Rod Serling Before ‘The Twilight Zone’

I often begin lectures on PTSD with the Twilight Zone opening- what the article does not emphasize was Serling’s struggle with what we now call PTSD – he captured the dissociative aspect of active symptoms when he described the Fifth Dimension. He was a chain smoker and a workaholic likely contributing to his early death. He was a South Pacific Airborne Army veteran who tested parachutes to help pay college tuition. His best scripts came from personal experiences- he was a Golden Glove level boxer (Requiem for a heavyweight), a soldier and after leaving the studios an ardent anti war activist during Vietnam. A short, scrappy and resilient Jewish kid he managed to creatively impact an entire generation struggling with yet unlabeled problems of injustice, lack of control and violence. A gifted man whose brilliance speaks to all. 
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Begin forwarded message:
From: Jerry Boriskin <jerryboris@me.com>

Date: December 7, 2015 at 1:56:03 PM PST

To: Jerry Boriskin <jwboris@aol.com>

Subject: Rod Serling
Rod Serling Before ‘The Twilight Zone’

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/SB11292601245819683363204581059833167534392-lMyQjAxMTE1MjA5NzIwNjcwWj
The World War II paratrooper wrote TV classics such as ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight.’

By BOB GREENE

June 25, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET

Forty years ago this weekend a dazzling American writer with a massive following died far too young. You never see his name on most-esteemed-author lists alongside Hemingway or Faulkner or Fitzgerald; the sentences he wrote were not intended to appear on a printed page.
Rod Serling was 50 years old when, after open-heart surgery, he passed away on June 28, 1975. Tens of millions of television viewers knew him solely as the host/narrator of “The Twilight Zone” series, which ran from 1959 to 1964. There is a twist to that worthy of a Serling script: He ended up on camera only because CBS’s first choice, Orson Welles, was asking for too large a salary.
So Serling, the creator of the series, was called to step in front of the lights. In retrospect, he was ideal for the role, and for the medium: dark-haired, intense and sharp-featured, often wearing a black suit, white shirt and black necktie as he introduced a black-and-white tale of that which “lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” His crisp delivery registered with the clarity of hard-metal typewriter letters slapping against a brand-new ribbon onto a pristine sheet of paper.
Yet for all the lasting cultural cachet of “The Twilight Zone,” Serling’s genius as a writer was first, and best, seen in the years before the series went on the air. When television was still a novelty, Serling—an undersized World War II paratrooper attempting to find his footing back home—wrote a string of teleplays, presented live, that even today are stunning in their power and maturity.
“Patterns”—he was still in his 20s when he wrote it—was the Kraft Television Theatre production that, on the night of Jan. 12, 1955, made his name. A tale of betrayal and cruelty in executive suites, it presaged the visceral understanding of the human heart that would be his touchstone. 
“Requiem for a Heavyweight,” the story of a prizefighter tossed into life’s garbage heap when he ceases to be a meal ticket for his manager, may be Serling’s finest work, but there were so many others: “The Comedian,” about television’s capacity to make monsters of its stars; “The Velvet Alley,” about Hollywood’s perilous seductiveness; “The Arena,” about Capitol Hill politics corroding the souls of those who toil at it.
Coast-to-coast television was still new. With only a handful of channels available, much of an enthralled nation witnessed each live production. Serling’s most impressive contribution may have been the respect he had for the intelligence of his audience: his faith that people were willing to watch stories with serious adult themes, in the years before “adult content” came to mean curse words, gratuitous nudity and toilet humor.
In the first season of “The Twilight Zone,” Serling wrote 28 of the 36 weekly episodes. He would write the majority of the 156 productions during the series’ five-year run. The deadlines wore him out; toward the end of his life he briefly hosted a TV game show, and did commercials for beer and floor wax.
For all his 30-minute tales of otherworldly phenomena, the most vivid theme in his writing was a constant longing for home, a yearning for the place where all of us have our beginnings. He is buried in Seneca County in upstate New York, not far from where he grew up. One of the most-admired episodes in the series that made him a celebrity and that ultimately exhausted him was called “Walking Distance,” about an advertising executive with car trouble on a country road. The man walks to the small town where he was born—and discovers himself, as a boy, in a place where nothing has changed, and where he knows he cannot stay.
Here are the final words in that night’s show, heard in Serling’s voice-over narration, describing the character but also likely speaking of someone else:
“Martin Sloan, age 36, vice president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there’ll flit a little errant wish: that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too, because he’ll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important, really: some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.”
Mr. Greene’s books include “When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009).
813
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From the WSJournal
Rod Serling Before ‘The Twilight Zone’

