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An attorney for William Shatner objected, but a Clearwater man gets to claim the actor's name anyway

Fresh from a name change granted by a judge, Peter Shatner of Clearwater redid one side of his mailbox to reflect his new identity. The other side still reads Peter Sloan. He claims actor William Shatner is his biological father. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]
Published Aug. 6

CLEARWATER — Peter Sloan claims William Shatner is his biological father. He has tried and failed for decades to get the actor to admit publicly they're related.

Sloan has also tried and failed to coax a DNA test out of the man best known as Captain Kirk on Star Trek and most recently, as a guest star on the Canadian TV series Private Eyes.

So, in January, Sloan decided to "take back" the last name that he calls his birthright. He petitioned a Pinellas County court to have his name legally changed to Peter Shatner. An attorney for William Shatner asked the court to deny the request.

Last week, Judge Frederick Pollack ruled in Sloan's favor.

"I am now Peter Shatner," the 62-year-old Clearwater man said. "It feels terrific. It was not a battle I created but it was a battle nonetheless and I feel like I got a win. Before this, I hadn't had one."

Shatner's representatives did not respond to requests for comment from the Times.

Peter Shatner's story goes like this.

William Shatner and Sloan's mother, the late actress Kathy Burt, worked together in the 1950s on Canadian television. According to Sloan, the two had a one-night stand in early 1956 in Toronto. Sloan was born Dec. 9 of that year, then given up for adoption in New York.

His birth certificate reads "Male McNeil," reflecting the last name of Leonard McNeil — a man his mom started dating after the boy was conceived. McNeil later married her and drove them to the adoption clinic.

George and Barbara Orick took the boy in and named him Peter. They later divorced and his mom married John Sloan, who adopted him.

In 1984, Sloan reconnected with his birth mother. She told him his biological father was either Shatner or a second man she remembered only as Chick, a law student from Montreal.

The affairs, she said, happened as she was mending a broken heart.

She detailed all this in a letter to her son that he shared with the Tampa Bay Times.

He claims she later told him that she had grown more certain Shatner was his dad.

Hollywood producer E. Arthur Kean, a friend of Sloan's first adoptive father, brokered a meeting between Peter Sloan — now Peter Shatner — and William Shatner in 1984. Adrea Nairne, Kean's ex-wife, previously confirmed this to the Times.

The meeting, Peter Shatner claims, ended with a hug and joint admission of a biological relationship. But weeks later, he said, William Shatner called to say he would never go public with the connection.

Later, Peter Shatner filed a lawsuit contending that the constant disavowal had damaged his reputation. A court dismissed the case.

RELATED STORY: Court dismisses suit by Tampa man who claims William Shatner is his father

In the petition for the name change, he said he was pursuing the action because his biological father is William Shatner.

That drew a request for a cease-and-desist order from attorney John B. Atkinson, who had represented William Shatner in the earlier damaged reputation suit.

Because the name-change petition was signed under oath, it constitutes perjury, Atkinson argued.

RELATED STORY: William Shatner tries to stop Clearwater man from changing his last name to Shatner

But the judge ruled there is no evidence that Peter Shatner's petition was filed for a "wrongful or fraudulent purpose." While he was Peter Sloan, he used "Peter Shatner" for years as a stage name, the ruling notes.

What's more, the judge cited a technical error: In filing to stop the name change, Atkinson only did so as an "officer of the Court" and not as William Shatner's attorney.

The ruling also says that a name change does not establish paternity so it provides Peter Shatner no legal claim to William Shatner's estate.

Peter Shatner said his six adult children supported his petition for a name change.

"They just want me to be happy," he said.

Still, he said, at least one relative feels the change slights the man who raised him.

"John Sloan is the only father I ever had," Peter Shatner said. "I loved the guy."

The petition was not an attempt to distance himself from his adoptive father, he said. Rather, it was his way of embracing his ancestry.

First, he was "Male McNeil," he said. "Then I was Peter Orick and then became Peter Sloan. Now I get to choose and I wanted to go right back to the beginning."

He doesn't expect William Shatner will ever take a DNA test or admit they are father and son.

"I am fine with that," he said. "I have accepted it."

Meantime, he is promoting a new album — Peter Shatner Dance Party — and working on a one-man show about his life.

He's already changed his driver's license and mailbox to reflect the new name — but only one side of the mailbox. The other still reads Peter Sloan.

"I don't want to confuse the mailman right away," he said.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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