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A Thought for Today

Stick with me baby, and in twenty-one day’s it’ll be Christmas.



I have so many conflicting emotions on the month just past. While I was working almost non-stop friends were departing more quickly than I could count them, especially some greats connected with music.

The music world said goodbye to composer-arranger Ralph Burns (the two time Oscar winner and composer of “Early Autumn”) in November. Jazz impresario, producer and founder of Verve Records Norman Granz, who personally guided the long career of Ella Fitzgerald, died at 83. Big band singer O. C. Smith was taken from us and other musicians including Tommy Flanagan, Panama Francis and Jerry Jerome took their final bows. And, on the last day of the month, popular music lost the quiet innovator George Harrison, who died much too young at 58.

While juggling recording, rehearsals and writing I was part of an all-star salute to Jerry Herman early in the month and sang and spoke at a memorial service for my old friend Jay Livingston. Jay, in a lifelong musical partnership with Ray Evans, co-wrote “Buttons & Bows,” “Mona Lisa,” “Silver Bells",” “Dear Heart,” ”Que Sera, Sera” and dozens of other standards.

I had nearly forgotten that in the first week of September I was interviewed for a PBS documentary on the musical life of Petula Clark. That special has already started airing around the country.

My apologies to those of you in Detroit, Sacramento, Norfolk, Hawaii, Milwaukee, Chicago and Arkansas for not getting this schedule to you sooner. Alas, as you’ll note from the schedule below, The Clark PBS special has already aired in your areas. It plays again tonight in South Carolina and there is a repeat broadcast on the 8th in St. Louis. (For a full listing of play dates see the letter further down in the column.)

Next year those stations listed plan to air it again and nearly all the North American PBS channels will play it four months from now during the next Pledge Drive.

All of the above and more prevented me from giving a running tally of my activities in the Flight Plan, but fortunately some of last month’s unanswered (till now) mail helps explain a lot of it.


Rod: I was watching a special on Petula Clark over the weekend on PBS and there you were! I enjoyed the interview very much. You’re looking good these days. Love Judy Hearn, Chicago

Dear Rod, What a treat to see you interviewed about Pet Clark. I wish they had included a segment where you sang together. I can’t complain since I missed you in your concert earlier this year, this rare McKuen sighting was just what the doctor ordered. Karen Knight, Detroit

Dear Judy & Karen, See it pays to watch your local Public Broadcasting Station. I haven’t seen the finished concert or the documentary yet since it doesn’t play on our local outlet KOCE until next week. Thanks for the ‘heads up.’ Luv, Rod


Hi Rod: I received my monthly e-mail newsletter form PBS, and found the following.

Taped at the acclaimed Virginia Arts Festival, this program includes classic hits of international singing star Petula Clark, songs from her film and stage career, and some of her own compositions. (CC, Stereo)

This biography chronicles the extraordinary life of singer Petula
Clark, featuring the stories behind her ever-popular upbeat
music, including the Grammy-winning signature song, "Downtown." (CC, Stereo). Cheers, Alex Butler

Dear Alex, Both shows are coming out on DVD & Video after the first of the year and are available from PBS immediately for a pledge. The soundtrack album from the concert is already in stores. Below is a press release with details on where the show has played, and is playing, that I just received from Jim Pierson. Jim is currently shepherding Petula around the country for appearances in connection with the shows.


Rod: Here’s the rundown and Press Release on Pet’s tour and the play dates for her PBS specials. Happy holidays, Jim.

NEW PBS PLEDGE SPECIAL with guests Lou Rawls & Richard Carpenter

Bonus documentary "Petula Clark: This Is My Song," including an interview with Rod McKuen and a clip of Petula performing Rod's "Wind Of Change" from his 1971 BBC TV series, will also air on select stations and to appear on home video and DVD release "Petula Clark - A Sign Of The Times" (MPI Home Video).

