Pat Jordan is 69 years old and still writing. He jokingly refers to himself as the “Last Knight of the Freelance,” and it’s true, he’s the last guy of his generation to still make a living as a freelance magazine writer. He writes for the dough but he also writes because that’s what he does, that’s who he is–he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t working.
Jordan takes on another old pro, William Shatner in a profile that appears in this week’s New York Times Magazine:
Shatner was interviewed once by a snarky British talk-show host, who showed scenes from Shatner’s TV cop show, “T. J. Hooker,” and asked, “What do you think about your acting?” Shatner replied: “Oh, I was terrible. How could I have played it that way?” Outside Starbucks, Shatner said to me: “If someone criticizes my acting, they may be right. Sometimes you shouldn’t work so hard” to entertain. Then, softly, he said: “I never thought of myself as a great actor, like Olivier. I was a working actor. I entertained people and always tried to be terrific at whatever it was.” His problem and his salvation. He played so many different roles that “people couldn’t define me like they could De Niro. I took whatever work came my way to pay the bills, even if it wasn’t a decent role.” His motto was “Work equals work,” which destroyed any hope he had of being taken seriously as an actor but also brought him longevity, wealth and fame. “I was always grubbing,” he said. “But I was saying the words somewhere.” He leaned toward me and said, with mock import, “I love to evoke the bones and meat and thoughts of characters.” He put his hand on my knee, squeezed gently, then said with breathless intimacy: “I said this one line for Priceline 20 times. I struggled to get the nuance. My silence reverberated in the ether.” His face was close to mine, as if imparting a great secret. “If you add a car and a hotel room, you will get an even better price from Priceline.com.” I nodded. “See! You got it!” Then, matter-of-factly, he straightened up and emphasized how much satisfaction that one line gave him. “A pro takes the job knowing it’s not a great role, just a paying job. But every word has music in it. My satisfaction is trying to reach that music.”