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William Shatner, Adam West make history at Comic Con

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(Vince Horiuchi | The Salt Lake Tribune) William Shatner, left, and Adam West, meet with Gov. Gary Herbert before taking the stage at the Salt Lake Comic Con Friday night.

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Sep 06 2013 10:06PM
Updated Sep 7, 2013 04:55PM

It was "The Shat" and "The Bat" for the first time ever on a stage together Friday night at the Salt Lake Comic Con, and their presence was enough to make every geek’s brain in the room explode.

William Shatner, aka Capt. James T. Kirk from the original "Star Trek," and Adam West, who played the Caped Crusader in the 1960s cult television show "Batman," sat down for the history-making event at the Salt Palace Convention Center, swapping stories about their start in Hollywood and their individual journeys to become pop culture icons. The one-hour event, which cost conventiongoers an additional $50 to $500 per ticket, was held on the convention’s main stage and drew hundreds of fans.

The pair, who came up in television and then became icons at the same time in the 1960s, talked about the only project they’ve ever worked on together, a 1968 TV pilot of "Alexander the Great," which coincidentally was shot in St. George. Shatner was cast as Alexander the Great while West played General Cleander. The movie failed to become a TV series, but shortly after filming, Shatner got the call to do "Star Trek," and West was cast in "Batman."

"It was filled with half-naked men and half-naked ladies — at that time, it was considered very racy," Shatner remembered about the movie, also noting that it gave him the chance to ride horses, his biggest hobby.

Both spent the night trading barbs about their careers, also chatting about the nature of acting, growing old (Shatner is 82 and West is 84), and making jokes about Utah ("I have no pills and booze in me," West said proudly about staving off those Hollywood temptations. "I’m from Utah").

The two even admitted their bodies are starting to get frail, each swapping stories about hip-replacement surgeries. "The two icons each have bad hips. But look at us, we’re still perfect," West quipped to huge applause.

Shatner’s career spans more than 50 years and began when the Canadian actor first appeared in a movie called "The Butler’s Night Off" in 1951, according to the Internet Movie Database. But it wasn’t until he starred as the bold captain of the USS Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" in 1966 that his place in geek idolatry was secure.

Meanwhile, West began his career in television in 1954 with "The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse" and followed with brief stints on "Gunsmoke" and a co-starring role on "The Detectives." But lightning would strike for him the same year as for Shatner — as "Star Trek" premiered on television in 1966, so did "Batman" with West as The Dark Knight and Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin.

The two men then waxed philosophical about the lessons they’ve learned as actors.

"I have always the same doubts, the same fears, the same nervousness if you will, the same lack of confidence in what I may do next may not be good enough," West said. "I think that is very important to an actor."

Shatner also pressed West about his family, his religion and even his opinions about an afterlife.

"Where are you going to go when you die?" Shatner asked of Batman.

"I’m going to the next Comic Con," West retorted to big applause.

Shatner also got a loud reaction from the crowd when a member of the audience asked both men if they would ever make a cameo on the hit TV show, "The Big Bang Theory," a sitcom about four geek scientists and their girlfriends. He said he would let the audience decide if he should appear.

"If you were me ... should I do it?" he asked the crowd, which responded with a huge cheer and applause.

"I promise you, I’m going back to L.A. tomorrow. Monday morning I’ll make a call, OK?" he said. (West said he would "maybe" agree to be on the show.)

The crowd, which filled the main auditorium at the convention center, was made up of young and old alike. Even 7-year-old Jade LaMont, of Sandy, was excited to see West after becoming a "Batman" fan thanks to reruns.

"I like the punching," she said of the show’s use of graphics that say "POW!" during a fight.

After the event, fans walked out as if they had visited nerd heaven.

"Oh my god, it was amazing," said Tracy Painter, 41, of Willard, in Box Elder County. "They are such masters of the art and their improv, and they’re playing off of each other."

Or as Teancum Healey, 25, of Kaysville, said during the show: "I feel like I’m in church listening to them talk."

vince@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ohmytech

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