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Shatner learns how to get over hard times

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

By Luaine Lee, Scripps Howard News Service

William Shatner is good at lots of things. He's a novelist, a film director, a competitive rider and, of course, an actor who made his most famous character, Capt. Kirk, into a national icon.

In spite of all his accomplishments, Shatner says his real talent lies in his ability to enjoy life.

After 30 minutes with him, you realize that's probably true. "I've always been that way pretty much," he says, seated in a side chair in his spacious office in Studio City, Calif., his devoted Doberman, Charity, resting her chin on his knee.

Indeed, it's hard to keep up with Shatner, who seems busier since he beamed off the deck of the Starship Enterprise for more earthly pursuits.

The 70-year-old actor seems forever turning up where he's not expected. He was the wonderfully droll beauty pageant organizer in "Miss Congeniality," and was the "Chairman" in UPN's first "Iron Chef" special.

Though he's had some tough times in his life, he's not a man to entertain regrets, he says. "I think 'regret' is the toughest word in the English language, and one should try to live one's life so you don't feel regret. You commit yourself totally to an action realizing that what you're doing at this moment -- which you may not do in the next moment -- is only a result of the forces acting on you at that moment, forces that might change should there be a knock on the door. . ."

Shatner heard that knock when his third wife, Nerine, drowned in the family pool two years ago while under the influence of alcohol and Valium.

It was a long time before he could even open the sympathy cards he received after her death. "Grief passes by and the hard edges -- the razor sharp edges of grief -- begin to dull," he says.

"And it becomes just a knife wound that remains. You can get through the day, then the week, then you can get through your life while this presence is always there, never forgotten. You can continue your life," he says, resting his Birkenstock-shod feet on the pine coffee table.

Shatner, who is the father of three daughters, recalls his first divorce was almost as traumatic as Nerine's death. "The pain of the responsibility, the loneliness, the aloneness. The death of Nerine brought me to the point -- you question your mortality all the time, but there are certain precipices that you reach where you say, 'I have to face the fact that I'm going to die. And what does that mean, where do I go, what do I do?' "

Twice in the conversation he mentions loneliness, describing himself on the road with his one-man show and facing the emptiness of 41 cities in 43 days.

That loneliness was staunched eight months ago when he married his fourth wife, Elizabeth, a horse trainer he'd met in Santa Barbara.

Now his only regret is that there isn't enough time to do everything he wants to do.

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