Paul Gallagher (aka, “Mr. Twilight Zone”) and Wendy Brydge (aka, “Gal Friday”) are two bloggers who explore the works of Rod Serling and his effect upon the Human Condition, with sometimes poignant, often insightful clarity, through their sites, Shadow & Substance and Seeker of Truth. I met them both through Twitter, discovered their blogs, and enjoy their passionate discourse. They have great insight into many aspects of The Twilight Zone, and are quite the enjoyable conversationalists. I frequently reblog their Twilight Zone posts. This is probably my longest interview yet (well, it is actually two interviews in one), but it was great fun working with the both of them, and in getting to know them better. I hope you feel the same! Thanks to Wendy for creating a special work of art just for this post (the “Five in the Fifth” graphic, above). Today, September 15th, is also the 52nd anniversary of the Twilight Zone episode, “Two,” this interview is posted today in honor of that.
Paul and Wendy, could you give us a short bio on yourselves?
Wendy: I’m a freelance commission artist, born, raised, and living in Northern Ontario, Canada. This would explain all of those unnecessary “u”s in my writing! I’m an avid reader (at least I enjoy reading when I have the time), and I’m known for taming the native wildlife: chipmunks, squirrels, a gaggle of chickadees, and a crossfox. I am the self-proclaimed “Seeker of Truth.” Research is my middle name—I study a little bit of everything. I wear my faith as a Christian proudly, often highlighting it through my art. Vampires are my weakness—books, films, lore, history—and when I’m not painting, I’m writing. Or “Gal Fridaying” for Paul!
Paul: I’m in the freelance business as well, albeit on the writing side of things. I’ve had articles appear in most major newspapers and on many websites. I also have a full-time job as an editor for a large non-profit organization in Washington, D.C.—one that has nothing to do with Rod Serling! I’ve lived in the D.C. area all my life and enjoy writing about a variety of topics: history (American Civil War history in particular), films, books, movies and music, both rock and classical. Besides Serling, I have a passion for the music of the Beatles and the films of Alfred Hitchcock, but I’m crazy about most “classic rock” and almost anything from Hollywood’s golden age.
Quite the range and reach, you two! When and how did you both become aware of Rod Serling and/or his work?
Wendy: I can remember watching the Twilight Zone (TZ) when I was very young. My dad’s always been a bit of a fan. He remembered watching it with my grandpa when he was a kid. I wasn’t familiar with any of Serling’s other work until I met Paul. I’m definitely not the über fan that he is, but talking to Paul and learning more about the broad scope of Serling’s work has given me a greater appreciation for Serling, the writer. TZ may be his claim to fame, but everything he touched, he infused with a little piece of his soul. The man was one hell of a writer.
Paul: It was the same for me, though for me the parent who shared my interest in fantasy and science fiction was my mother. I remember discovering TZ in reruns with my brother, who initially was the big fan in the family. He was the one who first had a copy of Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, which I poured through all the time. The first TZ I ever saw was “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”—I can still picture seeing it on the TV at my grandparents’ house—and I was in awe of this weird, wonderful series. It didn’t look like anything else on TV. It still doesn’t.
What drew you both to the Twilight Zone?
Wendy: I don’t know what it is exactly that makes TZ so appealing. I love that it’s in black and white, that just adds a classic creepiness to every episode, and for the most part the picture is so crisp and sharp. The filming was beautiful (and I happen to be a huge fan of the video-taped episodes). My favourite aspect of the show though is that many of the episodes have a great moral lesson in them. It’s not just empty entertainment. It’s stories about people and how they deal with certain situations and circumstances. And while many of the stories could have a similar theme, they were all so very different. You can’t get bored watching. There is much to be learned from this series. The writing was brilliant. Another thing I like is that there’s a variety of endings. There are endings which are designed to make you think (“The Howling Man” and “The Gift”), endings that deliver straight up justice (“Deaths-Head Revisited” and “The Masks”), and there are beautiful, happy endings, too (“The Hunt” and “Night of the Meek”). Serling knew the recipe for creating a show with longevity.
