Everything he needed to know he learned from "The Twilight Zone " created by Rod Serling…. And most everything that Serling needed to know, he learned as a young writer in Southwestern Ohio.
Mark Dawidziak, my fellow TV critic from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a longtime friend, brings his newest book, a "Twilight Zone" appreciation, to Books By The Banks Saturday.
"Everything I Need To Know I Learned In The Twilight Zone" offers 50 life lessons, ground rules and inspirational thoughts from the iconic "Twilight Zone" TV anthology series (1959-64) created by Serling.
And Dawidziak notes in the book that much of Serling's inspiration – and formative years as a writer – occurred attending Antioch College in Yellow Springs and writing for WLW radio/television, WKRC-TV's "The Storm" and freelancing for the major TV networks from Cincinnati from 1946 to 1954.
"When he arrived at Antioch after World War II, he didn't know that he wanted to be a writer. He went there to be a physical education teacher. He went to Antioch and Yellow Springs to work through the trauma of the war," Dawidziak says. After success writing radio plays in college, he was hired after graduation in 1950 by WLW.
"He went to Cincinnati to make himself a writer. It's the seedbed of everything for him. It's holy ground. Rod's themes didn't change over the years. Cincinnati is not just important to him, it's vitally important. It's the ah-hah moment of his life."
Many of the themes Serling explored on "The Twilight Zone" – prejudice, war, yearning for a simpler time, boxing, treatment of the elderly – first appeared in Serling's half-hour scripts for "The Storm," WKRC-TV's live drama series in 1951-52.
Dawidziak, author of 32 books, has been collecting Serling material for nearly 35 years. His inspiration for this book came from watching every "Twilight Zone" with his teen-age daughter Becky six years ago. After they saw David Wayne sell his soul to the devil in "Escape Clause" (1959), "I turned to my daughter and said, 'Always read a contract. Know what you're signing.' And it became a running joke."
"Everything I Need To Know" includes lessons from "Twilight Zone" performers Robert Redford, Carol Burnett and Jack Klugman, and from TV writers David Chase ("The Sopranos"), Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and others.
Dawidziak also has written books about "Columbo," "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," Mark Twain and Dracula.
One more note: Among the nearly 150 authors appearing at Books By The Banks will be Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News and WCPO-TV anchor. Books At The Banks is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Duke Energy Convention Center.