Petula will be making in-station appearances to promote "A Sign of the Times" at these PBS affiliates, check your local TV listings for more details:

11/28 - Norfolk (WHRO - 8:00 & 10:00 PM., 12:00 & 2:00 AM
12/1 - Detroit WTVS, Ch. 56, 9:00 PM
12/1 - Sacramento KVIE - 2:30 PM
12/1 - South Carolina Public Broadcasting 6:00 PM
12/1 - Norfolk repeat broadcast, 8:30 PM
12/2 - Hawaii PTV- 8:00 PM
12/2 - St. Louis KETC, Ch. 9 -11:00 PM
12/2 - Milwaukee WMVS - 3:00 PM
12/2 - Chicago WTTW, Ch. 11 - approx. 8:40 PM
12/3 - Philadelphia WHYY, TV-12 8:00 PM
12/3 - Arkansas Public Television AETN 9 PM
12/4 - Baltimore Maryland Public TV - 8:00 PM
12/4 - South Carolina PBS (repeat broadcast, 9:30 p.m.)
12/4 - Rhode Island PBS Station (Rhode Island/Fall River/Mass-Cape Cod areas -Channel 36- 9:00 p.m.)
12/4 - Toledo (WGTE - CH.30 - 11:00 p.m.)
12/5 - Washington, D.C. (WETA - 8:00 p.m.)
12/6 - New York/Long Island (WLIW, Ch. 21 - 7:30 p.m.)
12/7 - Plattsburgh, NY/Montreal - (WCFE-Mt. Lake PBS, 8:00pm)
12/7 - San Bernardino, CA (KVCR - 9:30 p.m.)
12/7 - West Virginia Public Broadcasting
12/8 - Boston (Ch. 44 - 3:00 p.m.)
12/8 - Reno (KNPB - 7:00 p.m.)
12/8 - St. Louis (KETC, Ch. 0 - repeat broadcast, 11:00 p.m.)
12/8 - Grand Rapids (11 p.m.)
12/8 - Erie, PA (WQLN) 8:00 p.m.
12/11 - Memphis (WKNO) 7:00 p.m.
12/12 - Los Angeles/Orange County, CA (KOCE, Ch. 50 - 8:00pm
12/12 - Indianapolis (WFYI) 9:00 p.m.
12/15 - Springfield, MO (Ozarks PTV - KOZK - 10:00 p.m.)
* - Dallas (KERA, air date TBA)

Dear Jim, Thanks for the schedule. Hang in there on the tour and come back safely, Rod.


Dear Rod, You may not remember me, I was the one who told you the last time I saw you was at Marine World Africa USA. I wanted to thank you for your time and allowing me to have my picture taken with you. For a fifty four year old man, I am too old to be a groupie :). But if you need anyone to carry your bags I'm there. You were very kind and genuine. You told me about 2003 7.0 I'll be there and looking forward to 8.0 also. Once again thank You, Bob Croft

Dear Bob, “Tap Your Troubles Away” was lots of fun and I’m glad you liked it. I’m considering the 2003 Carnegie Hall 7.0 Concert as “The 30th Anniversary of the 40th Birthday Concert". Maybe it should be titled “From Blonde to Platinum.” That’s right, as you could tell when you saw me last month my hair isn’t gray it’s platinum.

Tickets go on sale this coming May nearly a full year before the event. As for 8.0 from your lips . . . Don’t be surprised if I take you up on your luggage carrying offer. Cheers, Rod

Dear Rod, What song did you sing for the show on the 10 of November? I thought you would tell us all about it. How is the new toy? Is it difficult, or a piece of cake? I want you to know, you are the Cats Meow. Lola

Dear Lola, I ended up singing a marvelous song I was totally unfamiliar with before David asked me to perform it. The song “Look Over There” is from the musical “La Cage Aux Follies” and it deserves to become a standard. Incidentally the concert was recorded and the soundtrack CD will come out next year.

As for the new toy: Apple’s iPod? Hubba, Hubba! It’s terrific and very user friendly. I already have over 400 songs on it. Read the following letters for more information on “Tap Your Troubles Away.” Meow, as ever, Rod.

