Rodman Serling

Not many famous people have their names on the Binghamton Walk of Fame -I'm pretty sure it's called something like that. Anyway, Serling has his name there since he's the most famous person to ever come out of Binghamton onto the national stage. Serling is a beloved institution in Binghamton, he has his own film festival for high school kids and a million things that have to do with him. He was born in Syracuse in the 1920's and died in Rochester (once claimed to be the worst place in Upstate) in the mid 70's. But, he spent his childhood and pubescent-adolescent years in Binghamton where he graduated from high school.

Serling won the Purple Heart and Bronze Star in the Pacific when he served with the 11th Airborne as a paratrooper/demo specialist. Apparently Serling suffered Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from his experiences there and had intense nightmares throughout his life, and people talk about how some Twilight Zone episodes are just these nightmares being played out. Upstate is the setting for many a Twilight Zone episode, however having watched most of these episodes there is nothing really Upstate about them besides the inclement weather.

Serling Went to Antioch College in Ohio where he received a degree in Literature and worked as a writer for a radio station. His fantastic writing skills were soon made apparent when he was able to sell TV-play after TV-play, winning television awards before his famous stint in the Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone was cancelled after a bunch of seasons and he went on to do a similar show called Night Gallery, which was pretty killer in its own right, and wrote horror and sci-fi short stories. He Co-wrote Planet of the Apes, Jesse tells me, but I'm more excited with the news he taught at Ithaca College and was a Unitarian Universalist.

By Joe


Laker said...

During the early 70's I spent an inordinate amount of time 'hanging out' at the bar at Hibiscus Harbor, on Cayuga Lake, just north of Union Springs.

Rod Serling would often come in by boat and have a drink or two with us.

Never got to know him very well, but he always seemed to be a very friendly, down to earth individual. Not at all like today's Hollywood Glitterari that would find a place like that much too boring and below their standards.

Jesse said...

Rod Serling seems to be to be an exceptional individual and member of the Upstate community. He certainly left to pursue his dream, but after making his name in the world, he returned home again.

Like Joe mentions, his work is not distinctly "Upstate," though places like Cortland, Syracuse and Binghamton do appear regularly, they are just names. In one episode, "Walking Distance," Serling's main character returns home to find himself literally brought back to the days of his childhood. The scenes were filmed in Binghamton and the famous carousel and bandstand scenes are from Rec Park where a memorial plaque now sits. A gallery of buildings from the Twilight Zone that appear in his works can be found here at the Rod Serling Foundation.

In the end, though, I have to agree with Laker and Joe that what appeared to set Serling apart was a strong sense of decency and a love for a place. He was not one of the "Glitterari" as Laker describes them, I had the pleasure of meeting some of them this summer on a film shoot (Robert DiNiro, Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie all came up to the Adirondacks for filming) and I was distinctly unimpressed.

Serling, who brought to life the dark visions that haunted post-war America, deserves our salute as a former neighbor and a good man.

Alia said...

Whoa whoa whoa... let's back it up a second here. Rochester the worst place in Upstate?? Have y'all been to the Lilac Festival? Or East End Festival? Or Park Ave Fest? Rochester has more festivals than you can shake a stick at!
And Joe, if Unitarian Universalists excite you, here are some UU facts with regards to my fair city: Rochester was once the home of Unitarians Fredrick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony. Both activists are buried at the Mount Hope Cemetary, located in the southern section of the city. If you come for a visit, be sure to check out The First Unitarian Church of Rochester (FUCR). Architect Louis Kahn created the buidling to resemble a question mark in 1967. The question mark is meant to signify the constant questioning UUies are encouraged to do. Here's a question: I'm UU, RU? ;-)

Joe said...

Alia, I was just conveying a statement I've heard from fellow Geneseo and RIT alumn about the quality of the home of the winter festival. I've actually been to the lilac, and as far as I know it's a craft show and bowling tournament.

My interest in UU goes as far as, all the girls wearing UU buttons at protests have the quality of being gorgeous. Which, I'm afraid, is not a quality I can attribute to the city of Rochester.