'Star Trek' star to sing standards, spin yarns

by: DREAMSTIME PHOTO - You might recognize the facial features from Star Trek: Next Generation - Brent Spiner played Data on the popular TV show, but he impresses in music. He appears at the Roseland Theater on Jan. 11.Brent Spiner wants to set you straight about the posters that promote his Jan. 11 song and story show at the Roseland Theater and label him “legendary.”

“Tony Bennett is legendary,” Spiner says with a chuckle. “I’m just much beloved.”

While Spiner may not be legendary, the show with which he’s associated certainly is. Best known for playing the android Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” as well as in four “Star Trek” films, Spiner played one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, rivaling Spock from the original series for its outsider-insider status on the Enterprise.

Spiner will share stories about his career and take a few questions from audience members, he says, in addition to singing standards at his Portland show. He will be backed by a six-piece band that includes Brad Ellis, the enigmatic pianist on the TV show “Glee.”

“It’s actually quite story heavy,” he says of his live show. “I am the focus of your attention. I will be standing center stage going, ‘Love me, please,’ ” he adds with a laugh.

It’s clear from talking to him he enjoyed the limelight “Star Trek” gave him, but he says his fame came at a cost.

“I had to be painted every day,” he says of his makeup. “It was miserable. After about an hour, the makeup would get up into my eyes, and I was wearing yellow contacts. For most of the day, I could only see shapes — I wasn’t completely blind, but it was foggy.”

He stresses he’s not complaining, just sharing insights into how the on-screen magic was made. He adds that he also found the role challenging.

“I just set about trying to find the truth of the character,” he says. “It was a very small canvas to paint on, given that he had no emotion. But I tried to paint every corner and crevice of his character.”

Early days

Born in 1949, Spiner grew up in Houston and credits his high school drama teacher, Cecil Pickett, for spurring him to act professionally. Many of Spiner’s classmates also went on to Hollywood, including Randy and Dennis Quaid.

“I got in trouble with Randy,” Spiner says. “We were doing a production of ‘High Button Shoes.’ Randy was playing a Keystone-cop looking guy. He forgot his hat, and said, ‘You’ve got to take me home!’ ”

With minutes to spare before the curtains rose, the two students scurried into their high school’s backstage.

Despite annoying the teacher, Spiner survived the incident and speaks lovingly of his mentor, whom he says taught him and his classmates to treat theater seriously. After college, Spiner eventually moved to New York City, where he worked on and off Broadway. Playing in “Little Shop of Horrors,” Spiner then came to Los Angeles in 1983 and realized it was the place to actually make a living as an actor. Among the TV shows he did before “Star Trek” was “Night Court, where he occasionally played Bob Wheeler, patriarch of a bumbling hillbilly family always in trouble with the law.

Spiner joined “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast in 1987, and says he’s proud to be part of “the biggest epic series ever on TV,” rivaled possibly only by the BBC series “Dr. Who” for its ability to constantly reincarnate itself decade after decade. “Star Trek” combined quality dialogue with plots that appealed to mass audiences, he says.

Music man

In addition to his TV and Web career (which includes, most recently, the Internet series “Fresh Hell”), Spiner has occasionally recorded music as well as performed in musical theater. In 1991, he released an album of 1940s pop standards called “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back,” a play on Frank Sinatra’s, “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back.” He’s also played John Adams in a Tony-nominated production of the musical “1776,” and he released another album, “Dreamland,” with cabaret singer Maude Maggart.

A huge fan of Sinatra, Spiner counts among his favorite memories getting a VIP table for free at a sold-out Las Vegas show by the Chairman of the Board. One of his band members recognized Spiner and fellow “Trek” star LeVar Burton standing forlornly outside the hotel where Sinatra was set to sing, because they were unable to get tickets. The two friends were in town for Burton’s bachelor party — Spiner was best man — and the musician told them Sinatra was a big fan of their show and persuaded Sinatra to invite them in.

Spiner also counts working with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the 1997 romantic comedy “Out to Sea” as a career highlight, as well as working with Martin Scorsese on “The Aviator,” the Howard Hughes flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Nonetheless, he knows he always will be best known as Data and is perfectly content being considered primarily a science-fiction star.

“I am certainly, if not ‘King of the Nerds,’ right up there in the royal family,” he says with a chuckle.

Plugged in Data

Who: Brent Spiner

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11

• Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave.

• Cost: $20, $32

• More: 971-230-0033,,

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