Read an Excerpt: 'Up Till Now'

Read an excerpt from the actor's revealing new book: "Up Till Now."

ByABC News via logo
February 18, 2009, 7:30 PM

May 15, 2008— -- You might know him from "Star Trek." Or, perhaps you remember him from his award-winning role in "Boston Legal." Or maybe he just looks familiar from those commercials.

Whichever it is, you surely recognize his face, as he has one of the best-known mugs in show business.

Now actor and TV icon William Shatner is telling all in his new autobiography: "Up Till Now."

You can read an excerpt from "Up Till Now" below:

I was going to begin my autobiography this way:

Call me Captain James T. Kirk, or Sergeant T.J. Hooker, or Denny Crane or Twilight Zone plane passenger Bob Wilson or the Big Giant Head or Henry V or the Priceline Negotiator or

Well, that's the problem, isn't it? I've been a working actor for more than half a century and I've played so many different roles on the stage, on television, and in the movies that it would be impossible to focus on just one of them. Besides, my career as an actor is only part of my story, so I realized I couldn't begin this book that way.

Then I decided I was going to start this book by telling the story of my memorable meeting with Koko the gorilla:

In 1988 to help the Gorilla Foundation encourage Californians to contribute to its Endangered Species Campaign I was permitted to visit Koko the gorilla in her quarters. Koko was an extraordinary animal who had learned to communicate with human beings. She was able to sign more than six hundred words, but more impressively, as her handlers told me, she understood the meaning of those words. She knew the signs for water and for bird and the first time she saw a duck landing on a lake she signed water bird. That displayed a synthesis of knowledge. So you see, she was obviously very intelligent. I was allowed to go into her compound, to enter a room with her all alone. As I walked into that room I was reminded that she was an imposing, powerful animal; smaller gorillas have been known to tear off men's arms in anger. I am not often afraid, but truthfully I was frightened.

There is a form of acting that teaches: feel it and say it, and that feeling will be revealed through your words. The English form is quite different: say it and then you feel it. To deal with my fear of this magnificent animal as I got closer and closer to her I found myself saying, "I love you, Koko. I love you." I said it earnestly and honestly and I looked directly in her eyes as I spoke. I crouched over a little to show submission, moving forward rather than backward to show I was not afraid. Over and over I repeated, "I love you, Koko, I love you." And as I said it, I began to feel that love. Finally I stopped directly in front of her and looked into her deep brown eyes and saw her furrowed brow and her enormous hands. I love you, Koko.And with that she reached out and grabbed me by my balls. And looked me right in the eyes. After a slight pause—in a substantially higher voice—I tried to repeat, "I love you, Koko." Obviously these words had more significance than a few seconds earlier.

It didn't
My love was supposed to heal her
It didn't
You had said don't leave me
And I begged you not to leave me
We did

Opening the book that way would be so meaningful to me, beginning with the great tragedy of my life. And it would immediately let readers know that this is to be a truthful book. But it would also be such a sad beginning, when my life has been filled with so much joy. And of course, I'm not known for my singing, in fact there are those who believe my performance of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" may be the worst version of a Beatles song ever recorded. Not me— of course. And this is such a personal story that it needs to be told in its entirety, so certainly I couldn't begin my book that way.