A MoonShadow MoonShadow

Peter Kastner’s Misleading Obituary

I posted the video of “The Ugliest Girl in Town” on Thursday, September 18th having no idea that Peter Kastner (the star of that show) had died that day of a heart attack.  I thank Linda who left a comment on the post for letting me know.  Why I posted, I don’t know other than the song was rolling around in my head.  Kind of  spooky, huh?  I was not a fan of Peter Kastner other than I thought he was cute in the show and he brought a smile to my face.  My condolences go to his family who on top of dealing with their grief had to spend their time refuting an obit that was clearly done with a biased point of view and very little research.  I am reposting Mrs. Kastner’s comments on the story below.  Unfortunately, the obituary has been copied and disbursed throughout the internet as gospel without Mrs. Kastner’s comments.

Peter’s widow responds Part 1

As the late Peter Kastner’s widow (who was not contacted by Martin Knelman nor John nor Jamie Kastner, the sole sources cited in the article), I am disappointed by the tenor and content of Martin Knelman’s obituary. Peter and I were married for 34 years. The Peter I knew was not to be found in Knelman’s piece. First, some minor innaccuracies: he wasn’t driving when he died, he had pulled over to the side of the road. He was not in downtown Toronto. He never came close to landing the lead in The Graduate, but was just one of a number of actors who read for the part. I am offended at having him portrayed as Norma Desmond a comparison–with a reclusive, delusional actress — that is unfair to Peter and unfair to his memory. Nothing addresses the fine qualities of Peter which would not paint him in such a negative and deluded light. His identity was not wrapped up in being an actor.

Peter’s widow responds, Part 2

After he left acting he became a high school English teacher. He became a maker of quirky and interesting videos on a wide range of subjects. He mentored many teenagers, helped raise his step-daughter and was the constant delight of his grandchildren. Not only is the article inaccurate on a factual basis, it is also a gross misrepresentation of Peter’s life after he left acting. The Peter I knew was actively engaged in the world, through his video work, his songwriting, his political activism and his many friendships. It would have been nice if Knelman had mentioned his first wife Wendy Miller, who also mourns him. The incomplete view presented by Knelman fails to capture the sweetness and soul of the good man who died in his parked car on September 18th, 2008.


I think it was Camus who said something about the best way to die being at a time when one was happy. There was nothing sad about Peter’s “end of life” He was deeply engaged with the world, making wonderful music, starting on an exciting new project, and looking forward to a trip to new York to celebrate his grandsons’ birthdays. This grim obit says nothing about who he was. He was happy, we are the sadder for losing him.

Posted by jenny kastner at 11:18 AM Monday, September 22 2008

If you want to read the obit she is referring to just google Peter Kastner – you are bound to get a version of the one the Toronto paper ran.

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11 thoughts on “Peter Kastner’s Misleading Obituary

  1. Very thought provoking story and the whole blog! I read the earlier post about the presidential candidates too. These are the types of blogs I like!

  2. Great read! I skipped down to watch the vid, now I’ve got “freakiest cheekiest ugliest girl in town” stuck in my head. I think Camus’ after life is rolling around sunny beaches smoking, drinking, swimming and hanging with beautiful women.
    I hope to join him there some day.

  3. Thank you so much for doing this. Dealing with Martin Knelman’s attack was an unwelcome distraction at this time. I’m glad Peter wasn’t around for that — he had always regarded Knelman as a friend.

    We are having a celebration of Peter’s life On Saturday, October 11 at 7 pm at the Winchevsky Centre in Toronto (585 Cranbrook, a couple of blocks north of Lawrence, off – and close to – Bathurst). Musicians (including Peter on video) will sing his songs, we’ll play some of his videos and remember him. We will have something potluck to eat, to stave off hunger at that hour. Please come if you can. I realize it’s Thanksgiving weekend, but it was the only time my daughter and friends could get here from the U.S. and they need this time to remember Peter together with people who knew him. 

  4. Ruth Kastner on said:

    I’m glad to have Jenny’s perspective on this story–I was really wondering after reading the Star article. Though I never had the chance to meet him, I’ve always been proud of my actor cousin (I’m the daughter of Sid and Bernice Kastner–Sid is Solomon’s son). I wish I could get to the memorial but instead send my best wishes to everyone there.


  5. Jenny Kastner on said:

    One small update: Rick Salutin wrote a smart sympathetic piece about Peter in the Globe & Mail. I don’t have the date, but it was late 2008. Google should get you there. You’ll get a far better sense of who Peter was than from any of Knelman’s unwelcome vituperations.

  6. amoonshadow on said:

    Here is the link that Jenny Kastner is referring to (at least I believe its the link – please let me know if its not):

  7. Robert Utermohlen on said:

    I was sitting at my computer and thinking about my life, when Peter popped into my head. I wondered what he was doing, since the last time I talked to him was too many years ago when he was doing commentary on the Playboy channel. I met Peter back in 1968 at UCLA. Needless to say, he was one of the funniest and nicest guys I ever knew.
    One of my fondest memories of him may seem a little odd, those, who remember him from this period, might think it typical, was sitting on the steps outside the big auditorium in Dickson Art Center. When a large lecture would end, we would lean back on the steps, and Peter, sotto voce, would wax eloquent on the wide variety and aesthetic importance of women’s underware. I remember laughing till my sides hurt.

    Time and life came between us, but I mourn. The world has lost a very special man. A part of me died a year ago, and I didn’t know.
    So long, Peter, I’ll see you later.

  8. John Livingston on said:

    Like many others, I saw Peter in “Nobody waved goodbye”. I thought then, and still think today that he gave a fine performance of a not-untypical youth of his day. I wasn’t a big fan of his work, because I don’t think I saw any of it, but he must have made a huge, unknown (or unrealised) impact on me, since I still remember him, from that one film, after all this time.
    As to Martin Knelman: I’ve always wondered why he seems to have such a reputation as good film reviewer, as well as that of a good critic (if there is such a thing as a ‘good’ critic) of other things. Every review of his, that I ever read, seemed to reinforce my feeling that the man hated movies. I don’t think I ever read a review of his of any film, that didn’t slam both the film and the industry (unless it was some obscure European film that wouldn’t draw any audience) Martin seemed to hate both the industry, and we ignorant patrons of film. Why would we expect him to write anything complimentary about Peter? More to the point, what newspaper would be so callous as to hire him to write an obit about anybody in the entertainment industry, since Martin seems to dislike the entire industry; should an obit not be a piece that at least be sympathetic to the passing of that person.
    My deepest sympathies (late though they may be) to Peter’s family on his passing, I just wish I’d seen more of his work.


  9. If anyone is in touch with Jenny would they please let her know I am looking for her. I am an old friend from Cambridge who has only just now learned of Peter’s passing. Peter was smart and funny and wonderful in more ways than one could count. Jenny, if you are reading this please email me through traciesmart.com
    Much love to you and my sincerest condolences. Peter will always be much loved by those who knew him. (what a dreadful obit; I simply couldn’t understand it.)

  10. Eric Howard on said:

    I knew Peter from his days of teaching English for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He was a funny, charming, sweet, generous, and thoughtful person entirely undeserving of that hit piece of an obituary. I believe him, not his family.

  11. Eva Merrick on said:

    I remember Peter from the UCLA Research Library. It was the high point of the staff’s day when he showed up. He was funny, a little famous, and also, I remember, sexy and charismatic as hell. Irresistible. Apparently, he was dealing with a lot of troubling issues, but that was a good time for us to know and appreciate him. I have read about his subsequent endeavors and he sounds like the kind of guy we would all like to have known.

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