The Rod Serling Holiday

Near twin Gordon has decreed, and I have capitulated, to try to make both Bogie Day and Serling Day the holidays of choice in the blogosphere. Why? “Because both men were born on December 25th, and both encapsulate the ultimate in pop culture coolness.”

But I just don’t have enough to say about Humphrey Bogart, though I did see The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and one of my favorite films in the whole world, Casablanca. One of the times I saw Casablanca was in Rochester, NY outdoors in a park with my old neighbor from New Paltz, Debi. How I came to even be in Rochester involves lost brain cells. Oh, yeah, and I have a recording where expounds on the value of baseball.

As for Rod Serling, what more can I say that I didn’t already say here or here, where I discuss meeting him or any number of other posts about episodes and whatnot.

It occurred to me, though, that I may never have mentioned the fact that I attended the world premiere(!) of Twilight Zone: The Movie, 13 days before it officially opened. The event took place, naturally, in Binghamton, NY, my hometown, on June 11, 1983 at the Crest Theater on Main Street, which had a seating capacity of approximately 800. I saw lots of movies at the Crest growing up. Hmm, I wonder if Serling saw any movies there growing up? It was a walkable, certainly a bikeable distance from his house on Bennett Avenue.

Some of the details have faded to memory, such as how I got tickets. I DO recall that it was very hot outside, waiting there for the dignitaries to come in. Of course, Rod was not one of them, having died eight years earlier from smoking cigarettes.

And I DO recall that this was a Very Big Deal for this small city where Rod Serling’s family moved to from Syracuse before he turned two. One of the dignitaries was Helen Foley, Serling’s beloved high school English teacher. Another was Richard Deacon (pictured below with Betty White, circa 1983) who was on Leave It To Beaver, but was best known as the put-upon producer Mel Cooley on The Dick van Dyke Show. Deacon, who died in 1984, was born in Philadelphia in 1921 but also grew up in Binghamton.

As for the movie itself, well, I’d have to see it again. I did think the first segment, a vague remake of A Quality of Mercy (Season 3, episode 80), was almost unrecognizable from the original. The filming of that segment led to the accidental deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors. Whereas the remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 5, episode 123) felt pretty much like the William Shatner version, at least in my memory.

The movie segment It’s a Good Life, featured a character named Helen Foley (played by Kathleen Quinlan), which got a big laugh from the audience; oddly, “Helen Foley” was not the name of a character in the original episode, but rather in the Nightmare as a Child television version.

*An episode guide of the television series can be found here.*


Pictures of Rod Serling c. 1955; all photos from LIFE.com.
ROG

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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