“I think what impressed me most about him was how he ran a TV set,” says Caroline Peppiatt. “I remember visiting the set for a summer replacement series he was doing and I’d never seen anything like it. Everyone was collaborating. There was no hierarchy, but no anarchy. Everyone was very happy. All his sets were like that, full of camaraderie. This carried over into his life. He was collaborative. Frank spoke and behaved with everybody in the same way.”
He and Aylesworth had one serious falling out, shortly after Peppiatt’s nervous breakdown. According to the memoir, Aylesworth claimed sole credit for a show they had co-written, Nashville Palace, and squeezed Peppiatt out of the deal.
“John wanted to prove that he could do it on his own,” Caroline says, “but the show was cancelled after five episodes. And the deal he eventually made with Frank and their other partner, Nick Vanoff, was that John would get all of the initial fee but only that fee, and they would get any future royalties. As it happened, the network later rebooked the show to fill a schedule gap and they ended up getting more than John. But they did work together again after that.”
A lover of sports and a voracious reader, Peppiatt nurtured one overriding idiosyncrasy: he hated all reminders of time, and all rites related to its passage – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Punctual to a fault – he once showed up a Judy Garland party at the time called for and was mistaken for the evening’s bartender – he never wore a watch and kept no clocks in his house. “But he always knew exactly what time it was,” says Caroline. “And if he came to your celebration, your bar mitzvah or birthday party, it meant he really loved you.”
His bitter divorce from Marilyn Fredrickson produced a lingering acrimony with some of his daughters, which was eventually healed. His daughter Robyn, who later changed her name to Francesca, became a successful writer and comedienne in her own right. She remembers a father who was “fun and funny. He did things that today would be called child abuse, like put the three kids on the open back flap of a station wagon and drive around. Our house was like The Dick van Dyke Show. That was our life. He was always busy and funny people like Jack Burns were always coming and going.”
A second daughter, Marney Peppiatt, lives in Streetsville, Ont; a third, Melissa MacIsaac, passed away in 2000. There are four Peppiatt grandchildren.
When Aylesworth died, ECW publisher Jack David approached Peppiatt about writing a memoir. Although in remission for kidney cancer (and surviving on literally half a kidney), he agreed to undertake it. According to Francesca, “the project gave him renewed energy in the last year or two of his life.” The book is scheduled to appear next April.