As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling- Anne Serling
When Rodman Edward “Rod” Serling, died on June 28, 1975, he left behind a legion of fans who fondly remembered and loved his hit show ‘The Twilight Zone’. The show is an American classic and every year on New Year’s Day, the Sci-Fi channel runs a full marathon. The show aired from 1959 to 1964, and in those fives years, a legacy was created that shows no signs of slowing down. The popularity of the show has resulted in fan sites, Instagram and Facebook pages, that pay homage to what many be the greatest science fiction show in television history. Classic episodes such as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet starring William Shatner of Star Trek fame and Nothing in The Dark with a young Robert Redford are some of the author’s favorites among a vast collection of outstanding creative genius. But who was the smooth talking man who appeared in a suit at the end of the episode with a cigarette in hand? His daughter Anne answers these questions in this intimate portrait of the man she called her dad.
In this book, Anne tells the story her father’s life giving the reader a good biography of the late icon. I personally learned several great facts about Serling including his military service in World War II. His entry in journalism and then Hollywood set the path he would walk for the rest of his life. Marriage and fatherhood shows us the man who was not just a suit but in reality a family man with a brilliant creative mind. His talents and success caused the relocation of his family several times and Anne is very candid about life living on more than one coast. The beauty of the book is the relationship between father and daughter. The love that existed between the two can be felt as the passages in the book are read. Serling’s wit and unconventional personality lend an air of spontaneity to their lives and it seems as if even when the show was not on the air he was still in character. Nonetheless, his ways of teaching and caring for his daughters are an example of the importance of a father in his daughter’s life.
Serling’s signature pose is with one arm up and a cigarette in hand. His cigarette habit and health issues began to take their toll towards the end of his life. The decline in his health combined with his unwavering addiction to smoking are two of the three tragic moments in the book next to his untimely death. We can ask ourselves why he did not change his lifestyle but only Serling knows the answer to that question. What we do know through Anne’s words is that his death devastated his family and to this day, I do not believe she has fully recovered from his death. If I found myself in her position, I do not know if I would have recovered. At age fifty, Serling would be considered young by today’s standards and could have possibly lived for another thirty to forty years. His sudden departure precluded him from watching his daughters continue to mature, becoming a grandfather and living out his golden years after a productive and inspiring career in the television and film industries. In death, he reminds us of the shortness of life and and our own mortality.
Many years have since passed since Serling’s death but his legacy is intact and more important with each year that passes. Through the episodes of the Twilight Zone he was able to get his messages across about society and all of its problems. And he did not hesitate to remind the world of the horrors of warfare and discrimination. As a proponent of civil he dedicated several episodes to the topic of racism and the Holocaust inspired in part by his Jewish heritage. Nature, space, religion and human nature were all explored in his writings and had he lived, I believe the possibilities were endless. The saving grace however, is that we do have an enormous amount of material he created and this heartwarming and poignant memoir by his loving daughter, Anne.