Paul: I agree. The very fact that we’re sitting here talking about it, fifty years after it first aired, is a testament to just how timeless it really is. And it owes a great deal to what Wendy just highlighted—the look of the show, that striking black-and-white photography, and the feature-film quality that is stamped on every episode. Television, then as now, has always been plagued by bean-counters who just want everything done as cheaply as possible, and you can see the result: the vast wasteland that television is rightly accused of being. Serling, though, saw TV’s potential. He once said he wanted to “prove that television can be both commercial and worthwhile.” And God bless him, he fought for it. It shortened his life, it honestly did, but what a rich legacy he left behind. A series for the storyteller, as he said right from the start. And not just any stories, but stories that fired the imagination, and yes, often taught a moral lesson. And if that lesson pricked our conscience, if he had to remind us of the evils of racism or the insanity of the nuclear age, he didn’t flinch. He was fast, prolific, dedicated to quality, and smart enough to employ some of the best people in the business, both in front of and behind the camera. And because people loved and respected him, they really stepped up their game. The result is one of the most memorable shows of all time.
Both your sites have been featured on Word Press’s Freshly Pressed. Your sites are growing in followers. To what do you attribute such success? Why do you think your sites attract such attention and growing followships?
Wendy: I think both Paul and I create very high quality content. We take great care in making sure our posts are error free and smooth reading. And the one thing we both have in common—and what I attribute our growing success to—is passion. There are a lot of great writers out there, but they lack passion in their writing. And a lack of passion can make what you write, no matter how well written, boring. You have to get people excited for what you’re talking about, whether they like the topic or not. If the passion you have for a given subject shines through in what you write, the reader will be drawn in and want to read more. If you’re excited, they’ll be excited. It’s contagious. Also, my blog is not limited to just one topic, I write about anything and everything, from TZ to Poe to painting. My reader base is a wide one, bringing in people from all walks of life.
Paul: Exactly. There’s something about writing about Serling’s work—and despite the fact that TZ takes up most of my oxygen, I do highlight his work throughout his career—that makes you want to do high-quality work. When I sat down to write my post for “Eye of the Beholder” (my personal favorite), I didn’t just tear off a few quick thoughts. I thought, “My God, this was one of Serling’s masterpieces. I owe him my very best work.” That’s my motto on my Twitter page, which preceded the blog by a good nine months. I’m scrupulous about quality. Each quote has to be accurate and interesting. Each fact has to be right. And each blog post has to shine. Serling once said that he wasn’t interested in what anyone would call second-best, and I wholeheartedly agree. That’s why I’m so fortunate to have Wendy assisting me. She’s just as dedicated as I am to making everything as perfect as it can be.
How’d you two meet?
Wendy: William Windom introduced us. No, I’m serious! I found Paul on Twitter one day while searching for anything TZ related. He had written a tweet about William Windom’s roles in TZ/Night Gallery (NG). Now, I wasn’t familiar with NG, and ironically, I’m not a fan of “Five Characters In Search of An Exit,” but I am a fan of “Murder, She Wrote,” which is how I was most familiar with Windom. I thought a TZ quote page was great, so I followed Paul, and replied to his tweet, mentioning that Windom would eventually become my favourite character, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, on “Murder, She Wrote.” Paul followed back, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Paul: Yes, a toast to Dr. Hazlitt! I had been doing the Twitter page for about a year and half at that point, and suddenly this very pretty girl followed me. What got me, though, was all these clever replies she’d come up with. Most people don’t interact with me much, if at all, and those who do usually don’t have anything all that interesting to say, but Wendy was very witty, very fast, and had a sense of humor that was just like mine. And she kept coming up with these amazing “Follow Friday” tweets for me! Becoming friends with her was very easy. We just clicked from the word “go.”
I’m also a fan of “Murder, She Wrote,” and, since you mentioned William Windom, I used to watch this show as a kid, called “My World and Welcome to It” (yes, I’ve been around a while…). It only lasted one season, but I loved that show.
Paul also writes about The Night Gallery (and you, Wendy, help him with the images), another series Mr. Serling designed. How do you both contrast the two?
Wendy: While I myself haven’t done any writing about Night Gallery, and I haven’t seen many of the episodes, what stands out most for me between the two is Serling’s direct involvement, or lack thereof. Every episode of TZ has Serling’s magic touch. Even the not so great episodes are still better than 95% of what’s on TV today. He had much more control over the content and execution of Twilight Zone than he ever did with Night Gallery, and it’s reflected in the finished product. Now, we can’t really do a direct comparison of the two shows, they aren’t the same beast, nor are they supposed to be. Night Gallery is a bit darker, more horror than suspense. And it lacks the subtle beauty of TZ. I can only comment on what I’ve seen, but all in all, NG comes across as kind of crude compared to TZ. Less refined, less satisfying overall. I don’t think I could call myself a fan of Night Gallery. There’s just not enough Serling in this series to make it as exceptional as TZ.
