General Motors Theatre – “Forever Galatea” (12/06/1955)

Does Shatner have an illegitimate son? Let’s take a closer look…

William Shatner and Kathy McNeil in "Forever Galatea"

In March of 2016, a man named Peter Sloan filed a $170 million lawsuit in Florida federal court against one Mr. William Shatner. Sloan, given up for adoption in New York City just five days after his birth in December of 1956, began searching for his birth parents in the early 1980’s at the urging of his first adoptive father. He eventually tracked his birth mother down in Toronto and discovered that she had been (in the mid-1950’s) a minor Canadian actress named Kathy McNeil (at the time Kathy Burt, her maiden name.) McNeil later told Sloan in a letter that his birth father was either a law student from Montreal whose name she could not recall, or William F. Shatner.

Sloan then alleges that Kathy McNeil told him personally that she was convinced that Shatner was the father, not the law student from Montreal. In early 1956 she had just suffered a breakup from her first boyfriend and, feeling emotionally vulnerable, ended up having two one-night stands in close proximity; the first, a night with William Shatner, and the second with the law student some days later. Immediately after that second one-night stand, McNeil “knew” that she was pregnant.

McNeil flew to NYC for an (illegal at the time) abortion but changed her mind once arriving due to a potentially dangerous medical issue. She stayed in New York during the pregnancy, and gave the baby up for adoption in December of 1956. She told the Children’s Aid Society that the father was a law student, which Sloan just chalks up to his mother picking one of the two men who might have been the father at random.

McNeil admitted that she never contacted Shatner or the other man about her pregnancy at the time, but did assert that she later met Shatner in 1962 when he was on Broadway and told him that “I gave a away a baby in 1956, just thought you should know.” What Shatner thought of this information (if this conversation did indeed occur) is unknown, and even McNeil sort of admits that she didn’t come right out and say that it was his child.

Sloan even managed to contact his mother’s old roommate from their acting days in Toronto, who moved out suddenly in 1956 under some unusual circumstances. When Sloan asked her why she left abruptly she answered:

Well it was all rather embarrassing you see. Kathy and I lived together and one day I walked in on her and William Shatner having sex on our living room couch.

In November of 1984, armed with a connection from his first adoptive father and the certainty that William Shatner was his biological dad (and a comment from another person saying he “Well you do have his dumpy ass”) Sloan met with Shatner at the studio in California where T.J. Hooker was being filmed. According to Sloan, after filming he was invited to Shatner’s trailer.

From a Tampa Bay Times article:

“I introduced myself and he pointed at me and said, ‘You’re the one,’ ” Sloan said. “We talked for 90 minutes and he asked me what I wanted out of this. I started crying and said, ‘I just want to hug my father’ and we hugged.”

Sloan said he was invited to watch filming on Monday, in downtown Los Angeles, and Shatner introduced him to the cast and crew as Peter with no mention of their relationship.

Sloan has no proof of this encounter, however. He said he took no photos or mementos.

Peter Sloan and William Shatner
Sloan and Shatner in 2011 (I think.)

Sloan then flew back to New Jersey where he lived at the time. He says that he called Shatner a few weeks later to talk to him, but was personally told that “he (Shatner) could not publicly admit he was his father and asked Sloan to stop calling.” To top it all off, Sloan says that one of Shatner’s friends called him a few days after this to “say news of an illegitimate son could damage Shatner’s acting career.”

Fast forward to 2009, when Peter Sloan was attempting to publish a book about his search for his parents. To help stand out he began calling himself Peter Shatner. “That name is my birthright. I have no problems using it. I believe he owes me at least that much.” Despite some warnings about using that name from Shatner’s camp, Sloan continued billing himself as Peter Shatner on his Tampa, Florida based radio show, for publicity and charity appearances and for his eventually published book.

From 2009, when he began to get some notoriety from the Shatner name, up to 2016 when he filed the lawsuit, Sloan insisted that he was not looking for money from Shatner. All he wanted, he claimed, was for Shatner to take a paternity test and acknowledge that he was Sloan’s biological father. Even though Sloan’s half-brother (and eventually Sloan personally) received confirmation from James Doohan that Shatner and Kathy McNeil knew each other in Toronto in 1956, Shatner’s publicist in 2015 denied that Sloan was Shatner’s son, and stated that she “was not aware” of any information to suggest that Shatner ever actually knew Kathy Burt-McNeil.

