William Shatner’s late wife’s family says he cared more about his hair than her life

William Shatner with his current wife, Elizabeth Anderson Martin, at the Primetime Emmy Awards on 9/16/07
William Shatner’s new memoir, “Up Til Now,” gives some details about the accidental drowning death of his late wife, Nerine. However, a family member of Nerine’s is now issuing a tell-all book of his own about the Star Trek icon, saying that he was not a caring husband and was more concerned about himself than her- right up until the day she died.

According to The Globe, Boston Legal star William Shatner will not be happy to learn that his deceased wife Nerine’s brother is writing a tell-all book about his sister’s mysterious death in 1999, and he’s calling Shatner a liar. William Shatner’s wife Nerine was an alcoholic who was in and out of rehab, and her AA sponsor had warned Bill never to leave her alone. Shatner left her with a housekeeper one day and returned to find her on the bottom of their pool. He called 911 instead of diving in to pull her out. The brother claims that Shatner didn’t jump in the pool because he was wearing a new $25,000 toupee and didn’t want to ruin it! The former brother.-in-law insists “The normal reaction is to pull the person out of the pool and start CPR.” He’s got a point there.

[From Janet Charlton's Hollywood]

While numerous stories about the size of his ego have been circulating for decades, I think I’m going to have to side with Shartner on this one. It seems way out of line for this brother to be slamming his former brother-in-law over what was ruled an accident by police. I also don’t think it was Shatner’s responsibility to make sure that a grown woman was never left alone. If she was really in that bad of shape, she should have been in an in-patient rehab facility, not a mansion with a pool. It sounds to me like this brother is trying to make a buck off Shatner’s name while people still remember his wife’s death. Shatner has since remarried.

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43 Responses to “William Shatner’s late wife’s family says he cared more about his hair than her life”

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  1. Keith Orchard says:

    Hmmmm, MSat, your an idiot. It is his right to question things, even if the police don’t thing so. It was his sister. I would hate to be your sister, if that’s how you deal with it. And by the way, when you marry someone, you promise them, through the vows, you will be there. How come women regularly stand by their husbands when they are not capable, like Christopher Reeve’s wife, but men are not expected to?

  2. Tanille says:

    i agree that maybe she should have been in rehab if she was still that unstable BUT if he didn’t jump in the pool to attempt to save his wife thats just not right, its actually kinda disturbing :?

  3. McKenna says:

    Ok, seriously, is living in German clouding your judgment? It’s not his responsibility? Of course it is. You wouldn’t leave a sick child at home, and go off, would you? Alcoholism is an illness. He needed to make sure his wife was supervised or had the care she needed. Furthermore, to not jump in when your wife is in the bottom of the pool is calous and inhumane. How can you you’re siding with Shatner? Wow.

  4. KateNonymous says:

    I think it’s hard to know what the normal reaction is under those circumstances. For example, I can see someone who didn’t know CPR thinking that they’d do it wrong and kill the person. In fact, I can see someone who did know it thinking that, because in the stress of the moment you might not remember what to do in what order. After all, you learn CPR in a classroom-like setting, which is really low-stress, and you use it in an actual emergency, which is really high-stress.

    I’m sure that Nerine’s brother continues to be devastated by his family’s loss, and I can understand why he is asking the questions he is. And I have no idea whether Shatner was or was not a good husband to her. I also wonder if, even then, he was in any kind of shape to be pulling people out of pools. My guess is that it’s not as easy as it sounds, even if you’re very fit.

    But he did call 911 as soon as he found her, and I still remember how distraught he sounded. Does that answer everything? Not necessarily. But I think it means something.

  5. elisha says:

    This is ludricrous. If the woman really needed 24 hour care, then she’s lucky he even stayed with her. Round the clock assistance is a lot to ask of a spouse. Not to mention, he left her with a housekeeper so she wasn’t alone. Where was the brother when all of this was going on?

    And calling 911 vs jumping in the pool? If he would’ve jumped in the pool he’d be being critisized right now for not calling the authorities. Obviously when you’re on the phone with 911 you can’t jump in the pool, since they have you “stay on the line.”

