John Butler . . . Unleashed

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My brain is a cornucopia of useless information. For instance, I can recite the name of every single Star Trek episode from the '60s. That's because, for all intents and purposes, from '67 to about '75 I was Captain Kirk. I lived, breathed, slept and ate that show.

Shat as Kirk
Shat as Kirk
So, when BSSP was invited to pitch the Priceline business, I wanted it for more than just revenue and the promise of decent work. I wanted to meet Shat. I flew to L.A. a few weeks after the pitch with account director Chris Cardinal from the agency and Brett Keller, one of our Priceline clients, to show Shat the new work. We met in his office, a small place on the outskirts of Studio City. We waited outside his office, listening to him work someone over on the phone, and finally he was ready for us.

Butler as Beaver
Butler as Beaver
He was very friendly and he couldn't wait to see the stuff. He said he had a lot of ideas as well. I started presenting, but before I got to his part I asked him if he minded if I "did him." (I like to think I do a fairly decent Shatner impersonation. Lets face it, it's not that hard to do.) He nodded, appeared somewhat amused, and I launched into the scripts. Before I got through the first one, he grabbed the pile from my hands and started reading them aloud himself. He nailed every script every time. Suffice it to say, he knows who he is and he's a pro first and foremost. He had the ability to skim a script, and he just knew the line readings beat for beat, on the fly. It was pretty impressive.

The last script in the pile was one we were concerned with. In it, Shat has to wear a beaver costume. He glanced at the script, looked me square in the eye and said, "I'm not . . . getting into . . . the beaver suit. I'll . . . hug the beaver, I'll pet . . . the beaver, I'll be the beaver's best friend. But I'm not . . . getting into the fucking . . . suit." We all laughed, I nodded an "of course not," and that was pretty much that. Shat said he loved the rest of the scripts and he gave us the go-ahead to shoot.

Shat on the Priceline set
Shat on the Priceline set
Later at lunch, the three of us were talking about our meeting, thrilled that we had sold pretty much everything. I mentioned that his line, "I'm not getting into the fucking beaver suit," was a keeper, and Brett looked at me and one-upped it. He said simply, "Face it, John, you folded like a pup tent." He was right. I did. The beaver idea was killed faster than an extra in an Enterprise landing party.

The shoot went great, Shatner was a pro and a blast to be around. Whoever said, "Your heroes will always disappoint," was proven wrong that day. By the way, the episode with the evil Kirk in it is called "Mirror, Mirror." John Butler is co-CD at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito.

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