I noted with sadness yesterday the passing of George Clayton Johnson. George actually died on Christmas Day but I had not heard the news until catching up on the news after the holiday. I earned the right to call him George after meeting him at the 2009 Rod Serling Conference at Ithaca College. He was the keynote speaker and as chance had it he was staying in our hotel; I recognized him immediately in the hotel restaurant in the morning. How could one not with the way he always wore his trademark hat? I was speaking an hour later at the conference about George Beaumont and as I was making my opening remarks who walked in but George himself. I realized instinctively that the pressure was one–I was talking about the guy’s best friend. He really could have called me out on any b.s. I might have spouted. It meant the world to me that he liked my talk. He even worked a few of my points into his keynote speech that evening.
I was talking to our houseguest earlier in the week about the Twilight Zone episode “Ninety Years Without Slumbering,” in which the elderly protagonist will die should the old grandfather clock he has owned for his lifetime should stop ticking. George Clayton Johnson wrote the episode. Death was a common theme in Clayton’s work. “Ninety Years,” “The Four of Us are Dying,” “Kick the Can,” “A Game of Pool,” and “Nothing in the Dark” all have mortality and immortality as central themes. I have always loved the photo of the young GCJ standing with Robert Redford on the set of “Nothing in the Dark.” In his memoir New York in the 50s Dan Wakefield makes a strong case that Redford was too good-looking for his own good, never receiving his full due as an actor.
Mr. Johnson did so much besides the Twilight Zone. He wrote the first episode of Star Trek, reams of short stories, the novel Ocean’s 11, and collaborated on the book Logan’s Run. He was working on a sequel when he died. George Clayton Johnson’s death marks the end of a Twilight Zone era. He was the last of the Big Four that included Beaumont (1967), Serling (1975), Richard Matheson (2013), and now George Clayton Johnson. I am glad to have met him when I had the opportunity.
Don’t forget that New Years means the annual Twilight Zone marathon. Happy 2016, and give a thought to George Clayton Johnson.
(By JaSunni Productions, LLC, at PicasaWeb [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)