This writer's first real encounter with William (Bill) John Peck occurred at MIPCOM 1993, when Peck asked him to send his photographer to take photos at his "surprise" 50th birthday party. VideoAge's previous contact with Peck was three years earlier to coordinate taking a photo with his boss, Bert Cohen, for its MIPCOM Daily.
At the time of the party, Peck was managing director of Worldvision Enterprises' U.K. offices and, later, in 1997, he became vice president, European Sales, also in London. Worldvision was then the largest American independent distributor with offices in four U.S. cities and five countries.
From almost its inception, Worldvision was also one of VideoAge's (and other TV trade publications') largest advertisers. For example, at that particular MIPCOM, Worldvision ran five ad pages in VideoAge Daily.
So when Peck "invited" VideoAge to his birthday bash at Mekong--a restaurant near the Grand Hotel he stayed in when in Cannes (a hotel he continues to patronize)--it could not have been refused. Actually, the "invitation" was accepted with pleasure knowing that Worldvision's brass would be in attendance, including Cohen, who among VideoAge's journalists was known as "make me look good Bert," for his traditional warnings after interviews.
The birthday celebration was on a Monday night, after hours for VideoAge's freelance photographer, so this writer had to "volunteer" to take the photos scheduled for the Wednesday Daily. Once the job was done, and just as the guests were ready for dinner, unceremoniously, Peck, with his trademark smile, asked him to leave.
Subsequently, the VideoAge Daily report featured three photos of the evening and noted that "about 50 guests were present, mostly buyers from the U.K., Scandinavia and Eastern Europe."
This is how Peck described himself, when, for this feature 24 years after that birthday party, he was asked if there were any funny recollections in his 56-year career in the television business: "I doubt there are any funny anecdotes," he said, "sorry, but I am not really a funny guy."
But even if he's not "funny," Peck has a demeanor that renders him "simpatico," and he's always with a ready smile. And, even though he doesn't smoke through an eccentrically Franklin D. Roosevelt-style long cigarette holder any longer, he still joyously plays piano at every occasion. "Who does anymore?" he said about no longer being a smoker, and added, "you remember my Korean ginseng cigarette holders?"
As far as playing the piano, Peck started at age six. "I was very talented," he commented, "but I gave it up as a teen. Fortunately, I can still fumble along. At the Grand Hotel they bought especially for me (I think) a Yamaha grand piano and with Marjie Woods as a singer, we're now the number one late-night [event] on the Croisette."
In addition, looking through his extensive biography, one can't help grinning, especially when picturing Peck attending his first MIP-TV in...