Paul: I’m a fan of Night Gallery, but I agree with Wendy’s assessment. There’s no question that TZ was the better show, and yes, it was because Serling was the executive producer. When it came to Night Gallery, he passed on this time-consuming job, but still thought that they’d defer to him on major decisions. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. They wanted his name, but not his advice—a huge mistake. And rather than have one story per episode, Night Gallery sometimes had as many as four, and some of them were these odd little sketch comedy pieces that producer Jack Laird loved, and Serling hated. However, the series can’t be written off entirely. They produced many fine segments, including Serling’s “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” and some other very entertaining stories. And it was surprisingly influential. Director Guillermo del Toro, for example, watched the series as a child and gives Night Gallery a lot of credit for inspiring his interest in horror. And there are two episodes with Vincent Price! What more could you want?
Vincent Price, another wonderfully fun actor to watch!
Wendy, you also write about the Twilight Zone, but as Paul’s much lauded “Gal Friday,” could you also describe how you contribute to his posts?
Wendy: Truth be told, I ghost write all of Paul’s posts, then he just signs his name to them and publishes them on his blog. No, no. I’m just kidding. As Paul’s Gal Friday, I’m basically here for whatever he might need. In the behind the scenes department, he runs ideas by me, or we brainstorm ideas together. Sometimes I’ll go over his early drafts for a piece and offer my opinion on the direction it’s taking. I make recommendations and suggestions, and eventually Paul places the finished piece in my capable hands for my eagle-eye editing. No post is published until I’ve seen it and it receives my “GF Stamp of Approval.” And of course I provide Paul with photos for his posts, as he so kindly credits me with a tag line at the end of each. I’m lucky enough to have a complete set of TZ DVDs, so when there’s a new blog post in the works, I go through the relevant episodes, selecting shots that I think look good, save them, format them, and send them along to Paul, who chooses the ones that work best for the post. I think I do a little bit of everything!
Paul: No kidding! It’s hard to overestimate Wendy’s influence. Before she came along, I was writing some very good posts, but the blog didn’t take off until I began to involve her more and more in their preparation. I look back at some of my early posts, and I just cringe: I would put no pictures, no artwork of any kind! Yes, I made sure the posts were well-written, but they lacked any presentation. Having a best friend who’s an artist par excellence is a huge benefit. And, to my utter delight, she’s a terrific editor, too. She has an eagle eye for typos, she’s very meticulous, very organized, and always has these terrific suggestions. The high-quality screen grabs alone have made a major difference. Rather than just grabbing some poor-quality image off the web, I can say, “I’m planning a post on ‘Night of the Meek.’ Can you give me a few pics?” And Wendy will come back with three dozen or more high-quality images. You know what that means? I can select just the right pic, and put it in just the right spot. That’s a big, big help. I could not do the blog without her. Or I could, but it would be markedly inferior!
What do you think prepared you for your roles in “administering” to the Twilight Zone/Night Gallery legacies? Have you both always had an interest in the Human Condition?
Wendy: Passion, a keen interest in observing, and an overwhelming desire for understanding. I have always been interested in the Human Condition, although I don’t believe I ever really thought about it specifically. But I don’t believe you can be a true TZ fan and not have an interest in it.
Paul: Very true. So much of Serling’s work endures, I believe, because of this palpable interest in, yes, the Human Condition. Think of how many episodes of TZ centered on the forgotten people on life’s periphery: washed-up boxers, innocent prisoners, alcoholic gunmen, sidewalk pitchmen. Ordinary men and women just trying to make their way through life and not get knocked down permanently. And Serling reached out and highlighted their stories. He poked our consciences and needled our sense of justice. I don’t know what, if anything, prepared me for this (though my wonderful parents certainly strove to instill a firm sense of right and wrong in me), but I can tell you that something in Serling’s work has always stirred me deeply. And the more I delve into his writing, the more impressed I am with it, the more touched I am. And therefore the more keen I am on sharing his vision, which I try to do in my own modest way.
Do you both have any far-ranging goals you’d like to share, whether about yourselves or your Serling legacy efforts? We’ve joked about this in tweets, but, might there be a book in the offing…?
Paul: Yes, I’ve had a book in mind for a long time now. One that won’t just be an episode guide, as many previous books have been, but that will explore his work in greater depth by examining the themes that surface time and again, from loneliness to fear of the unknown. At this point, it’s just in the planning stages, but I can tell you that when it appears, it will be a world-class effort that will rely heavily on Wendy’s unique and irreplaceable talents. If I don’t even want to publish a blog post without her help, you can imagine how I feel about publishing a book without her—it’s unthinkable! The final volume will be very much a Paul-Wendy product.