Which brings us (finally!) back to this General Motors Theatre episode from December 1955, “Forever Galatea.” It looks like Shatner was the star of this episode, although any and all plot details are lost once again to Father Time, also known as Grim Death and Foul Consumer of precious Shatner appearances. His main co-star in the episode seems to have been Deborah Turnbull, but guess what other Canadian actress was in this program?

You got it in one, my friend: Kathy McNeil.

Shatner and McNeil sitting at a table on the set of "Forever Galatea."
William Shatner and Kathy McNeil.

This episode aired a full 4 months prior to the alleged incident of a sexual nature between Shatner and McNeil, and to my knowledge these are some of the only photos of McNeil and Shatner together. So what do we make of the rest of this story? True? Untrue? Half true? Let’s break it down just a bit.

By Shatner’s own admission in his autobiography Up Till Now, there were very few professional actors in Toronto at the time. It makes complete sense that he would have known Kathy Burt-McNeil and therefore may have associated with her. The timeline given by McNeil also seems to check out: Shatner would have been back in Toronto in March of 1956 after his short Broadway stint in Tamburlaine the Great, and could certainly have had an intimate evening with a rebounding McNeil that led to Sloan’s conception. We know as well (from the above photos on the set of “Forever Galatea”) that Shatner and McNeil worked together at least once while in Toronto. And McNeil’s story of meeting Shatner on Broadway in 1962 also checks out (timing wise, at least); he was co-starring in A Shot in the Dark during that period.

But there is a lot of circumstantial evidence and hearsay coming from Peter Sloan that really can’t be corroborated. James Doohan’s assertion that Shatner and McNeil were acquainted (Doohan is now dead and he hated Shatner more than almost any other human alive,) the meeting between Sloan and Shatner in 1984 (there is no photographic or other evidence that this occurred) and Shatner’s subsequent tacit admission to Sloan that he was his father (no one witnessed this) among many other things. And reading the entire account from Sloan’s book does make it seem like Shatner was being a little more guarded about whether he actually was his father. He (unsurprisingly) had no recollection of Kathy Burt, was wary when James Doohan’s name was brought up (man, those two hated each other) and kept telling Peter that “it doesn’t matter who your father is, Peter.”

Also, there may be some revisionist history and confirmation bias. In his book, Sloan says that his mother always thought that the other man was his father and not Shatner. It was only after meeting Sloan, and saw some of Shatner’s “mannerisms” in Peter that she became convinced that Shatner was the actual father. But at other times, we hear that Kathy Burt-McNeil always thought Shatner was the father…a contradiction. And really, there is a lot of cherry-picking in his book. He touts as fact that Kathy McNeil “knew” she was pregnant, and that she wrote to him and said that it was very possible that Shatner was the father. But if you read the whole letter (and I have,) the very next line she writes that the other guy could very well be the actual father instead.

Even if we take all of Sloan’s (and McNeil’s) story at face value, there is still only a 50/50 chance that Shatner is the father. The law student from Montreal has never been identified and it seems entirely possible that he is, in fact, Peter Sloan’s biological father. I mean, I ain’t no woman and I ain’t no scientist, but I don’t think it it is 100% accurate to say that you can tell that you’re pregnant just a few days after sex…let alone identify the father with certainty between two possible men.

Sloan’s $170 million lawsuit is also a bit of a red flag to me. After years of asserting that he wanted nothing more from Shatner than an admission that he was his father, he suddenly turns around and files a lawsuit against the man with a ridiculous price tag attached. My educated guess is that Sloan was using the high dollar value of the lawsuit to compel Shatner to take a paternity test in exchange for dropping the suit or vastly reducing the damages requested, but who knows. He heavily implies in his book that he did it because he was tired of Shatner’s camp saying publicly that Sloan was not Shatner’s son, and that they were pressuring him to drop the Shatner name.

Also, at the end of his book, Sloan throws out a completely unfounded theory: that Shatner knew McNeil was pregnant and thought that she had gone to New York for an abortion. In other words, Shatner and McNeil had a pact where he accidentally got her pregnant and she agreed to go get an abortion. This is not supported by any of the “evidence” presented, including everything his birth mother told him and wrote to him, and makes Sloan look just a tad bit wackadoodle to me. I think Sloan has convinced himself that he is Shatner’s son (and he may be right!) but he puts out a lot of evidence as proof when it is nothing of the sort.

