On March 25, Tampa radio host Peter Michael Sloan filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County, Florida. The suit demands a substantial sum from William Shatner, the man Sloan claims as his biological father. As reported by the New York Post, the lawsuit also seeks to force the Star Trek actor to submit to DNA testing to prove once and for all that he is indeed the father of the 59-year-old plaintiff.
According to Sloan, the story began on December 9, 1956, when a Canadian actress named Katherine Burt gave birth to a lovechild in a New York City hospital. The baby’s father was not in attendance. When the infant was 5-days-old, he was placed for adoption by his unmarried mother.
George Tilden Orick, then a journalist with Time/Life, and his wife, artist Barbara Lalone Byrne, adopted the newborn and named him Peter Michael Orick. Six years later, the adoptive parents split and George moved to Lagos, Nigeria. The boy remained with his mother, who remarried in 1964. Her new husband, John Colles Sloan, was a widower raising two children, Polly and Russell. In 1965, John adopted Peter, and the 9-year-old’s surname was changed to Sloan.
Flash forward to 1983 when Peter Sloan came across a story about an ABC News expedition to Antarctica. The article was penned by Peter’s first adoptive father, George Orick, who was part of the expedition. Peter got in touch with Sloan, who encouraged Peter to find his real birth parents. The Children’s Aid Society, the agency that managed his 1956 adoption, provided Peter with just enough information to begin an earnest search for his natural parents.
According to Peter Sloan’s personal website, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Canadian actress Barbara Hamilton assisted in Sloan’s quest to find his birth mother. Months of research proved fruitful in 1984 when Canadian Broadcasting Company archives revealed the name of Sloan’s birth mother to be Katherine Burt-McNeil.
Sloan’s website, PeterShatner.com, does not provide details but says that “through a process of research and verification,” Sloan identified his biological father as Canadian-born actor William Shatner. Earlier this month, Peter Sloan told Entertainment Tonight that his birth mother, now deceased, told him of a brief affair she had with William Shatner in the mid-1950s.
In 1984, Peter Sloan arranged to be introduced to William Shatner on the Burbank set of his television show T.J. Hooker. Sloan described meeting the TV star for the first time.
“He [Shatner] asked, ‘What is it that you want?’ and I said, ‘All I want is just to hold my father in my arms.’ He started to cry, I started to cry, he lifted me up and held me in his arms.”
Sloan told Entertainment Tonight that at first, Shatner was pleased to know he had a son. He invited him back to the set for another visit, and all seemed to be going well between father and son. Then, a week after their initial encounter, Sloan called Shatner. Sloan alleges that the actor “became very disconcerted and basically hung up” on him. Some time later, Sloan told ET that a man representing Shatner made contact and said that it would devastate the actor’s career if the paternity news went public.
Sloan added, “He said they don’t disbelieve me and if I were a minor it would be different.”
In 2011, Peter Sloan, who was at that time going by the name Peter Shatner, received a letter from Shatner’s attorney, Erik Hyman.
The letter, which is alluded to in the Florida lawsuit, said, “There have been many people over the years who have claimed to be his children or other relatives. He is an incredibly busy, eighty-year-old man, and is not interested in spending time discussing this issue with you or any such individuals.”
Since the 1984 meeting in a set trailer in Burbank, William Shatner has disavowed being Peter Sloan’s biological dad.
[Photo by Bob Galbraith/AP]