    Sounds to me like the brother is both trying to cash in and feeling guilty so trying to blame the husband.

  6. Ack! says:

    Maybe the housekeeper should have dived in and got her out of the pool. She was the one at home at the time of the accident, wasn’t she? Alcoholics and drug addicts whose behavior demands everyone around them put their lives on hold in order to keep them from accidentally killing themselves are a bit much. It’s not his fault the woman drank herself into oblivion and drowned in the pool, no matter how tragic the situation. Why didn’t the brother or other family members take turns watching the lady on a daily basis just to be sure she didn’t harm herself and allow Shatner the freedom to at least leave the house on occasion? Blame is easy to throw around, especially after the fact.

  7. Syko says:

    I think calling 911 is probably a better move than having someone untrained in rescue skills to jump into a pool and attempt rescue and revival. Especially someone who was distraught, overweight, out of shape and likely to have a heart attack if he attempted to pull a water-logged woman out.

    If the brother is so freaking concerned over his sister, possibly he should have been staying with her.

    Hindsight is always 20/20. I’ve never seen evidence that Shatner is evil, I’m sure if he’d known she would attempt suicide, he’d have made sure she didn’t manage it.

  8. Ran says:

    Wow Keith and Mckenna… a little over the top aren’t we? Calling MSat an idiot? Msat is allowed to have that opinion. I happen to agree with Syko on this… who knows if the man could even swim well? I mean I can swim, but I couldn’t pull another adult out of the bottom of a pool. Shatner did the right thing by calling 911 immediately.

    He IS entitled to a life too… maybe he took an afternoon off from adult sitting – it’s a shame it ended so tragically, but he did deserve a moment to himself. The wife had another adult with her. We are far too critical as a human race.

  9. Scott F. says:

    I worked as a firefighter/EMT for more than 2 years, and even we made mistakes. Seriously, the first thing we always told people was to call us before attempting something moronic.

    It’s always easier for us to show up and do our jobs than it is to deal with 2 victims. What if he HAD jumped in the pool? He’s not exactly in the best shape of his life. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pull a lifeless human being from the bottom of a pool? I’m in my mid 20′s, in pretty good shape, have been surfing and swimming in the ocean since age 4, and it would be a struggle for me if they were more than 175lbs or so.

    My point is that in a situation like that, you’re just wasting time trying to save them yourself. You’re unlikely to be able to restart their breathing without professional help, so (and I know this sounds awful) there really is very little difference between her not breathing at the bottom of the pool and her not breathing on the deck.

    Please, unless you’re SURE you know what you’re doing, do not try to revive someone (ESPECIALLY a child) you find face down in a pool. You’re stressed out, scared, and you’ll probably just end up breaking ribs and making the situation worse. Get to a phone, call 911.

    And I have to agree with earlier posters about the 24/7 supervision. She was a grown damn woman, and able to make her own decisions. If she was really that messed up, she should have been in a facility.

  10. Susan says:

    I’ve always liked him. I heard his 911 call when this happened – heart breaking.

    If I came home and saw my husband at the bottom of the pool though I have to say — I’d jump in and try to help him. Makes me sad just to think of that scenario. :(

    Maybe he was too distraught and didn’t know WHAT to do?

    Agree with the other posters — if she required 24/7 supervision she should’ve been in a hospital. The house keeper could’ve been asleep and this woman was up drinking and ended up doing something stupid because she was intoxicated.

  11. devilgirl says:

    And it shows! Great hair Bill!

  12. countrybabe says:

    I like Will. I remember this was about what 8 years ago thinking it odd that you didn’t hear anything aobut it, and nothing of her being an alcoholic until it happened. Maybe they pushed it aside cause he’s a celebrity. It wouldn’t be the first time. The new wife looks like the one that drowned.

  13. rose says:

    If she needed that much supervision then he as her husband should have provided that for her instead of leaving her with the help who is not qualified to deal with a person who obviously had some serious issues.
    I agree with him calling for help,but speaking for myself only, I cannot imagine seeing my husband,child, stranger,dog etc.. DROWNING and just WAITING around for help to arrive while they are dying.

