Remember Bubba Skinner, the Sparta, Mississippi, police captain from “In the Heat of the Night?” Or Gopher Smith, the purser on “The Love Boat?” They both went on to bigger things. Alan Autry, who played Skinner, traded his badge for a mayor’s gavel when he was elected to lead the municipal government of Fresno, California. After nine seasons on the seas, Fred Grandy (Gopher) spent eight years in Washington, D.C., as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa.
It’s not unusual for celebrities to end a chapter in one arena of public life and then begin another in public office. Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, and Shirley Temple did it. And who can forget Ronald Reagan, whose political career far eclipsed his Hollywood star?
This week, fans of the 1960s science fiction space saga Star Trek, saw something they might have never expected: After almost half a century, Capt. James Tiberius Kirk finally made it back to space. So to speak.
William Shatner, who, despite a long and varied acting career, never surpassed his iconic role as commander of the USS Enterprise, joined three others on Wednesday to slip the surly bonds of Texas for a roughly 10-minute trip to the edge of the final frontier as a crew member of New Shepard, a rocket and capsule launched by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin. The trip creates another bullet point for Shatner’s historic biography – at 90, he now stands as the oldest human to travel to space.
Kirk once quipped, ““Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young.”
Shatner would dispute that, but found himself near speechless after boldly going where he hadn’t gone before: “It’s extraordinary, extraordinary!” he said. ““It hasn’t got anything to do with the little green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.”