Rodney Pentland: 1968 – 2009
I’ve discovered there’s a new electronic Web 2.0-esque thing that’s happening lately that appears to be the same as leaving flowers at the site of a fatality. Once you have a friend that passes away, people have been going to their Facebook page and writing messages of sympathy to the recently deceased. It is cathartic in a way, and I think is a great testament to the person like an electronic guestbook that you’d sign at a visitation.
Today I found myself writing on my friend Rodney Pentland’s wall.
It was weird this week that on Monday I had Jo-Anna Downey come in and record the podcast where we talked about our respective early days and Jo-Anna took over Spirits and turned it into the room it is today. We also remembered who were in out little group of very supportive comics at that time; the likes of Pete Zedlacher, the late JT Huntley, Paul Haywood, Dave Martin, Kristeen Von Hagen and others, but there was also Rodney.
We were all kind of stumbling to find our way and each one of us has gone on to find some modicum of success with our respective careers. In those early days when there weren’t many rooms, we’d all go out support each other if we got spots at Yuk’s or the now defunct Laugh Resort, and after Spirits or someone’s big night, we’d all head out to some watering hole and have at it and Rodney would be there to support as well.
I’d gotten away from comedy for a spell to pursue other interests that eventually didn’t satisfy as much as the comedy did, and as such, I had broken away from this tight supportive community that I had been proud to be a part of. In the process of trying to get back, I gradually ran into everyone in the group and having been away for so long, heard about the unfortunate passing of JT, and the fact that Rodney was sick.
Rodney’s always been a fighter and all of us imagined that he’d stick out his illness as long as he could and all well imagined that it would be a long time. I heard the news just before I was about to hit the stage at Nietzsche’s in Buffalo. The recent memories of our last shows together came flooding back. I had come down to Club 54 not to perform, but watch him headline and see how he was doing. As always he persevered, fighting through whatever pain he may have had and delivered a show that a healthy man would be proud of. I did a medicinal marijuana show with him in Kingston and got to see him do great in front of a mess of pot-heads from the 1000 Islands. Our last show was in front of four people in a Leaside Fox and Fiddle. What I loved about him that night is that he shared the same “Four-People?-Who-Gives-A-Shit-Give-Them-A-Show” attitude and gave his all regardless.
I’m privileged to have known him, have learned much from him, and am glad that my last memory of him is of him performing and not in a ward eroding away from his illness. I only wish our last show together had more than four people at it.