  14. Syko says:

    Rose, she wasn’t drowning, she was dead at the bottom of the pool. Not a lot to be done. Scott F. is right. A dead, water-soaked body would be almost impossible for one person to pull from the pool. And she’s no deader at the bottom of the pool than she is on the deck.

    The housekeeper probably was not qualified to deal with her issues. But then, who is to say that Shatner was? He may not have realized the depths of her depression. He may not have known she had booze stashed somewhere. It’s really easy to judge someone else, but in the same situation, would we do any better? We don’t know every detail. And it’s always easier to know what you should have done instead of knowing what you should do.

  15. Wif says:

    I’ve had four situations happen in my life where I thought before hand, “If this thing ever happens, I’ll handle it this way…” In every instance I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Wish I could be the hero type, I’m clearly not. I would never fault someone in a case like this.

    And I’m SURE that a $25,000 toupee would hold up to a little water and chlorine nicely. If it can’t, it’s not worth $25,000.

  16. Susan says:

    It wasn’t because of his freaking hair that he didn’t jump into the pool. I am sure he simply didn’t know what to do — was in shock and VERY distraught. You can hear it in his voice on the tape. He was freaking out.

    Even if he DID hire someone to “watch her” — nobody can watch another person 24/7. Unless they are in a hospital type situation, locked in their room for certain periods and under supervision the rest of the time.

    It’s not his fault that she got drunk and drowned in the pool. It’s a very tragic and sad story. Her brother is just trying to make a buck on it – shameful.

  17. vdantev says:

    What hair? He’s bald as a cucumber and has been for years. That’s a toupee on his head, or a dead rat. Hard to tell at this angle.

  18. Cindy Kennedy says:

    William Shatner looks like a cheshire cat.

  19. Mairead says:

    This is such a sad complex story – and one that isn’t going to be helped by anonymous bravura and rampant xenophobia.

    It’s fairly well established that Shatner wasn’t the nicest person on the planet to live with – his oldest daughter never saw him growing up etc. etc. And as for looking after his wife. Yes, there is a duty of care, and possibly having a nurse to mind her could have helped, if poor woman would allow it. But live with an alcoholic and then tell me how beautifully you controlled the situation. The “selfishness” the mind games, the chronic depression, probable threats to do themselves an injury. I’ll take my hat off to you.

    But as others have said, it’s all very well and good knowing how you’d react. But it’s a damned sight different matter when you’re the one in an emergency. It’s sad and tragic, and a shame that her family lost her to this horrible disease.

  20. mamalicious says:

    Recently my brother saved a 2-year old from the bottom of a pool during a birthday party. No one know how long the toddler had been there, but long enough to swallow so much water to make him sink all the way down. When he got the child to land, there were luckily 2 doctors nearby who gently massaged the heart and got him breathing again.
    That was thanks to professionals :-)

  21. nom de plume says:

    I took a few psych classes last year and in one of them, studies involving people dealing with emergencies were discussed. Basically, what was found is that people don’t know what to do or even if there is an emergency happening because we all have so little experience, if any, of dealing with emergencies. I’m not surprised he called 9-11 without attempting to pull her out of the pool because many of us would have likely done the same thing if faced with the same situation.

  22. Hollz says:

    where was the housekeeper ? really? if she was left in someones care, why didn’t they find her at the bottom of the pool?

  23. linda says:

    I remember hearing that 911 call and it was heartbreaking. Nobody can protect an alcoholic from themselves. It’s all sad but I think it sounds like the brother is trying to make a buck.

  24. rlr260 says:

    I agree with Scott F. I am a nurse, and we have to recertify for CPR every 2 years. The most recent guidelines recommend that if help is not readily at hand, the rescuer should call for help/call 911, etc., before attempting to rescue/resuscitate the victim.

  25. Nan says:

    He did the right thing. The AA sponsor would never suggest that. The victim here is Shatner. Thank God he has found love again. He probably has nightmares of that day to this day.

  26. Sara T says:

    it takes seconds to call 911 – and what about why he was waiting for help to arrive? Seems to me the whole story was a little suspicious – and I hear Shatner likes to knock back the booze.

