Friday, October 26, 2012

Rod Serling and Charles Beaumont

by   From Forces of Geek

When Rod Serling entered a Los Angeles party in 1959, a young writer named Charles Beaumont approached him and said that Serling’s most recent teleplay, The Velvet Alley, about a Hollywood writer who lets success get in the way of his better judgment, “...was the worst piece of writing I’ve ever seen.”

Serling responded with a smile, but made note of Beaumont’s brazen honesty.


A writer of fantasy and science fiction, Beaumont’s early life was just as odd as the fiction would later become known for.

He was born Charles Nutt on January 2, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois. Suffering from a severe case of meningitis, Beaumont was forced to rely on his imagination and tales of science fiction as a way to deal with his isolation. An abusive mother oversaw much of his childhood; a woman who frequently dressed him in girls' clothes and who once killed one of her son’s pets as punishment. 

At the age of twelve, he moved to Everett, Washington to be raised by four aunts, women whose idea of fun was to fake their own deaths in order to see the boy’s reaction. It is no wonder Beaumont’s sense of humor would forever run toward the macabre. 

Arriving in Los Angeles, Beaumont worked every kind of job imaginable before selling his first story in 1950. In 1955, Playboypublished his controversial story called The Crooked Man, which took place in a dystopia where heterosexuality was stigmatized in the same way homosexuality was in the 1950’s. 

Rod Serling had been contracted to write 80% of all Twilight Zone episodes, but wanted to open up the remaining 20%.

Producer Buck Houghton arranged a screening of the pilot episode for Twilight Zone for professional writers of science fiction and fantasy in hopes of acquiring some quality talent for the show. Beaumont loved the pilot. He began pitching idea after idea to both Serling and Houghton, many of which were his own already published stories.

Hiring him on a freelance basis, Serling felt that Beaumont’s Velvet Alley comment had helped set the foundation for their relationship, both professional and personal, as one of honesty and professional respect from one writer to another. 

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Peter L. Winkler said...

Great little article. Thanks.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Nice article, Mr. Gorman. I'd never heard of Charles Beaumont or his fantasy and sf writing. Thanks for sharing this piece.

Mathew Paust said...

Amazing story. His name is vaguely familiar. I've never been a sci fi fan, but I might have come across a story or two of his in perhaps Playboy, to which I subscribed as a yout' -- for the stories, of course. For some reason Beaumont and Gahan Wilson strike a harmonic in my recollection -- minor chord, of course.

Mathew Paust said...

I just finished reading the piece. Almost fell out of my chair when I came to the end and learned Beaumont died at age 38 of early onset Alzheimer's. Whew.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Alzheimers at 38. Hard to believe the diagnosis could be accurate.