Through work on "Star Trek" and "Boston Legal" with a little "T.J. Hooker" and a few Priceline commercials thrown in, William Shatner and his cheeky personality have grown into an elite level of stardom and entertainment royalty as he approaches 90 years old.
Back up 40 or 50 years ago, and the situation is slightly different. Although the show was still popular in reruns, "Star Trek" was canceled in 1969, leaving Shatner out of steady work. He would travel North America doing one-man shows and returned to his native Canada to appear in stage productions in Ottawa and Toronto. He even hosted a television interview program for Canadian broadcaster Global TV in 1974.
In the years between the end of the "Star Trek" TV series and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979, Shatner could be seen on televisions all across North America saying "Beam me up, Scotty" just about any day of the week in reruns.
In some parts of Canada and the U.S., however, including here in Buffalo – he might have been better known for telling us that at Loblaws, "more than the price is right, but my gosh – the price is right!"
From 1972 to 1978, Shatner was the television spokesman for the Canadian grocery chain that also had stores across Western New York. Those commercials were seen on Buffalo TV stations, but back in the mid-'70s (before cable), Buffalonians saw the ads in much heavier rotation on Toronto and Hamilton television outlets.
The man behind James T. Kirk might not have believed comparing the price of margarine on supermarket commercials was his finest hour in the limelight, but he clearly didn't hate it either.
"Those Loblaws commercials were most financially rewarding," Shatner told a reporter in 1979.
One report pegged Shatner's salary at $50,000 for nine days of commercial shooting in 1975. Market research showed that people were more apt to believe claims about Loblaws' great prices from the store president rather than a slick Hollywood actor – so in 1978, Shatner was out and Loblaws chief David Nichol was in as the TV spokesman.
There weren't likely too many tears shed for the actor, as 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" reignited interest and passion in Shatner's science-fiction vehicle and took him permanently from the dairy aisle to the Enterprise helm.