Wendy: Ah, yes. “The Book.” Paul and I have enjoyed many discussions about this. I think I’m even more driven than he is to make this happen. He’s my best friend and this is one of his dreams. And he deserves to be recognized for the amazingly talented writer he is. His dedication is simply unparalleled. The amount of work that goes into his Twitter page and blog? He may do it for fun, and people might think it’s just a “hobby,” but I’ve seen what it takes to do all that Paul does. Make no mistake about it, it’s work. Enjoyable work, but work nonetheless. So my far-ranging goal is definitely to help Paul make this happen. There will be a book.
Do keep us posted on the book! I think we’d all love to see that!
Okay, I know we’ve all posted our favorite TZ/NG lists of episodes, but, right here, right now…name the first one that comes to mind, and why? It doesn’t have to be your “favorite,” per se, we’re just getting Freudian, here. :-]
Wendy: “The Hitchhiker”. It’s almost always the first TZ that comes to mind when someone brings up the series. It did make my top 25 list, but was at the bottom end. This episode has always sat funny with me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, and Inger Stevens is amazing as Nan, but just the whole idea of her running around, thinking that she’s okay, then finding out…uh, nope. Not okay at all. It’s not just a general creepiness that it causes, I think it kind of scares me a little. And that end narration of hers, the realization and acceptance of what happened…wow. It’s a spooky episode, and one that won’t leave your mind any time soon.
Paul: “The After Hours.” It’s one of my favorites, yes, but I selected it in one of my earlier blog posts as the episode that I would show someone who had never seen TZ before. Everything that made TZ a success is there: Serling’s writing, that beautiful black-and-white photography, world-class acting, inventive directing, a terrific musical score. It’s TZ in a nutshell—scary, perceptive, mysterious and thought-provoking. And, most of all, fun.
And now, for my Freudian analysis (our little group of TZ aficionados like to analyze our favorite TZ show choices): Wendy, you think you’re “ok,” but you’re uneasy, searching for something (the “truth”? ;-] )…and feel you’re on a surreal road trip in your personal quest for this Truth, but…you’re Not Alone. Initially this frightened you, but no longer! Paul, you’re tired of the staid “mannequins” of society and are trying to get them to see even a thimble of truth (note that both of you are well-suited to each other, here!)…what lies beyond the musty old attics of their parochial, retail-oriented mindsets! Limit me, will you! No, no, I’ll never go back!
How’d I do?
Wendy: Oh, you are spot on, Frank! Seriously! All in fun, but still very, very true! Freud himself couldn’t have analyzed me better! Hmm, Paul, are you my hitchhiker?!
Paul: I’m certainly “going your way”! Frank, that’s a very perceptive analysis. All in fun, yes, but I do get that feeling sometimes! I wonder, in fact, if that might have subconsciously motivated me to try and carry Serling’s message to a wider audience. Interesting to ponder!
Thank you! My office hours are 1 a.m. to 2 a.m…in the Twilight Zone….
And, in the spirit of the previous question, which episode—Twilight Zone or Night Gallery—most embodies or “fits” who you each are?
Wendy: Oh, good question! But a difficult one. After much consideration and thought, I’m going to say my favourite TZ episode, “The Howling Man.” My life is a constant search for the Truth (hence my blog name, “Seeker of Truth”) both in a religious and non religious way. This episode illustrates man’s struggle to fight lies with the truth. It’s something I do every day, in every aspect of my life. David Ellington represents our struggle, while Brother Jerome is the fighting spirit. I’m always searching for hope, and to me, that’s what this episode shows us. That even though we struggle and life isn’t easy, there is hope that it can be better. Brother Jerome did capture the Devil. It wasn’t easy, but he showed determination and perseverance. And in doing so, he helped more than just himself.
Paul: I don’t know if it embodies me, per se, but I’d say it’s a toss-up, or a tie, between “A Passage for Trumpet” and “The Changing of the Guard“. Both are what I like to call redemptive tales, which for me are the most satisfying episodes. I mean, I’m crazy about episodes like “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play“, both of which are really just there to mess with our minds and give us a little scare, but I have a soft spot for the stories that take a character who thinks he’s a loser, who thinks he hasn’t made a difference, and then—through the magic of the Twilight Zone and Serling’s sensitive writing—learns that he matters, that he’s here for a reason, that things can be better. I want to pick those characters up and help them, so when I see Serling do it, it inspires me to want to do the same.
