When you meet William Shatner, the world’s grandest space hero, the actor who stared down Khan and tussled with Tribbles, you expect photon torpedoes to flash and planets to zoom around his head at warp speed.
At least, I did.
I don’t meet many celebrities. I interviewed Jim Belushi once. I talked to Margaret Cho on the phone. I’m more of an everyman type of reporter, the triumph of the ordinary and all that. But here’s T.J. Hooker. Here’s the guy from “The Twilight Zone” with the gremlin on the wing of his plane. Here’s freaking Capt. Kirk!
Laugh at me, you cynics. I saw Shatner meet his 2 millionth Twitter follower at Raleigh’s first Comic Con, taking the hand of a 22-year-old student from Liberia and calling her beautiful and lovely. He wore jeans and sneakers. She wore high-heels, a ring in her nose and long black hair dyed red halfway down – conservative for the convention that drew hordes of Wonder Woman suits.
Leona Moore drove three hours from Richmond, Va., to meet Shatner, having won an online contest with a somewhat shaky knowledge of his life’s work.
“I saw your name,” she said, “and I was like, ‘This name rings a bell.’”
She told him that she sings, and Shatner gallantly invited her to perform with him while he signed autographs.
“Can you sing something that’s popular in your country that would please our ears?” asked the “Star Trek” icon, who then showed the small, mostly media audience his off-the-cuff Africa knowledge.
“Your country was settled by American slaves ...,” he began.
“...based on liberation,” he continued. “And it became an African nation. They’ve had their troubles ...”
“We just went through Ebola and all that,” Moore agreed. “I never thought I could have the opportunity to meet a person like you.”
“A person like me is a person you find on the street in Liberia,” Shatner said. “As exotic as I must seem to you, you are exotic to me.”
Strange as this dialogue might seem, involving a young woman from a West African Republic with an actor who appeared in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” it fit the Comic Con vibe.
Cassandra Peterson, the ageless actress who played horror-hostess Elvira, shook hands with fans downstairs, leaving the slinky cleavage-baring dress at home. Superhero fans paid $20 for a chance to sit in a replica of the Batmobile. A puppeteer walked the floor inside a full-sized dinosaur suit.
“It weighs 65 pounds,” said Ed Bounds of Concord. “That’s the most-asked question, after ‘Which way to the bathroom.’”
But as brief and as staged as it was, I prized my brief audience with Shatner. I couldn’t ask the question I really wanted to ask. He kissed crew member Uhura, one of the first-ever interracial kisses on-screen. If “Star Trek” were filming today, would he kiss male crew member Sulu? Instead, I asked him to talk about his most dedicated fan.
And he pointed to Moore.
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Wizard World Raleigh Comic Con
When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St.
Cost: Saturday, $45-$55; Sunday, $40-$50
Info: 919-996-8500 or wizardworld.com