Why and How WISH is Ending

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Open Letter
From: Sonni Cooper
Addressed To: Star Trek fans, specifically those members of William Shatner Fan Fellowship
Date(s): February 1982
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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Why and How WISH is Ending is 1982 open letter written by Sonni Cooper.

first page of the letter

It was printed in The Center Seat v.2 n.6.

Many fans found it insulting and imperious.

The topic of the letter is the reason for the cessation of William Shatner Fan Fellowship.

The club had been floundering due to issues with organization, adulteration, anger over access to celebrities, and more. Many of these comments can be found in 1981 and 1982 issues of Interstat.

Some Topics Discussed

  • how the duties of running a fan club and producing a newsletter are too much work, take up your personal time, cut into your social life, and costs too much money
  • fans can be ungrateful and demanding
  • Bill Shatner had cut his participation in the club and this meant less goodies for the fans: "As careful as we were not to infringe on Bill's personal life, Bill feels the club has become an intrusion and wants to draw back from it. Without his constant input and cooperation we just couldn't so do our job properly."
  • some fans require professional counseling as they are too needy, plus some are suicidal
  • "I must admit that among the STAR TREK characters, Captain Kirk probably attracts the most stable group of fans. He represents authority and stability and appeals to people who generally respect both."
  • a lot of hubris: "Why don't I turn the club over to another person? Simply because Bill and I have a very special relationship, that of friends, and he doesn't want anyone else to handle a club for him."

From the Letter

This, the end of our second year, also marks the end of the WILLIAM SHATNER FAN FELLOWSHIP. It is sad that we must give up what has been a successful and fun venture for many of us, but the club is only one of many of our projects and has claimed 90% of our time. Bill also felt the press of the club and wanted to cut his participation which would have diluted our effectiveness many fold. The questionaires you sent back overwhelmingly wanted more, rather than less, something we are simply not able to do. Rather than compromise the quality of the club, Bill and I decided it was time to quit. He is immersed in his work on STAR TREK II and then has HOOKER following quickly which uses up his energy and is, of necessity, his primary concern. To be honest, Susan and I are relieved to be out from under the pile of work connected with the club.

The qualifications for being a fan club president are outrageous. For one, you have to be independently wealthy because the club has to become a substantial part of your monthly budget. We did try to cut corners, but the membership fee didn't cover all of the expenses we had. Our proposed expenditures were based upon a projected membership of 3,000 to 5,000 members. We never got close. If we had begun the FELLOWSHIP when anticipation of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was at its peak, we may possibly have achieved our goal and been in the black; we will never truly know. The membership drive didn't help sufficiently, and we thank all of you for trying.

Two: Costs have been horrendous. With the necessary leasing of a postal meter, and postage skyrocketing, our mailing costs are phenomenal. I think sometimes, that we alone, support the post office and Pitney Bowes. Not quite half of the membership includes a SASE with their letters. I must admit that the percentage improved as we matured, but not nearly well enough to cover the costs of answering your many queries.

The club became Susan's and my full time occupation. Every day, weekends included, have been spent on keeping up on the club - even our social lives became limited to club activities.

And three: To quote from Gail and Barbara when the MARK LENARD INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB was terminated last year, "One must have a hide as thick as a rhinoceros. You have to enjoy getting calls at any time of day or night. You have to enjoy being snapped, snarled, and growled at because "my NEWSLETTER was mailed TWO WEEKS AGO and I haven't gotten ANYTHING!"

Another qualification is a master's degree in psychology. There are many who draw to fandom, particularly to TREK who are lonely and isolated. Many require professional counseling. We've had their burdens on our shoulders for two years, trying to get them to seek professional help. We have called suicide prevention centers, mental health associations, etc. all in an effort to help troubled fans. Since we were answering all of Bill's mail these calls were not limited to members, but covered a multitude of other people. Although the percentage of these chores was small they were most demanding. I must admit that among the STAR TREK characters, Captain Kirk probably attracts the most stable group of fans. He represents authority and stability and appeals to people who generally respect both.

What will happen now? Why don't I turn the club over to another person? Simply because Bill and I have a very special relationship, that of friends, and he doesn't want anyone else to handle a club for him. Why doesn't Susan take over? Simply because she just isn't financially able to handle the club or the time it takes either. It takes a great capital investment.

Hopefully, in the future, Bill may find someone whom he trusts to work with him, for the moment, however, he wants and needs break just as Susan and I do. As careful as we were not to infringe on Bill's personal life, Bill feels the club has become an intrusion and wants to draw back from it. Without his constant input and cooperation we just couldn't so do our job properly.

We will miss you. I expect to diligently hold onto those new friends I have made through the Fellowship. They are a special bunch of people who have been supportive and helpful throughout the entire life of the club. To Susan, the Regional Assistants, the membership committee, and the staff my very grateful thanks. I especially look forward to meeting some of our foreign fans and I am eagerly awaiting my trip to England in April where I will have a chance to meet our British and German fans. I do want to meet with you when I am there and have asked for a room for that purpose.

I am not quitting fandom! My STAR TREK novel will be published in the fall and I expect to be "on the road" to promote it. If you wish to have your copy autographed I'd be very pleased to sign your book. Send it along with a return SASE postage and I'll ship the book back to you when I have signed it. I hope you all will like the novel. It's pure STAR TREK adventure and has lots of action. If any of you think you will be in the Bay area, drop me a line and I will try to meet you. I will be working in L.A. from time to time so always check ahead of time. There are some projects which I will continue:

THE STAR FUND is still being carried on. Bill deserves the star and I will continue the sponsorship.

