It all started when Shatner came to Riverside, Iowa and said he was filming a science fiction movie called Invasion Iowa. Shatner held casting sessions to recruit locals to be in the movie. Turns out he was actually filming a reality TV show, capturing the craziness of a Hollywood production shooting a fake movie in Riverside, Iowa (a town known worldwide as "The Future Birthplace of Captain James T Kirk).
Shatner literally spoofed the town. When the filming came to a final wrap, he revealed this to a crowd of towns people and a few of them got pissed, and others accepted it and was happy to just be a part of it.(I am in that group). Shatner presented a $100,000 check to the town of Riverside and gave away special gifts to the local cast for participating in the show.
I briefly appeared in the show with Shatner in a scene where he was telling lame jokes while we watched dailies (the raw, unedited footage shot during that day) of this so-called movie. I watched in shocking horror thinking how goofy the footage was and I thought Shatner had lost his mind (you see that exact expression on my face in the scene). Regardless, I was still intrigued by all this movie stuff and I came to the set every day getting to know all the cast and crew. During this time, I developed a really good friendship with one of the local stars Scott Riggan, along with his wife Carol and son Travis. We bonded and remain close friends to this day.
I called up Shatner's personal assistant, Chris, and asked if he could get William Shatner to call my house and surprise my dinner guests, the Riggans. Shatner agreed. We arranged to have Shatner call my house at around 7pm on a Thursday night..
The Riggans arrived at my house about 6:30 pm as we planned to go out to eat. I explained we had reservations at a restaurant at 7:20pm, so we just sat around and talked. Well, time flew by and suddenly it was 7:15 pm. I nervously kept watching the clock and I'm just waiting for Scotty to say, "Shouldn't we get going? Our reservation is at 7:20 pm?" Luckily, Scotty and Travis were glued to some show on Spike-TV as we watched for Invasion Iowa commercials to appear during breaks.
Finally, at 7:20pm the phone rings. I answer and it's Chris. He brought Shatner on the phone and we talked briefly, trying to be secretive at the same time as the Riggans were in the same room. Then I said to Scotty, "You have a phone call." Scotty looked at me with a puzzled look and replied, "Who the hell knows I am at your house?" I replied, "I don't' know. Some guy named Bill." (I smiled inside as I handed him the phone waiting for his reaction).
Scotty got on the phone and when he realized it was Willaim Shatner, they all freaked out! Shatner's humor was just as evident over the phone as it was when we spoke with him in person. Shatner knew I was a writer, so he asked me (through Scotty) if I knew of a Herb Caen who wrote for a paper in San Francisco. I told Bill, yes and I knew Caen was a famous columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, who is now deceased. I said to Bill, "I had corresponded with Herb Caen a few times."
Bill replied, "Before or after he was dead?" We all busted out laughing!
I jokingly offered to fly out and cook it for Bill in person, but we settled on me sending him the recipe and his chef could make it for him. So I gave Scotty a personalized mug stuffed with my recipe and a personal letter to Shatner to bring with him to California.
On June 13th, 2005 William Shatner sent me a personal letter back and he said, "Dear Herb - Thank you very much for the mug - I really appreciate it. We made the Chicken Schwing and can't express to you just how delicious it was. Liz and I send our best and hope that all is well with you." Warmly, Bill
William Shatner will be the oldest person to ever fly in to space. Oh, and this is no spoof. Crazy as it sounds, Captain James T Kirk is really launching to space on hydrogen-fueled rocket with Jeff Bezos and his spacecraft company Blue Origin.
Perhaps after his return to earth, Bill will consider coming back to Riverside, Iowa for a visit during Riverside's TrekFest, the annual event celebrating his TV character, If he can make it to space, he can make it back to Iowa.
Enjoy your trip, Bill. GODSPEED!
- BBQ Critic
Editor Note: I know what you are thinking. Where's the recipe? BBQ Critic will have a new recipe section coming online soon featuring my personal recipes and Chicken Schwing will be the first one to be published. I would also like to create a section for friends to post their recipes. If you are interested in contributing your own recipe to BBQ Critic, send me a note on my contact page or via Facebook. .