So you're planning this parade with a lot of floats that are going to expressing the theme "Fantastic Adventure," and you need a grand marshal--someone with a high quotient of recognizability and the right sort of futuristic cachet.
There was really only one choice to preside over the 105th Rose Parade on New Year's Day, Tournament of Roses President Michael E. Ward said Wednesday.
It had to be "the greatest adventurer of all time."
With that, William Shatner, the famed Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, stepped from behind a curtain on the south portico of Tournament House in Pasadena--looking about as adventurous as Uncle Harry at a bridal shower.
The 62-year-old Shatner, not as lean as when he first was beamed around the galaxy by the Enterprise's molecular transporter, quickly turned the ceremony into a bit of a football circus.
Asked to pose for photographers holding a football, he turned into the quarterback he once was at McGill University. Third string. He flipped the ball to a tournament staffer and urged a woman in high heels to go out for a pass.
"Watch this quick release," he said, cocking his arm.
The ball, spinning convincingly, sailed across the lawn and into a tree.
Shatner, who still carries the intrepid Kirk's look of easy authority, has made his 27-year association with "Star Trek" into a virtual cottage industry.
After four years in the TV series, the Canadian-born actor with the pugnacious good looks appeared in six "Star Trek" films, one of which he directed.
He has written science fiction novels and his book, "Star Trek Memories," is scheduled to be released this month. He is a regular at "Star Trek" conventions and seminars, where costumed "Trekkie" fans cluster around him like members of a sect listening to a voice from the Great Beyond.
He has also appeared in television's "T.J. Hooker," and he currently is host of the CBS show "Rescue 911."
Shatner will preside over a New Year's Day extravaganza of 22 marching bands, 29 equestrian units and 60 flower-bedecked floats. According to tournament officials, as many 1 million people will watch from the sidewalks and bleachers of Pasadena and 500 million will watch on television.
"In the back of my mind is the tickle of a question: 'Why am I doing this?' " said Shatner, who was dressed casually in jeans, black sports jacket, silk tie and a shirt with a stranglehold collar.
Asked about recent allegations by some community groups and the Rev. Jesse Jackson that the Tournament of Roses is racist and exclusionary, Shatner declined to comment.
"I intend to stay out of (the controversy)," he said. "I think the parade is something that should be shared by everybody."
Jackson has threatened to lead a "counter-parade" on New Year's Day unless the tournament integrates its all-white-male executive committee.
Shatner has participated in the parade before, riding on a float a few years ago. But the actor vowed to live up to the ballyhoo of the Great Adventurer this time: Instead of riding down Colorado Boulevard in a vintage sedan, as most grand marshals do, he has elected to ride a horse.
It's an "excitable" chestnut American Saddlebred--a world champion, Shatner said--born on Shatner's own Kentucky horse farm. The horse was originally named, prophetically, "I Prefer Roses," he said, but that didn't seem quite appropriate for a Western pleasure horse. The 11-year-old horse is now named "I Prefer Montana."
Shatner knows the parade routine.
"Get there at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said. "No coffee. There are no men's rooms."