Because of his love of horses, it's not uncommon to see legendary actor William Shatner around Central Kentucky.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, maintain a home in the area and make frequent visits during horse show season for events including the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show and the World's Championship Horse Show in Louisville.
But this weekend, it's what made Shatner, who turns 83 on March 22, famous around the world that brings him back to the Bluegrass. He will join other celebrities at the Lexington Comic & Toy Convention, signing autographs and taking photos Friday night at VIP events and into the early afternoon Saturday for general admission.
The man who gained fame as Star Trek's Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, the title character in T.J. Hooker and his Emmy-winning turn as Boston Legal's Denny Crane spoke with the Herald-Leader on Wednesday about his horses, comic conventions and his latest project: Shatner's World, a one-man show to be broadcast in movie theaters, including at Fayette Mall, on April 24. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Question: You spend a lot of time in Lexington because of your interest in American Saddlebreds and other breeds. Would you tell us about your time here?
Answer: I've appeared in front of audiences at the charity horse show there in the summertime and frequently at the Horse Park, and I don't think I've missed a (World's Championship Horse Show in) Louisville in many years.
Q: Tell us about your horses. How often you visit?
A: I have a home, and my horses are all farmed out to trainers in the area. My wife had been a trainer up until she married me, and she competed frequently in Lexington and was a top trainer in her day. We come mostly in summer. Every time I read about a horrendous snowstorm, I make sure I'm not flying in.
Q: What is the convention experience like?
A: A lot of people show up to have fun. A lot of them come in costume and makeup. They're there to pretend and be a part of a science-fiction ritual, really. And it's designed to be a good time. I'll sign an autograph, take a picture and, in this case, talk with them for an hour or so answering questions.
I did a book and tried to examine who goes to conventions. I came to the conclusion it was people who came to be with their friends rather than see celebrities, which was a shock. I later did a documentary and discovered they were coming for far different reasons, which I alluded to as being part of a ritual. They're part of a mythology of science fiction and have come to explain what's really inexplicable.
Q: What are some unique autograph requests you've received at conventions?
A: From underwear to left breasts to all kinds of things. I smile steadily and nod my head and make some sort of stupid comment.
Q: What work are you most proud of over the years?
A: I don't measure the work like that. I think of it in terms of moments. The sum of everything I've done is in this one-man show ... I'm doing all around the country. I've written it, directed it. ... It's a really terrific stage show and a wonderful movie.
Q: Will you describe the one-man show?
A: The thesis is, 'Say yes to life, the joy of life.' ... Saying no to opportunity is negative. It may be safe, but you're not going to win. I'm here to testify life is very short, and by subscribing to joy, you will get the most out of life."