shatner and he told me that could be arranged. I also asked if Mr. Shatner would sign any unsold copies for us to sell at the store. I was informed that he would do so, for fifty-dollars a signature. I politely declined.
We (Jon Levesque, Jeannine Hasse and I) were set up at a table on Saturday at the con directly in front of where Mr. Shatner was signing autographs. We were next to the table where one of his agents/managers/handlers was selling autograph tickets at eighty bucks a pop. If you wanted to buy a color 8 x 10 for him to sign, that was an extra five dollars. If you wanted to buy a book from us, that came to twenty-eight dollars. Plus another eighty bucks for the signature.
After the initial signing line died down, I went over to the table and spoke to a gentleman named Gary who had introduced himself to me earlier as "Bill's agent". I asked him if we could arrange a photo op and he said, "let's do it right now."
I motioned to Jon and Jeannine and we went over to Mr. Shatner.
"Bill," said Gary, "these people are selling your book and they'd like a picture."
"When," asked Shatner.
"Right now," said Gary.
"Okay," said Shatner. "Come on around behind."
We did so, a volunteer took one quick, somewhat blurry picture with Jon's phone, we thanked Mr. Shatner and went back to our table. Wham, bam, thank you, mam. That was it. It was over. No hand shakes, no small talk, no engagement whatsoever. Mr. Shatner wasn't mean or rude but he wasn't ebullient, charming and outgoing either. There's no telling how many photos with fans he's had taken over the years and for him, we were just three more people. But for us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the one and only Captain Kirk.
Make no mistake. I'm glad we did it. While I wish it could have been more, I knew it was the only opportunity we were going to get and it was better than no photo at all. Plus, we didn't have to pony up eighty bucks.
Two down. Two to go. Will I ever meet Robert Conrad and Robert Vaughn before either man passes away? Who knows? But then again, not long ago, I had no idea that I'd ever meet Adam West and William Shatner either.