Already mourning his old friend and the man with whom he will be forever partnered in the popular imagination, William Shatner found himself getting additional grief. Unable to attend Leonard Nimoy's funeral because of a prior charitable commitment, Shatner was eviscerated by the peanut gallery that is social media, joining the ranks of the online (and beyond) shamed.
Wouldn't the Red Cross understand if you pulled out? Why not fly back from Florida to Los Angeles for the Sunday-morning funeral? No flights? Why not hire a private jet then? "Beam me up" references abounded – as did the insults.
"Captain Jerk!" screamed a New York Daily News headline.
About a month later, Shatner remains philosophical about coming under fire for that decision.
"Well, you know, the fire mostly is anonymously directed by people who really aren't being responsible about what and how they express their opinion to a large degree," says Shatner, the Montreal-born-and-raised actor who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek series in the late-1960s to Nimoy's Mr. Spock.
Shatner will appear Saturday at Fan Expo Vancouver, and he's doing some press in advance. Just back from a horseback ride followed by lunch with his wife and friends at a "delightful" new little Israeli restaurant outside L.A., he is game to discuss what he calls an "interesting dilemma": What do you do when your friend dies and their religion calls for a quick burial, but you have an important commitment elsewhere?
"In this case I had a responsibility, I had a huge charitable event that would result in being beneficial to many living people. My choice was to acknowledge the dead and I did so at that thousand[-dollar-per]-plate dinner, acknowledged actually two people that died that week that I knew very well, and I asked everybody to remember them," he tells The Globe and Mail.
"Since fame is ephemeral, in no time at all, and I mean no time at all, everybody is forgotten. But what is remembered is the good deeds. And I asked them as a result of my being there to do a good deed that evening and give money to the Red Cross."
The money raised that night by the Red Cross of South Florida goes toward disaster relief (including fire prevention, emergency assistance for families after events such as a fire and large-scale measures after disasters such as a hurricane). Spokeswoman Ines Hernandez would not say exactly how much money was raised at the Shatner dinner. "People were very generous; I can tell you that," she says.
It's just more than a month since Nimoy's death at the age of 83, and as Shatner prepares to travel to Vancouver for his convention appearance, I ask him about his famously complicated relationship with Trekkers – instigated by the now infamous Saturday Night Live sketch in which he mocked them ("get a life!") and his subsequent memoir Get a Life!, in which he examined the cultural phenomenon of Star Trek and the fandom it has spurred.
"There's a mythology in science fiction that seeks to explain the unknown, and … coming to these conventions and getting to see the object of their hero worship is part of the indulgence in the mythology. So that's where I have come to. And more practically, I have a lot of stuff going on and I want the fans to know what it is I'm doing so they can look or partake. … So there's a two-way street: I get up in front of them and tell them what I'm doing and talk about them and me, and on the other hand, they're having a good time."
Shatner eventually turned Get a Life! into a documentary. Now with word that Nimoy's son, Adam Nimoy, is making a documentary about his father's life, Shatner says he is on board for that project.
"I've offered any help I can," he says. Shatner is keen to do what he can to remember his friend – and ensure others remember him, too.
"In the effort to keep Leonard's name above ground," he begins, then falters, and restarts his thought. "It's the desire to fight the anonymity of death, and if you can hold that back for a moment and say Leonard Nimoy was a wonderful man and a wonderful actor and to see it in print a month later, the memory is still alive."
Fan Expo Vancouver is at the Vancouver Convention Centre April 3-5. William Shatner will appear April 4.