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/SB11292601245819683363204581059833167534392-lMyQjAxMTE1MjA5NzIwNjcwWj
The World War II paratrooper wrote TV classics such as ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight.’

By BOB GREENE

June 25, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET

Forty years ago this weekend a dazzling American writer with a massive following died far too young. You never see his name on most-esteemed-author lists alongside Hemingway or Faulkner or Fitzgerald; the sentences he wrote were not intended to appear on a printed page.
Rod Serling was 50 years old when, after open-heart surgery, he passed away on June 28, 1975. Tens of millions of television viewers knew him solely as the host/narrator of “The Twilight Zone” series, which ran from 1959 to 1964. There is a twist to that worthy of a Serling script: He ended up on camera only because CBS’s first choice, Orson Welles, was asking for too large a salary.
So Serling, the creator of the series, was called to step in front of the lights. In retrospect, he was ideal for the role, and for the medium: dark-haired, intense and sharp-featured, often wearing a black suit, white shirt and black necktie as he introduced a black-and-white tale of that which “lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” His crisp delivery registered with the clarity of hard-metal typewriter letters slapping against a brand-new ribbon onto a pristine sheet of paper.
Yet for all the lasting cultural cachet of “The Twilight Zone,” Serling’s genius as a writer was first, and best, seen in the years before the series went on the air. When television was still a novelty, Serling—an undersized World War II paratrooper attempting to find his footing back home—wrote a string of teleplays, presented live, that even today are stunning in their power and maturity.
“Patterns”—he was still in his 20s when he wrote it—was the Kraft Television Theatre production that, on the night of Jan. 12, 1955, made his name. A tale of betrayal and cruelty in executive suites, it presaged the visceral understanding of the human heart that would be his touchstone. 
“Requiem for a Heavyweight,” the story of a prizefighter tossed into life’s garbage heap when he ceases to be a meal ticket for his manager, may be Serling’s finest work, but there were so many others: “The Comedian,” about television’s capacity to make monsters of its stars; “The Velvet Alley,” about Hollywood’s perilous seductiveness; “The Arena,” about Capitol Hill politics corroding the souls of those who toil at it.
Coast-to-coast television was still new. With only a handful of channels available, much of an enthralled nation witnessed each live production. Serling’s most impressive contribution may have been the respect he had for the intelligence of his audience: his faith that people were willing to watch stories with serious adult themes, in the years before “adult content” came to mean curse words, gratuitous nudity and toilet humor.
In the first season of “The Twilight Zone,” Serling wrote 28 of the 36 weekly episodes. He would write the majority of the 156 productions during the series’ five-year run. The deadlines wore him out; toward the end of his life he briefly hosted a TV game show, and did commercials for beer and floor wax.
For all his 30-minute tales of otherworldly phenomena, the most vivid theme in his writing was a constant longing for home, a yearning for the place where all of us have our beginnings. He is buried in Seneca County in upstate New York, not far from where he grew up. One of the most-admired episodes in the series that made him a celebrity and that ultimately exhausted him was called “Walking Distance,” about an advertising executive with car trouble on a country road. The man walks to the small town where he was born—and discovers himself, as a boy, in a place where nothing has changed, and where he knows he cannot stay.
Here are the final words in that night’s show, heard in Serling’s voice-over narration, describing the character but also likely speaking of someone else:
“Martin Sloan, age 36, vice president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there’ll flit a little errant wish: that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too, because he’ll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important, really: some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.”
Mr. Greene’s books include “When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009).
813
Sent from my iPhone

image1.jpeg