As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling
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In Twilight Zone reruns, I search for my father in the man on the screen, but I can't always find him there. Instead, he appears in unexpected ways. Memory summoned by a certain light, a color, a smell--and I see him again on the porch of our old red lakeside cottage, where I danced on the steps as a child.
To Anne Serling, the imposing figure the public saw hosting The Twilight Zone each week, intoning cautionary observations about fate, chance, and humanity, was not the father she knew. Her fun-loving dad would play on the floor with the dogs, had nicknames for everyone in the family, and was apt to put a lampshade on his head and break out in song. He was her best friend, her playmate, and her confidant.
After his unexpected death at 50, Anne, just 20, was left stunned. Gradually, she found solace for her grief by talking to his friends, poring over old correspondence, and recording her childhood memories. Now she shares personal photos, eloquent, revealing letters, and beautifully rendered scenes of his childhood, war years, and their family's time together. Idyllic summers in upstate New York, the years in Los Angeles, and the myriad ways he filled their time with laughter, strength, and endearing silliness--all are captured here with deep affection and candor.
Though begun in loss, Anne's story is a celebration of her extraordinary relationship with her father and the qualities she came to prize through him--empathy, kindness, and an uncompromising sense of social justice. As I Knew Him is a lyrical, intimate tribute to Rod Serling's legacy as visionary, storyteller, and humanist, and a moving testament to the love between fathers and daughters.
"I was so moved by Anne Serling's account of the loving relationship she had with her dad, I laughed and I cried. I plan to read it again once I catch my breath. This beautifully written book is proof that the apple didn't fall too far from the tree when it came to the writing gene." --Carol Burnett
"It was my privilege to know Rod Serling. He was as interesting off screen as on. I loved Rod Serling. Still do." --Betty White
"Thanks to Anne Serling's haunting and beautifully written memoir about her father, readers will come to know Rod Serling in a personal way, as I did." --Robert Redford
"A loving daughter's intimate memoir and portrait of her father, a man who just happens to be one of the most important American cultural leaders of the 20th Century . . . the best glimpse we're likely to get of that man and the maelstrom he moved in unless or until we venture into the Twilight Zone." -- James Grady
"A memoir filled with intimate details and emotion; a tender, thoughtful and very personal portrait of American genius Rod Serling, writer and creator of the greatest show ever made, The Twilight Zone." --- Alice Hoffman
"A richly told, deeply sympathetic journey into the mind of one of the masters of television, this haunting memoir is also about grief, creativity, and a father-daughter bond as memorable and magical as any Twilight Zone episode." --Caroline Leavitt
something to say. My father and mother and two-year-old Jodi move from Cincinnati to Westport, Connecticut. It is the fall of 1954. Outside the window, just past my dad’s desk, there is an explosion of fall colors, and in a nearby room my sister plays on the floor, talking to her stuffed animals. My dad begins his seventy-second television script, typing Patterns on the title page. Four months later, he has completed and sold his script. He describes it as: A story of ambition and the price
took me to Carol Burnett’s show, I look up from my desk in French class and see her walk by, past an open door. The red hair and the warm smile are unmistakable. It is Carol Burnett! She stops and waves. I am astonished and moved that she remembers me. I hear she is looking at the school for one of her daughters. My instinct is to get up from my seat and tell her, “Don’t send her here; she’ll hate it.” But I say nothing. I don’t move. I just sit there, star-struck and silent, waving back.
starts to look a little better, and he announces he is fine. I hug him and tell him, “See ya soon, baboon.” The auditorium is packed. Every seat is full and there are people standing in the back. Rochelle and I and some friends are told we can sit on the floor in the front. The 1970s are not an easy time for an adult to connect with young people. Many students are angry about the Vietnam War, the Watergate cover-up, and the general state of world affairs, so they are distrustful of adults. The
noisily clearing away the plates and Doug is already stirring a new batch of normal scrambled eggs, looking at me over his shoulder and smiling. In the summer of 1983, when I am twenty-seven, Doug and I marry on the cottage porch. It has been eight years since my father’s death. The progression of our wedding day is a blur in my memory, but I remember my sister couldn’t find her shoes and had to borrow someone’s. They were too large, and I remember her clomping down the stairs. I know that I
can find nobility and sacrifice and love wherever you might seek it out; down the block, in the heart, or in The Twilight Zone.” I find it in a darkened room on a summer afternoon. Something invisible, inaudible, and until now, quite mistakenly presumed gone. Epilogue WHEN MY DAD WAS in the hospital, he asked for his tape recorder. A year or so after going to his grave, I removed the tape from my desk drawer, closed myself away in my bedroom, took a deep breath, and finally pushed PLAY and