MATTHEW will still be sponsored, even if my husband I must personally continue his support ourselves. We would appreciate your continuing help and will welcome your gifts for Matthew.

THE WISHbook will be printed and mailed to those who have sent in their orders. Since we will not have another newsletter this is the last notice for orders for members. We will offer the WISHbook for sale to non-members at a higher price. KIRK, the fanzine we are publishing, will be printed and distributed. The flyer contained with this newsletter gives details as to how to order the zine. Members will get a discount price. We must have 300 orders to print. The stories are all selected and are being typed now. The cover is a full color photo of a pastel drawn by Doug Little, a talented WISH member from New York. The zine will be professionally bound, and any KIRK fan will want it in their collection.

I will be accompanying Bill to Houston in June and in England in April so our association isn't ending completely.

Susan M. Stephenson's Addition

Susan M. Stephenson worked with Sonni Cooper in running the club. She added her letter to the same issue that Sonni's appeared:

"It's always best to quit while your ahead," the saying goes, and so it has gone with WISH. Although I know it may seem strange to many of you, it would be less than honest for me to say I'm completely sorry WISH's time has come to an end. While many of you have written us of the pleasure and enjoyment you've received from WISH, working for Bill to me has been pleasure and work, Work, WORK, W.O.R.K.

Outsiders never realize the amount of effort it takes to run an organization like WISH, and handling all an actor's fan mail is quite simply outside most people's experience. Even when things are running smoothly the sheer volume of work becomes a crushing load. So I hope you understand when I say my single greatest feeling on the demise of WISH is, "Ah, freedom!"

There are a lot of things I've had to put aside because of the time, effort, and expense working with Bill has involved. My writing, my orchids, my hand-work, my house, in short almost everything creative in my life has suffered from the amount of time required by club and mail. Helpers have been helpful, but full-time staff was what was needed. And unaffordable.

Without the love and support of my husband, Frank, who's been cheerfully willing to come home from work and cook dinner at a moment's notice, or assume similar chores when I'm working long hours for Bill, this entire project would have been impossible. He may not be as handsome as a certain actor we all know, but I think I'm pretty lucky for having Frank to share life with. Now I'll even have the time for some of those special little things that make life fun!

Every venture has a logical conclusion which comes with time. For WISH that time is now. Bill will be tied up with Hooker working 12 hour days before heading home to learn his lines for the next day's shooting. That leaves very little time for family life, which we all know is so important to him. Even less time is left for anything else.

Let's all remember the good times like the WISH Weekend in Los Angeles, the new friends we've all made, and the wonder- fully opportunity WISH provided for Bill and his fans to share and communicate if only for just a little while.

Fan Comments

February 1992

By the time you read this, it will be no news to you that Bill Shatner's fan club, WISH, has terminated. I, personally, was not happy with the general tenor of the letter-insert in the last Center Seat that made the announcement. The newsletter was the usual 'all is right with the world' message with the exception of a very small message of no new memberships being taken. The insert implied that the 'admiral's staff were just too busy and that there was a lack of interest in Bill and his career by his fans, thus explaining the termination.

It also referred to Bill's time as a factor. As any celebrity's personal tragedies and losses get raked over the public coals, so fandom's institutions, dreams and losses are also held on public display. Many of us who have been members of WISH have watched and cringed as, in the pages of INTERSTAT, in personal talks with friends, at cons, and wherever Trek and/or Shatner people got together, our 'dirty laundry' was aired. Some of us tried to warn, some of us patched, explained, tried to find creative ways to help. Some of us got hurt, angry or disillusioned and gave up, There was unrest in the ranks—perhaps, a lack of wisdom in the hierarchy.

But the end result —no matter the causes— was the same. It had ceased to be a working organization. The 'fellowship' part was fragmenting. Bill had a contract, in writing, with the powers that be within WISH. The contract had come to an end and it was time to re-evaluate. There was no sense in renewing something that was not functioning properly. As many of you have been witness, it was not improving, nor did the basic problems that existed show any signs of changing or rectifying themselves in the near future. Bill would have been stupid to have continued with it. That does not mean that Bill has rejected his fans. He has merely refused to renew a non-viable means of keeping in touch with them... Let us also remember that Bill has had some horrendous experiences with fan clubs in the past. Though WISH was head and shoulders above the rest, and for a good deal of its existence was a very good thing, it still failed to be a positive long term answer to Bill's problem of being just one man to several thousand fans that love him—an awesome ratio. He needs something that works, and will continue to work long term, but if he did decide not to authorize another fan club right now, could we blame him? Just how totally essential is his authorization to a fan club? If Bill decides against having another club authorized, what things can we still do? We can still have a newsletter. We can still have world-wide membership. We can still do a great zine. We can still pool our pictures (I think — don't quote me on it, legally) for a yearbook. We can still raise money for charities to be given in Bill's name. We can still support his career. We won't have the personal touch; the absolute knowledge of what's going on. Expense will be higher, quality of items perhaps less, we won't be able to quote or infer Bill's approval of anything we do. But we still can have a quality place to have fellowship and to support Bill in every way we can. May I encourage all of Bill's fans & WISH members current or past, to take heart, take stock of what we still have, pitch—in an orderly fashion please — to the support of what remains — and smile I That shouldn't be too hard.

Just think about something pleasant — like Bill. [1]


  1. ^ Beth C, from Interstat #52 (February 1982)