    We’ll never know what happened – without a proper investigation. But he did seem rather indifferent to her death, and was quickly off to the next girlfriend in no time.

    Spock – we need you to find the truth.

  27. jinx says:

    His wife’s disease was turning him into a prisoner, and that’s not fair. He should never have married her. Chances are if she was at the bottom of the pool and revived, she would have been brain dead.

    If her brother cared, he would have been watching his drunken, mentally ill sister.

    She wanted to die or she wouldn’t have been dead drunk and in the water.

  28. CeeJay says:

    Sounds to me like a lot of people, including most on this board, could use some training in CPR, both adult and infant/child. I’ve been trained and take yearly refresher courses. Now, since the protocol has changed, CPR does not even involve mouth to mouth, just consistent compressions on the chest. But, Scott is right. If you don’t have the training, whatever you do probably won’t help. It will take about 30 minutes to one hour out of your life to attend a local CPR training session. I’ve never had to use my skills, but am confident that if ever needed, I could and would help. Wouldn’t you like to feel that way? Come on, you can do it. Sign up for training.

    As for Shatner, I wouldn’t wish his awful experience upon anyone. He has his version and his brother in-law has his. I guess the big question is, where was the brother in-law when she drowned? If he wasn’t there to see first hand what happened he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Although I will admit I was a little thrown with Msat’s opinion, but I think it’s because the tone of her article started out seemingly “pro” brother in-law and then quickly changed to “pro” Shatner. It’s all good Msat. There’s two sides to every story.

  29. Nadia says:

    Yeah, I’ve seen this attitude more and more over the years. “I’m not a professional, it’s not my responsibility, I can’t do it, and I can’t be blamed. I’m helpless – that’s just the way it is.”

    Pull the damn person out of pool and attempt CPR. It’s not brain surgery, it takes half an hour to learn, and I’ve seen morons learn to preform it perfectly. Chances are this person would die before the ambulance arrives, so no worries about doing it incorrectly. CPR preformed by non-professional WORKS, people.

    Is it so wrong to expect a man to take care of his seriously ill wife at home? Round the clock care of a spouse is a lot to ask but many people deal with severely crippled spouses for decades. He should have sucked it up or hired a nurse.

  30. Mairead says:

    Having a go at the brother-in-law is not the answer either. I’ve known a few alcoholics in my time and they would not take kindly to their family “meddling” and having them standing over them all the time. And that also goes for the “why wasn’t there a nurse” question.

    And while I do agree that spouses should look after each other when they are ill, there is a world of difference between caring for an alcoholic and someone with cancer or a disability until you get to the latter stages. It just isn’t the same thing for the care-giver.

    The way the article is written suggests that Shatner and the brother-in-law never got along anyway; possibly Shatner wasn’t the most attentive husband and the brother-in-law is insulted by the fact that Shatner remarried relatively quickly afterwards.

  31. snappyfish says:

    I don’t mean to be cruel here, but….if she was at the bottom of the pool, she was already dead. So much so that her lungs where completely filled with water.

    No one could have brought her back.

  32. Jaundice Machine says:

    It sounds as though the brother is still feeling raw over his sister’s suicide, and is lashing out in anger (and denial) at the person who was closest to her. It makes sense if one follows the logic of the bereaved – his sister was mentally ill, and she slipped through the fingers of the man who promised himself to her “for better or for worse”.

    But it is irrational to place the onus of Nerene’s death on anyone but Nerene. She was the one who drank herself into oblivion – no one handed her a bottle, or forced the drink down her throat. She was the one who decided life wasn’t worth living, and no amount of CPR could bring her back.

    I can empathize with Nerene’s brother – suicide is an ugly and emotional thing to deal with. They say that unlike murder, suicide doesn’t only claim the life of the victim, it kills the entire family. Your life becomes consumed by haunting hypotheticals, like, “what did I do wrong?”, or, “If I had only been there…” Still, I hope her brother will come to terms with his sister’s death – publicaly blaming Shatner for something beyond anyone’s control won’t serve to soothe anyone’s conscience in the long run.

