Monday, October 4, 2004


Here's the online blurb about Riverside, Iowa

Another two centuries will pass before Riverside's claim-to-fame arrives, but that hasn't stopped this town from cashing in now on its future good fortune. Riverside is where interstate 380 ends and "the Trek Begins," or so says a sign as you exit. James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise, will be born here on March 21, 2233. A concrete blob behind a former barber shop marks the spot for present (and future) fans. Riverside wanted to put up a bronze James T. Kirk bust, but Paramount wanted $40K to license the image. Instead, a scale model of the "USS Riverside," which bears a remarkable (but not legally indemnible) resemblance to the USS Enterprise, is docked in the town square.

Throngs of pasty-faced fans invade Riverside during Kirk's annual birthday celebration, swelling the coffers of local businesses such as "Future Designs By Carol" and "Flower Trek" (sadly, the Bar Trek saloon sold out and is no longer here). Sharp-eyed residents, knowing they've got a good thing, have changed Riverside's summertime "Riverfest" to "Trek Fest." The town now pulls in revenue from hundreds of pale technonerds who arrive dressed in Starfleet uniforms or as Vulcans and Klingons. Marketing is as keen as an Iowa reaper blade; the Trek Fest souvenir catalogue offers vials of Kirk Dirt, dug from the actual birth site, at $3 apiece.

Now that Riverside's claim has been nailed down, the real challenge begins. Riverside must breed Kirk! This is a farm community; its people know about husbandry. Go to it, Riverside; where no man has gone before, if you must, but go! Invite Nobel Laureates and war heroes to move in and impregnate your women. And, just to be on the safe side, change the last name of everyone in town to Kirk.

(Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk: Hwy. 218, 20 mi. south of I-80/Iowa City.)"

So with all the hoopla they've poured into their image, Riverside was sure to lure more than just Nobel winning breeders.....

'Star'-struck town learns harsh reality

A group of budding actors in Iowa hoping for fame - and to get close to William Shatner - found out yesterday they
were nothing more than part of an elaborate ruse.

In fact, they weren't part of a movie at all, but were unknowing participants in a new reality show starring Shatner for Spike TV.

In what may be TV's most elaborate hoax, Shatner and a film crew set up in Riverside, Iowa, to shoot what they said was a film called "Invasion Iowa." The tiny town was selected because a few years ago it started calling itself the "future birthplace" of Captain Kirk, Shatner's "Star Trek" character. It's also the site of an annual "Star Trek" gathering.

So, when Shatner and the film crew came to town, folks turned out, and the media jumped on the bandwagon touting the independent project. Some of the residents even got parts in the nonexistent project.

"We formulated the idea over a year ago," said Paul Wernick, who produced the show with Rhett Reese. The two also created Spike TV's "Joe Schmo" reality series, which had a regular guy surrounded by a cast of actors in a fictional reality show.

"One of the dangers of shooting a show like this," Reese said, "is that you never know how it's going to end."
Shatner broke the news to townsfolk last night, telling them the show will air next year. "And the hardest part of this whole experience was containing my empathy for the individuals who listened to and identified with the soap opera we played in front of them," Shatner said in a statement.

While Wernick and Reese tried to shoot the project without media attention, some reporters caught on. And then the producers lied. "There's going to be some interesting emotions," Wernick said. "Betrayal, laughter and tears. We're going to run the gamut."

Originally published on September 29, 2004

Shatner's cloaking device: Iowa movie was fake
September 29, 2004

RIVERSIDE, Iowa - Capt. James T. Kirk might as well have set his phaser on stun and zapped everyone in his hometown. The actor who played the "Star Trek" space commander punked everyone here this month by pretending to film a science-fiction movie.

"We knew we were playing a prank on everyone," Shatner said during today's press conference. "By the end of the first day, we were falling in love with all of these beautiful people."

Shatner and dozens of production crew members have been in Riverside filling what he originally said was a low-budget, sci-fi movie called ‘‘Invasion Iowa.’’ Shatner told the town that the script was written by "Star Trek" co-star and Leonard Nimoy and himself.

Footage shot this month at Riverside, about 15 miles south of Iowa City, will be made into a reality television show called "Invasion Iowa." On the show, which will air early next year on Spike TV, viewers will see how a small Midwestern community reacts when a Hollywood film crew takes over a town.

To soften the blow of the hoax, the production company and Spike TV will give the city of Riverside $100,000. They also made other donations to the fire department and local school, officials said Wednesday.

Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk in the 1960s television show "Star Trek," informed townspeople of the trick Tuesday night during a viewing of the footage that had been shot.

Mike Hanson, 44, of Kalona, an extra in the film, said he and his fellow actors had had their suspicions about the project.

‘‘It was too cheesy to be real,’’ Hanson said after the announcement. ‘‘If it was really a movie, we’d be more scared of how bad it was.’’

Although Kirk’s hometown was never mentioned in the TV series, Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator and executive producer, wrote in ‘‘The Making of Star Trek’’ that Kirk was ‘‘born in a small town in the state of Iowa.’’

The Riverside City Council picked up on the idea in March 1985, declaring a site behind what used to be the town’s barbershop the ‘‘future birthplace’’ of Kirk.

Riverside holds an annual TrekFest which includes a parade with people dressed as ‘‘Star Trek’’ characters and public showings of the ‘‘Star Trek’’ episodes.

This article includes information from the Associated Press.

You know what this whole show can be linked to once it airs? That sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' in which Shatner went ballistic on the fans at a 'Star Trek' convention! This whole Trek prank on Riverside feels like a further extension of his attitude during his "rebuke" to those fans.

And all of those 'Star Trek' fans can connect to other shows that zonked Roddenberry's series, including 'Frasier' and 'Nurses'.

(And live long and prosper!)

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