William Shatner on the phone. On the set of "Forever Galatea."
Hello, Peter Sloan? I’m not your father. Stop calling me. Also, let me give you some fatherly advice…don’t you dare sue me.

In February of 2017, a federal judge in Florida dismissed Sloan’s case, calling it “a rambling recitation of various alleged meetings, letters, articles, radio transcripts and internet posts. (The) complaint, even liberally construed, fails to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and fails to assert any discernible basis for the relief sought against the named defendants.” Peter Sloan refiled the case just a few weeks later, so we’ll see where this goes. My guess? Nowhere.

For what it’s worth, I happen to believe most of Peter Sloan’s story…right up until we get to his “certainty” that he is Shatner’s son and some of his conjecture and conspiracy theories. I do think that there may be a 50/50 chance that he is Shatner’s, but also a 50/50 chance that he is not. I’m pretty certain that that is certainly not a certainty. But again, I ain’t no mathematician, so what do I know?

This was Shatner’s eighth and final appearance on CBC/General Motors Theatre, all within a two year time frame. After this, he was off to the bright lights of Broadway for the very first (but not the last) time, and to Tyrone Guthrie’s Tamburlaine the Great (and from there, on to fathering an illegitimate son in early 1956? We’ll probably never know.)

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Shatner’s Web

It’s time to detail all of the connections between General Motors Theater’s “Forever Galatea” and other Shatner appearances! 

Bruno Gerussi was at Stratford for all three years that Shatner was there, appearing in The Taming of the Shrew, Oedipus Rex, Julius Caesar, King Oedipus, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor with him. He would also appear in the 1957 film version of Oedipus Rex, and the 1960 episode of Festival, “Julius Caesar.”

Jack Creley previously appeared with Shatner in the General Motors Theater episodes “The Big Leap”  and “The Black Eye,” as well as Scope’s “The Verdict Was Treason.” This was the fourth and final time he would appear with Le Shat.

This was the only time (that I can find) that Kathy Burt-McNeil worked with Shatner, unless you count their work between the sheets that may have transpired in March of 1956. Hey-O! But James Doohan, speaking to Peter Sloan, did say that McNeil had appeared on The Canadian Howdy Doody Show as the character “Sunny Bluster,” so she may have worked with Shatner then as well.

Les Rubie was also in the General Motors Theatre episodes, “The Big Leap” and “I Like It Here.” This was his his third and final time appearing with Shatner.

The above actors are the only ones I know for sure were in “Forever Galatea.” There are two more listed on IMDB that may have been in the episode. If they were, then:

Jane Graham was in another General Motors Theatre episode with Shatner, “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan.”

Norman Renault would appear with Shatner one more time, for the 1960 television movie, Point of Departure.

The director, writer and producer of this episode, Leo Orenstein, also did all three of those things for “The Big Leap,” another earlier episode of General Motors Theatre.

Basil Coleman was also a producer on “The Big Leap.”

Sydney Newman, future creator of Doctor Who, acted as producer or supervising producer in the Shatner-featuring CBC/General Motors‘ episodes “The Man Who Ran Away,” “I Like It Here,” “The Black Eye,” “Never Say No,” “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan” and “Billy Budd” as well as for The Canadian Howdy Doody Show.

Ronald Weyman, another producer credited on this episode, had previously produced “The Big Leap” and had apparently directed Shatner just a few days previously for the On Camera episode, “On a Streetcar.”

Further Studies

You can buy and read Peter Sloan/Shatner’s book, The Search. It looks self-published, with lots of grammatical errors and repetitive passages. For example, Sloan will tell the whole story of his mother, then retell it when someone else confirms it. The book is short, but could have been even shorter. Still, there’s some good stuff in there, especially Doohan telling Sloan about how much of an asshole he thought Shatner was.

Here is that Tampa Bay Times article about Peter Sloan from 2015, prior to his filing the lawsuit. It has a pretty good recap of his story.

Shatner

Author: Shatner

I give myself to him, William Shatner.

