In between sessions of Pokemon Go this weekend, I have been researching my family tree. Heady stuff, that is, especially when you find you had a cousin (first, once removed!) who was a rather large presence on television in the 70’s and 80’s. Turns out I’m related to the late actor, Charles Aidman.
Charles was my mother’s first cousin, and she remembers when he would come over to the house to play with the other “firsts” as the group was known. My mom was the only girl, and her nickname was “The Pest.” Charles was the best looking of the group, my mom says swooningly, movie star good-looking. Growing up in Indiana, Charles was a direct descendant of Jewish immigrants from Russia. It was not the easiest of lives, compounded by the tragic loss of his younger brother Sanford, who died at age 18. Charles had planned on being an attorney, but a stint in the military left him heading for Indiana University, where he caught the acting bug after appearing in his first play.
Charles appeared off-Broadway, wrote songs, and directed in the theater before heading to Hollywood. My mom saw him last in Philadelphia, at the Theater-in-the-Round in the late 1950s (before I was around). He made several movies, including “Kotch” with Walter Mattheau, a version of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” (he was Basil Hallward), “Zoot Suit,” and the horror anthology “Alien Zone.” And speaking of zones – can you imagine anything more awesome for a nerd than discovering her cousin narrated the rejuvenated “Twilight Zone” of the 1980’s? I claim that awesomeness! Charles appeared in an episode of the original “Twilight Zone” in the 1950s, and narrated “The Twilight Zone” from 1985 to 1987.
Television was where Charles truly made his mark; looking at his IMDB page I don’t think there was a popular TV show of the times that he didn’t appear in: “Dallas,” “Knots Landing,” “Quincy M.E.,” “Kolchak,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Magnum P.I.,” M*A*S*H,” “Kojak,” “The Rockford Files,” “Wild Wild West” (in a recurring role, no less!) and even “Little House on the Prairie.” The sad thing is, as a kid I didn’t really pay too much attention to him, although I was as glued to television back then as much as I am now. I do remember seeing him, of all things, in an episode of the horror anthology “Circle of Fear,” when I was about 11. It scared me quite thoroughly (that’s one series I’d love to find on DVD) and could explain why I didn’t hunt him down more frequently. (Why my mother let me watch certain things when I was little baffles me, especially as I was not allowed to watch “Star Trek” in its original run because “it was on too late” and it was “too scary.” With the knowledge of hindsight, I think she was man-crushing on William Shatner and didn’t want me to notice.)
Charles unfortunately died rather young, at age 68, before fandom and convention frenzy ever appeared on the horizon. I’d like to imagine he’d have been a big hit on the con circuit, given his television cred. I would have loved to have been his “booth babe.” I like to imagine that he’d quite approve of what I was doing now, writing and reviewing in the entertainment industry. I wonder what he’d make of social media and live tweeting.
The beauty of genealogy research is that you really do find there is only “six degrees of separation” between you and a whole lot of people you could never have even imagined. I am grateful for my heritage, and for knowing I had a genuine star dangling on my family tree. Here’s to the memory of Charles Aidman – shine on, Cuz!