3/12: Void Influences – Rod Serling (1966)
Welcome to installment #3 in my continuing look at the influences of my life that led to the creation of Deacon Void. By 1966, I was seven years old and enjoying television immensely … The Outer Limits, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. … my imagination was in overload. It was about this time that television syndication began on a massive scale, and that’s when I discovered Rod Serling … and The Twilight Zone!
Rod Serling was the brains and the face of The Twilight Zone. His opening monologue always set the tone for 30-minutes of suspense, sci-fi drama, and a twist ending that would knock the stuffing out of me! I later learned that Serling wrote most of the episodes, which did not surprise me. His voice and on-screen persona oozed charisma and demanded that you “watch and pay attention.” It was “smart TV” and we didn’t even know it!
I would later learn that Serling was a highly decorated combat veteran of WWII, a paratrooper wounded in battle who suffered greatly with physical and emotional wounds. His writing was medicine to him. And what a writer he was!
Over the next few decades, Twilight Zone continued to be a rating phenomenon, making its mark on bubblegum cards, TV, movies, comics, and myriad merchandise. And at the center of it all was Rod Serling!
As I entered middle school, Serling captivated audiences again with a new hit … Night Gallery. From 1970-1973, he thrilled viewers with tales that he wrote and narrated, opening each episode with a scary painting that set the stage for the thrill-a-minute story to come. Now older and better able to appreciate Serling’s tremendous talent, I was hooked all over again. As was the case in Twilight Zone, the real star of Night Gallery was always Rod Serling himself!
Rod Serling died at the tender age of 50 on June 28, 1975. He’d recovered from two heart attacks but was unable to survive the 3rd one, dying on the operating table of the hospital during a bypass operation. But his legacy lives on.
In 1994, 19 years after his death, he returned to “host” the pre-show area of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction at The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. Through clever use of carefully edited vintage Twilight Zone footage, new images processed in black & white and special additional dialogue recorded by a Serling soundalike, Serling appears in a Twilight Zone episode based on the ride’s storyline and introduces theme park visitors to the attraction.
In 2004, Serling was ranked #1 in TV Guide’s list of the “25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends.” He was the only real person on the list. All the others were TV show characters. And in 2009, he was one of the persons honored on the USPS stamp series, “Early TV Memories.”
I’ll never forget how excited I always was to see and hear Rod Serling open the segment to his shows. He was my guarantee of first rate entertainment and high stakes suspense. His skill, imagination, and professional drive continue to inspire me to this day. I’m still trying to navigate within the swirling mists of the Void. Rod Serling made his home there! He is a major inspiration throughout the “Bill Cain Universe,” but the place he makes his biggest impact on my writing is here, amid the dark shadows of “the other side” that I call …
Imagination… its limits are only those of the mind itself. Rod Serling