7 thoughts on “General Motors Theatre – “Forever Galatea” (12/06/1955)”

  1. This Sloan lawsuit/story cracks me up. I credit you with noting that all the “evidence” is “circumstantial”, but I’d like to point out that there is nothing “circumstantial” about it–not in the sense that term is used in the legal profession. There is no evidence of any kind whatsoever. Actually, there are only two facts, circumstantial or otherwise: 1) Two actors worked together at least once during the 1950s, and 2) Kathy Burt McNeil delivered an infant, father unnamed, whom she gave up for adoption. Actually, let me reduce that to one fact and one presumption, because we have only Peter Sloan’s word that the letter he possesses actually came from Kathy McNeil and/or that he ever spoke with her. One can presume that he wouldn’t be inclined to name her or provide material from her unless he were able to produce proof on these points in court, but the capacity of people to be weird and/or stupid is limitless. Every single element of this story, other than the above one fact and one presumption, consists of nothing but conjecture and wishful thinking.

    In fact, we have zero evidence that Kathy MacNeil was Peter Sloan’s birth mother, absent certified copies of his official birth and adoption certificates showing her as his birth mother. Everything he claims to have been told by others is just that: stuff he claims to have been told. Even signed affidavits from every person Sloan claims to have spoken with would merely attest that their assertions represented the truth as they knew it–but that would not turn assertions into facts. And if Sloan had any such documents, we’d expect them to be incorporated into his court filing as exhibits. There aren’t any. They don’t exist.

    What we have here is a man obsessed with the belief that he is the unacknowledged illegitimate son of William Shatner, and having gotten the woman who he asserts is his birth mother to write (he says) the story of his conception–suffused with inconsistencies and nonfactual claims and written in a manner suggestive of a rather flighty emotional state–which he has used as the foundation of his story. Upon this shaky foundation he has then piled a host of plausible-sounding claims that seem to support his position. That’s because when one sees them compiled this way, it all sounds like a kind of sensible tale because it contains elements that could be true. But there is not a single assertion, statement, or component of Sloan’s story that he or anyone else can prove, and I would imagine not one of them actually is true. If he has an ounce of sense, which I surmise he does not, he will give up once he’s laughed out of court again because a mediocre attorney could turn his “case” into a pile of burning rubble in less than half an hour. Hell, I could do that and I’m not a lawyer.

    All of which is neither here nor there, given that Mr. Sloan does not seem to realize that even if he could prove his case, the relief he seeks is a mishmash of cobbled-together requests for money and paternal acknowledgement that no judge would grant because he’s not entitled to ANY of it! He’s trying to use a chain of requests for relief due to all sorts of assertions of damage done to him because his paternity is not acknowledged in order to try to force the inevitable conclusion that he can be made whole only if William Shatner is forced to acknowledge his paternity. And pay him. Sorry, but Mr. Sloan has zero legal right to require that William Shatner–or anybody else, in fact–take a paternity test or acknowledge him. No law requires anyone to test or acknowledge the paternity of an adult who was legally adopted as a minor. If this were a case of a mother of a minor child trying to get the father to pay child support, then the woman might have a case, but not once the child was adopted. Mr. Sloan has no legal standing. Peter Sloan is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sloan. End of story.

    Love your website!

    1. First, thanks for the kind words and the well constructed (and thorough) comments! And I agree totally with you about my use of the word “circumstantial” when even that doesn’t really apply to much of Sloan’s story. I will say that, having read his book, there is not really any question that Kathy Burt-McNeil was his mother. He did a lot of detective work that eventually led to her being tracked down. He did meet her and build a relationship with her that lasted for almost 20 years, until her death in 2003. The Children’s Aid place where he was taken as a baby had, and gave him, a whole bunch of information on his mother that she provided them when dropping off the child in 1956. All of it fit with Kathy Burt, and she confirmed the entire story to him when they met. There were a number of extended family and friends that he met with over the years that can corroborate much of that piece of the puzzle, at least.

      But yes to all the rest of it being heresay and conjecture! I think it almost certain that the letter is from his birth mother, and is probably her true feelings. But as I say, even she acknowledges plainly that she can’t be sure that Shatner was the true father. Your last paragraph is the really great part. Even if he is Shatner’s son, he can’t force Bill to take a test and there are no legal grounds whatsoever for forcing a paternity test or (especially) demanding 170 million dollars from Shatner. He has zero legal standing, and indeed has already been (nicely) laughed out of court by one judge and I assume will be again if his suit continues forward.

      Thanks again for reading!

