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Six Degrees: from Halloween to William Shatner

Rachael Barker


Halloween falls on Wednesday and the planet's bars and children are being decorated with witches, ghouls and other garish paraphernalia. Although Christians, pagans and party planners are divided about the day's origins, it is believed to have roots stretching back 6,000 years. In the 18th century, it was "thought to be a night when witches, devils and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands", according to the author of the poem Halloween, Robert Burns …


Voted the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a 2009 television poll, Burns is celebrated each year on January 25, his birthday, at gatherings where his Ode to a Haggis is recited before a sheep's stomach stuffed with the animal's heart, liver and lungs is eaten. The Scottish bard's legacy is such that during a survey of modern-day superstars, his 1794 song A Red, Red Rose was chosen as the "lyric that had the biggest effect on my life", by Bob Dylan …


Despite the dour Dylan's reputation as a protest singer, he has never been politically active and has rarely rallied for causes. His flip-flopping faith - at times Jewish, and at others born-again Christian or agnostic - saw him refuse a request to have his music on the soundtrack to the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London, only to allow several of his songs to feature in the vampire television series True Blood nearly 30 years later. Born Robert Zimmerman, he changed his name in honour of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas …


The hard-drinking, womanising, self-loathing Thomas, whose alcoholism cost him his life at the age of 39, was the perennial schoolboy. He wrote half his published work as a teen and 80 per cent of it by the age of 26. Some of Thomas' work, which includes the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, was in August recited as part of a one-man stage show by his friend and former drinking buddy, Christopher Plummer …


Plummer is the oldest actor to have won an Academy Award, at 82, for his role as a widower coming out of the closet in The Beginners. In accepting the Oscar - his first - for best supporting actor this year, Plummer gripped the statuette, saying: "You're only two years older than me, darling, where have you been all of my life?" During his first paid acting job, a part in Jean Cocteau's play La Macchina Infernale (The Infernal Machine), his understudy was struggling fellow Canadian thespian William Shatner ...


Shatner is "universally" known for his portrayal of Captain James Kirk in the sci-fi television show Star Trek. Although the programme flopped during its short run in the late 1960s, re-runs have attracted a global legion of fans, causing the franchise to be resurrected years later. Unbeknown to Shatner, a mask of his face (right), which had been painted white, was the iconic disguise worn by psychotic supernatural serial killer Michael Myers in the 1978 low-budget horror film Halloween.





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