Huh, so much for my in-depth analysis….
It’s clear you both enjoy blogging. Wendy, I know you do commercial art (and a “fine” job you do at it, too, pardon the pun…), and Paul, I know you’re a writer and editor for non-profit, but are there other forms of expression: a) you’re already doing, and b) you’re not, but would like to do?
Paul: I have a great interest in film and its effect on our perceptions of right and wrong. I’ve been writing a book in my head on that topic for a long time. I’d also like to dive a little deeper into the films of Alfred Hitchcock, another great favorite of mine. I want to do the Serling book first, though, because it’s the one that most wants to come out. I’m also interested in writing screenplays, which hardly makes me unique, but I do have a strong interest in writing at least one story that makes it to the big screen. However, the most near-term “form of expression” I’d like to mention is the Twilight Zone podcast I’ll be doing with Wendy. I view it as the next logical step in my efforts to bring greater attention to Serling’s work and increase appreciation for it. I started with a Twitter page, added a blog, a Facebook page, and a Pinterest page. It’s a good time to start a podcast. And having Wendy as my co-host is key. She already helps me do my best work on the blog, and I’m convinced she’ll do the same for the podcast. We’ll drill down into specific episodes and just have some fun with it. I’m really excited about it!
Wendy: I’m also very excited for the podcast. I hope everyone is ready to hear the Boss and his Gal Friday banter back and forth! Right now art and writing are the only things I’m doing, but I’d really like to combine the two someday. Eventually I too would like to compile a book. I’m interested in so many different things, and I love books with a lot of pictures and tons of information. I’d like to do something maybe even a bit encyclopedic, combining art of all varieties, artists, writers, etc., all together in the same book. I wouldn’t exactly call this a “dream”, but it’s something that interests me. In the shorter term (and blog related, sorry!), in addition to our podcast, Paul and I are currently working on a joint blog post I’ll be featuring soon on Seeker of Truth. He’ll be my first (and only!) guest blogger! It combines TZ and art — my art, to be exact. Very excited to have Paul join in and do this with me!
What do you two like to read, are currently reading?
Wendy: As far as fiction goes, I very much enjoy supernatural-based series. Bring me a book about a vampire and I’ll read it! Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” were good, and my favourite author Kelley Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series (which sadly ended last year) was magnificent. I’m currently working my way through Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter” series (it’s a long one—more than 20 books), as well as reading your The Uninvited, Frank! I don’t have a lot of time to devote to fiction anymore, but I read a lot of non-fiction in the form of books about history. I study Egyptology, The Crusades/Templars, mythology, artists, etc. I have an amazing library filled with books about anything you’d ever want to learn. And I love my Encyclopedia Britannica set! I’ve had my nose stuck in those since I was about six years old.
Paul: I’m a big fan of the classics. Anything from Poe to Hawthorne to Verne to Dumas, I’m there. I also enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers. I have a growing collection of paperbacks from the “pulp” sci-fi era, ones with stories by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, and I really enjoy those. I’m also a big reader of history and of anything that goes behind the scenes of movies and TV shows that I’m a fan of. My collection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, is prodigious. It’s crazy, how many books I own. I enjoy reading on my Kindle, but there’s nothing like a real book. The feel of it, the smell of it, the look of it.
Thanks for the kind mention, Wendy! Is there anything else burning inside either of you with a need for expression?
Wendy: Oh, there’s always something else that’s burning inside. But the need for expression is very time-sensitive. And for me? It’s just not the right time to share that yet. Spoilers! Ask me again ten, fifteen years down the road.
Paul: You can ask me then as well, actually. I’m such an extrovert that there’s little that goes unexpressed, but some things need to stay private, at least for the time being. There’s a time and a place for everything. Now’s not the time. But thanks for asking.
If you were to each have a gravestone, what would you have engraved upon them?
Wendy: Front: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Back: “Next stop…Willoughby.”
Paul: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” That’s the inscription on the statue of Horace Mann in TZ’s “The Changing of the Guard.” It’s so easy to just mark time on this earth, when God really intends for each of us to accomplish something important—if we’re willing to listen and work for it. I find that saying to be wonderfully inspirational, so I’d like to share it posthumously with anyone who sees my gravestone.
Thanks for your time, Paul and Wendy!
Paul: And thank you, Frank, for inviting us. It’s been fun!
Wendy: A lot of fun! Thanks, Frank!
Paul and Wendy’s Social Media: