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Shatner’s toupee is a hair-raising pastime

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The original cast of "Star Trek": Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, back left; DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy; Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, front left; and WIlliam Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk

The original cast of “Star Trek": Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, back left; DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy; Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, front left; and WIlliam Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk

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The entertainment world has much to mourn these days. We lost Roger Ebert, a fantastic film critic even though he once gave “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” three and a half stars. And we will all miss Annette Funicello, the first crush of every prepubescent male who grew up with “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Collectively, each of these talents will be sorely missed. But it seems I, alone, grieve for the loss of the Internet’s finest weblog. I speak, of course, of shatnerstoupee.blogspot.com, the self-styled “definitive oracle” for all information about the history, evolution and cultural relevance of actor William Shatner’s hairpiece.

At the end of his autobiography “Up Till Now,” Shatner announced in his concluding paragraph that he is “thrilled that there are some things that will forever remain a mystery. For example, do I wear a toupee?”

Yes, he does. He has since 1957. It’s no longer a mystery, thanks to the good folks at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies (WSSTS), which is the fictional institution that takes credit for the critical research presented on this groundbreaking blog. In reality, it seems that one person with the handle “ShatToupBlog” has written 375 lengthy essays and several hundred thousand words on the topic of what Bill Shatner has on top of his head.

The first question any sane person would ask, of course, would have to be “why would anyone bother to write about this?” The second question, which logically follows the first, is, “why would anyone bother to read it?” But once you abandon common sense and get past those, you discover a very well-written chronicle of an iconic actor and his fascinating career as a leading man at a time when only Yul Brynner could win the big roles without a full head of hair.

Shatner began losing his hair prior to his Starfleet-captaining days, and few people realize that while Leonard Nimoy was getting his Vulcan ears attached, Shatner was sitting beside him every morning in the Star Trek makeup chairs getting his so-called “Jim Kirk lace” toupee applied in order to give him a natural-looking hairline. Now that all of Star Trek’s original series can be watched in high definition, you can clearly see the lace line of the toupee in most of Shatner’s close-ups.

When Trek was canceled, Shatner’s fortunes dimmed considerably, and he could no longer afford the luxury toupees that he wore on the bridge of the Enterprise. The WSSTS labels these years the “Lost Years,” when the rugs that ended up on top of his scalp were too cheap to resemble anything that could have naturally grown from a hair follicle. They’re much darker than the Jim Kirk lace toups, and some look more like broom thistles or black uncooked spaghetti than anything human.

When “Star Trek” returned to the big screen and Shatner’s career came back from the dead, he donned what the WSSTS called the “TJ Curly,” a toupee named for the cop he portrayed on the TV series “TJ Hooker.” His current look is described as the “Denny Katz,” named for his character in the hit “Boston Legal,” as well as Edward Katz, the proprietor of Edward Katz Hair Design, where Shatner is likely a client.

See? Didn’t you want to know all that?

Sadly, the blog went on official hiatus last August. It posted two brief announcements that it was coming back, the most recent being on New Year’s Day. Since then, nothing. I pay tribute to their toupological genius in the hopes that someday, like the lifted Lorax, they may choose to come back.

After all, the Lorax was also, like Shatner, unnaturally hairy.

Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.