  33. er says:

    Anybody ever heard of 1. dialing 911 and getting that going, and then proceeding to 2. drop the phone and immediately trying to get the woman out of the pool? These two actions do not have to be mutually exclusive. Again, just picture a 2 year old at the bottom of the pool. Would anybody just stand there on the phone and watch and wait until rescue came no matter how futile it might seem to pull them out? That is a loooong friggin’ wait.

  34. KitKat says:

    Uh, has anyone read this story on the web? It seems he did pull her out of the pool. From the BBC:

    The actor recovered her body from the water, but his attempts to resuscitate the 40-year-old failed.

    Not only that, she had a 0.28 blood alcohol level AND Valium in her system, as well as a broken neck.


  35. Judy says:

    You learn in ALANON that you do not let the alcoholic run your life.
    You cannot babysit them to make sure they do not drink. You do not keeo yourself locked up with them because they may take a drink while you are gone. If they are a hopeless alcoholic like she apparently was then you get out of the marriage as Shatner should have done and didn’t. His BIL is busy making money on his dead sister.
    We have no idea why he did not jump in the pool and not try to pull her out, he may have just panicked and ran for the phone but he did get her out of the pool. Either way she was already dead and had been dead for a while.
    If there was something mysterious about her death old Shatner would have been grilled about it.
    Anyway he left her with someone and she was not alone.

  36. Zoe says:

    He called a boy I knew who was dying of cancer and was a fan. They chatted on the phone for ages. He does TONS of charitable work, most of which is not reported (at his request). That 911 call was heartbreaking. I just remember his panicked voice and him sobbing “my poor wife, my poor wife.” Lay off.

  37. G. says:

    I feel bad for the poor guy, not only is his wife dead, his bil is blaming him for it. Where was he when she was drinking herself to death. Not there, apparently. I know the brother’s upset, but he shouldn’t be blaming William for it.

    Also, people should learn CPR. I’ve been able to do it since I was 10. It’s not rocket science.

  38. Cindy Kennedy says:

    I agree. Shatner was not obligated to hire a babysitter to look after his wife 24/7. She was a grown woman. And it wasn’t his fault she was an alcoholic.

  39. Teresa says:

    William Shatner did exactly what should be done in an emergency situation. You call for help first, then get the person out of the deep end, into the shallow end and start resuscitation. Once you start resuscitation, you are not suppose to stop until paramedics take over. Where he is located, his neighbors probably would not hear him scream for help, so if he didn’t call for help first, then help would have never came.

  40. Ling says:

    CeeJay: Perhaps you need another refresher course. The ratio of compressions to breaths has gone up (15:2 to 30:2), but breaths are still necessary. The whole point of CPR is to circulate oxygenated blood to the brain, and without the breaths the blood is unoxygenated and therefore useless, leaving the brain to sputter and die.

    I feel like, had the AA counsellor been absolutely critically serious, Shatner wouldn’t have left her alone, or at the very least he would have hired a professional lush-sitter when necessary (and signed on for some arbitrary commercial to pay for it). But, who am I to say, i’m just a nobody.

  41. Kevin says:

    The ex brother in law is just trying to get money by doing this publicity stunt. Why wait 10 years? It’s all alleged and just rumour and opinion. And it’s cruel to say things like what this money hungry ex brother and law is apparently saying. Losing a loved one is not a wonderful experience.

  42. amy says:

    If she needed 24 hour care then where was the family to help? The brother wants to sit and place blame but why wasn’t he there to help his beloved sister to! In my experience when a family member is in need of help the whole family is there so why was it just put on the husband? Honestly it makes you wonder why they weren’t there to help as well!

  43. Charlie says:

    It was all very convenient for William Shatner for his wife Nerine to be out of the way. He is definitely an alcoholic, but she was off the scale of alcoholism. It is a lot easier to kill a drunk person than a sober one. He lives in a big mansion. He knows the routine of the housekeeper. His interview is telling. He starts talking about OJ right away. That is suspicious. A guilt-ridden person most often uses another story or another person to deflect the blame and take the attention of himself/herself.