Tag Archives: “The Twilight Zone

Image

Former Westporter Looks Back On 2016

rod-serling-and-donald-trump

Next Stop: Willoughby?

Metro-North riders were pleased to note that the rail line provided “good service” on March 9.

Metro-North -- good service

Unfortunately, yesterday — when this photo was taken — was August 16.

Rod Serling would be proud.

Anne Serling’s “Twilight Zone”

In the late 1950s, Rod Serling and his family lived on High Point Road. My family and I lived a few doors away. I’m not sure how many Playhouse 90 and Twilight Zone stories he wrote here — but he certainly used Westport as the inspiration for at least one of the latter episodes, “Last Stop: Willoughby.”

I recently reconnected with Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter, and my long-ago neighbor — on Facebook. Now she’s written a story for Salon, called “How I Found My Father in the ‘Twilight Zone.'”

Subtitled “I was devastated after my dad, Rod Serling, died. But then I found relief in another dimension,” it begins:

The last time I saw my father, he was lying in a hospital bed in a room with bright green and yellow walls, inappropriate colors intended to console the sick, the dying. As he slept, curled beneath a sheet, I watched him breathe, willing him to, his face still tan against that pillow so white.

And as I sat looking at him, I thought of how, when I was small, I would wake in my room beside my flowered wallpaper and listen for his footsteps down the hall, comfortable in their familiarity, secure in the insular world of my childhood, knowing without question or doubt that when I followed those sounds, I would always find him.

When he first got sick, I wiped his forehead dry until he became too ill and I could do nothing, and on the eighth floor of Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., my father died. He was just 50 years old, I barely 20.

Rod and Anne Serling, shortly before his death.

Anne goes on to describe the last night before her father’s open heart surgery — in 1975, it was a new procedure — and his death from a heart attack the next day.

“We are so sorry. He’s gone,” a doctor told Anne, her mother and sister.

Gone? Gone where?

That’s the thing about euphemisms. They never speak the truth. They leave all sorts of questions and dangling expectations. “Gone” would imply my father might return, or he’d just momentarily slipped away. Around the corner. Off to the nearest store. Gone might mean there would be footsteps to follow, tracks in the snow, a place to set at the table for later.

Gone would not necessarily mean “never coming back.”

Anne tries to cope with the death. Rod Serling was a famous public figure — but he was also her father.

Sitting at his desk, I listened to his Sinatra tapes, looking at notes, letters, photographs. I found cigarettes he’d hidden after he’d “quit.” An interview where he’d said, “All I want on my grave stone is, ‘He left friends.’”

I tried to watch a “Twilight Zone.” I listened to his opening narration, but it was terse and somber and his image in black-and-white was not the man I knew.

Grieving, Anne writes, “is not tidy, not organized or easy, but after it slams you, it has nowhere else to go. Understanding this can take years, can take its toll, can excise you off the planet, and it did for me.”

Finally a therapist told her that, to achieve closure, she needed to visit her father’s grave.

It took 2 years, but finally she went. For a while, she could not find it. Suddenly, there it was. Anne saw

his name, his birth date, the date of his death, WWII paratrooper; a small American flag.

In that instant came the finality and inconsolability I’d feared, but I stayed awhile, surrounded by silence, looking again at his name and the flag and then I saw it: a piece of masking tape attached to the stick of the flag and those three words from his interview: “He left friends.”

Though Rod Serling was Jewish, the family celebrated Christmas at the High Point Road home.

Later that summer, Anne began watching reruns of “The Twilight Zone” — more to see him than the actual show. One — “In Praise of Pip” — was filmed at an amusement park Rod often took his girls to.

When the show was over, she listened to the sounds of the Ithaca lake she and her father both loved. She was “still haunted by the void, by the reality of this empty space, and yet, those past 30 minutes spent watching his show brought a reconnection with him in a most unexpected way.”

In the episode’s closing narration, she had watched her father say,

The ties of flesh are deep and strong, the capacity to love is a vital, rich and all-consuming function of the human animal, and you can find nobility and sacrifice and love wherever you might seek it out — down the block, in the heart, or in “The Twilight Zone.”

Anne concludes: “I found it in a darkened room on a summer afternoon. Something invisible, inaudible and, until then, quite mistakenly presumed gone.”

Direct From The Twilight Zone

Rob Lenihan is a blogger.  Mostly, his Luna Park Gazette describes daily doings in his native Brooklyn — think “11224,” not “06880” — but recently he veered into the Twilight Zone.

Lenihan wrote about a pair of old “Twilight Zone” shows he’d seen.  One was about a man stranded in a deserted town.  He has no memory of who he is or how he got there.  It turns out he’s an astronaut training for a mission; the Air Force has found the only way it can to simulate complete isolation.

The 2nd show was about a harried advertising executive who returns to his hometown.  He goes back in time to meet the childhood version of himself — with typical you-can’t-go-home-again results.

Lenihan praises the shows’ creator/writer, Rod Serling, and their director, Robert Stevens (who later won an Emmy for his work with Alfred Hitchcock).

Most “Twilight Zone” fans zero in on Serling’s superb writing, but Lenihan focuses on Stevens’ “extraordinary use of confined spaces and angled shots.”

Intrigued, Lenihan researched Stevens.  He learned he directed “Playhouse 90” and “GE True Theater,” as well as “Change of Mind,” a 1969 movie about a white man whose brain is transplanted into a black man’s body.

Lenihan learned more about Stevens.  He wrote:

I was shocked to see that he died from cardiac arrest in 1989 after being robbed and beaten at a rented home in Westport, CT.  I couldn’t believe that such a talented man died in such a terrible, violent way.

I’ve been trying to find out more details about this incident, but I haven’t come up with much.  So I just want to pay my respects to a TV pioneer who helped navigate us through The Twilight Zone.

And now for the “Twilight Zone” twist:  Rod Serling wrote both of those episodes — while living in Westport.

DEE-DEE dee-dee DEE-DEE dee-dee…

Rod Serling Returns

The press release was as simple as Rod Serling’s manner:

This Wednesday (Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.), Douglas Brode visits the Westport Public Library to talk about his book Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone:  The Fiftieth Anniversary Salute. Included are photos; remembrances of Serling’s wife Carol; commentary on the series’ most memorable episodes, and analysis of why they were so impactful.

Brode will also screen the 1st-ever episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Missing from that straightforward announcement was the most important item:  In the late 1950s Rod and Carol Serling, and their 2 daughters, lived in Westport.  In fact, he lived just a few doors down from the very young me, on High Point Road.

During television’s Golden Age — and Westport’s apex as a writer’s colony — one of the most important and influential TV writers ever was our neighbor.

Yet the library never mentions that fact.  Could Rod Serling’s Westport connection be lost in another dimension of sound, sight and mind — the twilight zone?