I want to show you something. In my briefcase I carry this photo. It’s a picture from the classic TV series Dark Shadows. In it is the series’ str Johnathan Frid as vampire Barnabas Collins, and series regular Christopher Pennock in the role of Jeb Hawkes. Although I don’t get to talk about it much, Dark Shadows is possibly my all-time favorite TV show. While I’ve never been able to meet anybody from the series in person, I have had the pleasure of talking to some of them on the phone, interviewing them and corresponding with them, including encounters with both Johnathan Frid and Chris Pennock.
In fact, the reason I have this photo is due to following Chris on social media. Very active on Facebook, Chris was always available to fans. With a zany sense of humor and his catch phrases “Good Morning Villagers,” and “Good Night Villagers” (depending on the hour of the day he was posting), Chris was ferociously political and forever fighting the good fight against political injustice and the big, bloated orange man who recently sat in the oval office.
A prolific stage actor, most people remember Chris from his roles in soap operas, having appeared in such shows as Young and the Restless, Guiding Light and General Hospital. Chris also appeared in many films and episodic television. But it was in Dark Shadows that he found his biggest fan base. With his golden curly locks and film square jaw, the handsome character actor was able to play a number of different roles on DS, but primarily played villains and scoundrels. Starting on the series in the role of the menacing and mysterious Jeb Hawkes, he took center stage in the show’s Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde inspired tale when he played the meek Cyrus Longworth and his evil counterpart John Yeager. As John Yeager, Pennock played the most disturbing of all the villains on Dark Shadows, who was not a supernatural creature, but instead all that was evil and demented in the heart of man. But despite playing villains, Chris proved himself to be a popular heart throb on the show, often appearing in the pages of 16 Magazine.
Following many DS actors on social media, Chris was always my favorite due to his intelligence, his eccentricness and his political posts. About a year ago I reached out to Chris and asked him if I sent him a photograph if he’d sign it for me. He replied with a friendly note and sent me his mailing address. I had the photo printed, but as often things do, I never got around to sending it. I’d come across the photo and think “Wow, I need to mail this thing” but there was always tomorrow. Always next week. Always another time.
But that other time never came. Chris Pennock passed away on February 12th.
This isn’t the first time that I lost out to connecting with a celebrity when my procrastination or hesitation took too long, and time ran out. But as I look at this photo I’m left with a strange hole in my heart. Not just because I didn’t write that letter I wanted to write, or of the autograph I’ll never get. But more so because while Chris Pennock didn’t know who I was, due to his daily social media posts I felt like I knew him. He seemed like a friend. He was a guy I enjoyed following, and who I looked for daily. The fact that that is gone is really noticeable.
But we can take this and apply it to few things in all our everyday lives.
First, never take for granted the affect that your social media posts makes on the people who follow you. You may not know it, but those people look for your posts, and your posts could become part of their lives. The words you put out there are noticed, and when they are gone people will also notice. So, what you put out in the world matters. I enjoyed Chris’ sense of humor, but more so I liked the fact that he was always outspoken about his disgust with Donald Trump and the corruption in Washington. Chris didn’t always get every article right, but he cared about being on the right side of history. I’m glad he was able to see Trump’s eventual fall. But like Chris Pennock, what you put out there reflects who you are and how people see you. So be careful and mindful what you put out in the universe. Your social media posts will become part of your legacy.
But, most of all, never hesitate in reaching out to people. This doesn’t just go for the actors in your favorite TV series. This goes out to everyone. Your family, friends, old school mates, distant cousins, the elderly relatives you haven’t spoken to in a while. How many times have we all wished we had taken the time for someone that we have lost? How often have we wished we could have told them we cared one more time? And the truth is, it takes only a minute to write people that run through your mind a quick note, or a little message. Don’t hesitate to tell people they matter to you when the time is right. Do it every day, the moment you think about them. Brighten someone’s day by reaching out.
It’s just two thoughts that have gone through my head since Chris Pennock died. So now I have this random photo of two actors I admired, but no autograph on it as was intended. So, what should I do with it? Well, I’m going to slip it back in my briefcase, and next time I come across it it’ll trigger a memory, and I’ll reach out and let someone I know that I hadn’t spoken to in a while that I’m thinking of them.
Good night villagers, and rest well Chris,