That Dayton office was the main reason I worked closely with Peter and his brilliant assistant Peg Berry. The other agencies I worked with were based out of Columbus or Cincinnati only and didn’t represent much talent in Dayton. Although it was never stated directly, I got the impression that if you were a model or actor and lived in the Dayton area, you weren’t “good enough” to be on their roster. As someone who champions Dayton and Daytonians, this snub frustrated me.
Furthermore, I preferred hiring models from Dayton because my shoots were so short it wasn’t worth it for models to drive from far away to work for an hour or two. I worked in the educational publishing, so our budgets were tight, and I often couldn’t afford to pay travel fees.
Even though I was by far PCG’s most budget-conscious client, I never got a sense of superiority from Peter. To him, all his Dayton talent and clients were valuable. When I panicked over a reshoot or needed something cast right away, he and Peg jumped on it as if I was calling from the head office of Proctor & Gamble. They always made me feel important and seen, and eventually became the only talent agency I worked with.
Peter represented over 1,200 models, actors, and voice-over artists from the southwest Ohio region, and his impact was even more significant to them. His agency has become one of the most prominent in the state, casting talent in a host of movie and television series, including Miles Ahead, Carol, Gotti, The Old Man and The Gun, Chicago PD, Mind Hunters, and Fatal Attraction, to name a few. He also got local talent lucrative advertising work from the likes of Delta, Kroger, Pepsi, McDonald’s, La Rosa’s, Kia, and so on. The sheer number of opportunities that Peter was able to give to Dayton-area talent over the years is impossible to quantify.
“Peter took care of his people. He didn’t take advantage of them,” Lisa Grigsby, film commissioner for Film Dayton, shared. “If you were interested in the business, he would advise you in a way that was just smart. He was a larger-than-life personality and incredibly well-known within the industry. This is a huge loss.”
He also let people be themselves and let their unique talents shine, whether it seemed conventional or not. “Peter was my first and only talent agent,” Rodger Pille shared. “He encouraged me to hone and trust the ‘wacky dad’ character we created in his audition room… He had a unique energy. The world is infinitely less interesting without him in it.”
Many Daytonians, like myself, learned so much from Peter’s professionalism and guidance. He will be deeply missed.
Donations in Peter’s memory can be made to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.
Libby Ballengee is a local writer, photographer, music booker, and arts advocate.