    1. Just a quick question if I may? In your article you state:

      “In early 1956 she had just suffered a breakup from her first boyfriend and, feeling emotionally vulnerable, ended up having two one-night stands in close proximity; the first, a drunken night with William Shatner, and the second with the law student some days later. Immediately after that second one-night stand, McNeil “knew” that she was pregnant.”

      I’m guessing that you read my mother’s letter to me written in 1987, but I am perplexed as to where you were able to glean that the encounter with my mother and father was “a drunken night?”

      At some point, perhaps we can collaborate as I am only interested in the truth. You seem to be the only person – other than my father and me – who seems to have a grasp of the events surrounding William Shatner in the early years.

      You were correct to point out that the book is full of typos, but I have recently released the second edition which was professionally edited. I also added some new information.

      Regards,

      Peter Shatner

      PS I linked your article to my Facebook page

      1. Thanks for reading and commenting! And also thanks for linking my post to your Facebook page! I was wondering why there were suddenly a bunch more people checking it out LOL!

        First, I want to quickly answer your initial question about where I got the “drunken night” part of my post.

        That answer: I don’t know! I could have sworn I read it somewhere, but upon some cursory re-examination (aka Googling and looking through your book) I don’t see anything about her (or him) being drunk. So, my apologies. I’m going to remove that part from the post until and unless I can find out where I got that…which might very well be nowhere!

        I welcome all corrections, especially well-intended ones! And after reading interviews with you, and of course your book, I truly get the sense that you are a pretty laid back and well-meaning guy who really wants to get to the truth as you say. It sounds like you feel pretty strongly that you already have gotten to the truth, and I have a few questions about what you are really hoping to accomplish by suing Shatner in court which honestly, I agree with the judge, you don’t have the standing to do. But I’m no lawyer, and no scientist! So who knows?

        I’m also not much of a writer or journalist. I am deeply flattered that you would like to collaborate with me, and I would certainly be open to talking with you further about this whole incident and your story (which I obviously find fascinating and want to know more about) but I’m not sure what you think I might be able to add. Still, feel free to contact me or give me your contact info and we can maybe chat further!

        Also, glad to hear that there is a second edition of your book that is professionally edited. I wasn’t trying to be harsh when I pointed out the shortcomings of the book or your arguments, as I do feel it is a worthwhile read…at least for Shatnerologists like myself.

        And I will reiterate something I said in my post: I actually believe the vast majority of your story in general. I absolutely do believe that Shatner and your mother had sex in 1955…and can certainly believe that it was in the time frame you and she identified. I also believe that you very well could be Shatner’s son! But I’m also pretty convinced that there is a chance that you are not, and am very convinced that you will never actually know as there is almost certainly no legal standing for compelling Shatner to take a paternity test.

        But I also understand your desire to know for certain, and respect your search and the willingness to persevere, so rock on Peter Shatner!

        1. Well, it is refreshing to see someone so focused on the actual events surrounding the relationship between my father and mother other than me. That said, I think most people misunderstand the lawsuit, so here it is in a nutshell:

          My father slandered me, stating that I was not his son and insinuating that there was some “need” implying a psychological issue and allowed his publicist to call me a “fraud” which is a criminal accusation which was printed in The Tampa Tribune and then he allowed Paul Camuso to perpetuate the fraud label by writing libelous statement about me. All of this, was orchestrated by my father without his having any concrete proof that my contention, that he is my natural father, is an untrue statement. He has no proof to the contrary. Has he performed a DNA test to disprove me? The answer is no. He frankly didn’t have enough information to make any statement to the contrary,

          The only way for him to disprove my statements, is to submit to a DNA test – which he has refused to do multiple times over many years.

          Suggesting that I’m a fraud, was a mistake because he must now prove that I am not his son. So far, his attorney has argued that Florida is not the proper forum for my lawsuit, but he has yet to argue that I am not William Shatner’s son.

          Read this legal analysis written last year:

          http://www.walzermelcher.com/william-shatner-sued-saying-hes-not-father/

          All the best,

          Peter Shatner

          1. Of course the respondent’s attorney didn’t argue paternity, Peter, because no competent defense attorney would reveal the arguments and strategies they intend to use before a filing becomes a case! Should you ever submit a filing that’s litigable, the respondent will address the particulars of the case when it is time. Not before. That’s what defense attorneys are for.

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