Dragon Con: William Shatner talks new album, George Takei gives band advice

Melissa Ruggieri

William Shatner is always a major draw at Dragon Con and he always seems happy to bloviate about his latest endeavors as well as his past “Star Trek”-related glories.

At a completely filled panel – about 3,000 people filed into the Marriott Marquis ballroom – Saturday morning, Shatner indeed talked about his “dear friend” Leonard Nimoy and how he “abhors” traveling, though he enjoys meeting people.

But at least half of his hour-long session was dedicated to discussing music.

He’s planning a reading of Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentleman of Verona” in Los Angeles with Tom Hanks and Paul McCartney, who is going to sing songs during the production.

“I mangled one of his songs a long time ago, so he’s either going to smile or frown when I see him,” Shatner said, likely referring to his so-abhorrent-it’s-legendary 1968 version of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Shatner also referenced his 2004 album produced and arranged by Ben Folds, “Has Been,” and called Folds a “musical genius.”

But Shatner seemed most excited about his upcoming album, “Ponder the Mystery,” arriving Oct. 8. His guest stars on the release – which explores themes of aging, depression and “the heights found in the beauty and wonderment of life” – include Steve Vai, Rick Wakeman and Vince Gill.

One song, “But So Am I,” recorded with Al Di Meola, was inspired by Shatner’s 14-year-old dog, Starbuck, so it falls in the “songs about aging” category.

Prior to the album’s release, Shatner will do some shows in L.A. in early October with members of Yes (Billy Sherwood, who has produced many Yes records and has a long history with the band, also produced “Ponder”). If the live collaborations succeed, Shatner plans to bring the show to…Vegas.

A few hours after Shatner’s appearance, his one-time “Star Trek” companion George Takei enraptured a sorry-we’re-full ballroom at the Sheraton with “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Garrett Wang acting as moderator and ace Takei impersonator  (Can I hear an “Oh myyyyyy,” Howard Stern fans?).

Though Takei’s talk hopscotched from politics to his numerous other voice acting jobs, a highlight came when members of The Slants, a Portland, Ore., band that bills itself as the first all-Asian American dance rock band in the world (andwere playing at DC in the wee hours of Saturday/Sunday) approached the mic and presented Takei with one of their CDs.

But what they really wanted was advice from a fellow Asian-American about how to succeed in the quick-to-stereotype entertainment business.

“The important thing is for us to be in the arena,” Takei said. “Be resilient. Be able to face that challenge over and over again and we will reach that dream that Martin Luther King Jr. had.”

The band also thanked the openly gay Takei for his support of the LGBT community.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but we are making progress,” Takei said. “We’re moving society forward toward a more decent future.”

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