Dear Rod, Congratulations on the rave review of “Tap Your Troubles Away” received in the Los Angeles Times. Were there any other reviews? Tony Kaplan, Pasadena

Dear Tony, Thank you. I received the following E-mail from Wade:

Posted by rpschnei on November 12, 2001 at 13:13:07:

“Angela Lansbury said, "I've always wanted to do this," and began singing "Hello, Dolly.” After a few verses, an unmistakable voice over the sound system cried out "Someone's singing my song!" It was Carol Channing, who then entered and proceeded to sing "Mame." This was the finale of the Actor's Fund Jerry Herman tribute in LA on Saturday night, and like the rest of the show, was a mix of the sublime and ridiculous, as most of these benefits are. To have Angela and Carol on stage reliving past glories, worked.

I've read that Carol fell earlier in the day, but at first I thought the
cast on her arm was just another one of her eccentric outfits. During the "Best of Times" sing-along and homage to Jerry Herman, she had to thump her leg instead of clapping because of the injury.

It would take forever to list all the performances, but there were definite highlights. They also dug deep into the Jerry Herman catalog and featured a lot of music that wasn't overly familiar.

It was nice to see Ann Miller and Janis Paige (even though all they did was nod graciously) during the "We Need a Little Christmas" number. Rod McKuen did a brilliant version of "Look Over There" from "La Cage." (Note : Rod, wish I could have seen THAT!....W.)

Jason Graae brought the house down with "You I Like" from "The Grand Tour." Nancy Dussault sang "Where in the World is My Prince" from the Las Vegas show that never happened--"Miss Spectacular." Leslie Uggams also brought the house down with "If He Walked Into My Life."

I particularly enjoyed Charlotte Rae doing "Chin Up, Ladies," a song I haven't seen done in 30 years since Molly Picon was
touring in "Milk and Honey." Ken Page closed out the first act singing "I Am What I Am."

The second act was filled with showstoppers. Although divas usually take center stage at these things, the men really bloomed in the second act. Davis Gaines sang, "Song in the Sand," Douglas Sills hammed his way through:"I Promise You A Happy Ending" (less is more)

(Rod, note: J. Foster is a doing a workshop of a new musical with Douglas Sills in the lead in January.....W.)

Hugh Panaro sang an exquisite "It Only Takes a Moment," and Sam Harris blew the roof off with "I Don't Want to Know." These men should all be on Broadway right now. (Note: Especially Rod McKuen. -W.) ? -W

Other Highlights: Rita Moreno did a club act version of "I Won't Send Roses," that was great. Carole Cook eschewed her trademark comedy and did a straight version of "Before the Parade Passes By." Lee Roy Reams still does a great "La Cage Aux Folles."

The evening ended with the presentation of an Actor's Fund award (a music box that played "Hello, Dolly") to Jerry Herman by Angela Lansbury. All in all, quite a night.”

(Note: sure sounds like it... W.)


Hello, you handsome devil, we all made it home, safe and sound. (, anyway – our soundness has always been debatable.)

Your song was great. Maybe it'll find a place on one of your new CD's. Hint, hint. I swear, when you walked out on the stage, I heard Nan whisper, "Life is good", just like she always did. And it's true.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I don't think you realize how much joy you have given us over the years. Last night is one more reason to smile. Thank you, 1/4 of the McQuartet, Ann

Dear Ann, Having you, Sonja, Keith and Rev. Dave there meant everything to me. It’s still hard to believe that Nan is no longer with us, especially today since it’s her birthday. Her vibrancy coupled with that quiet as a mouse voice is missed and loved. As ever, Rod


Hi Rod, It was good seeing you last night at the Livingston event. I emailed Richard Weize at Bear Family and asked him to send you a DeCastro Sisters CD with "Flowers on a Hillside," so hopefully he will. (If not, it's readily available here...)

I spoke to Cherie this afternoon and told her I'd seen you last night and that you didn't know the song was out. She said that it was their father's very favorite song and recording out of
everything they ever did and that when he was old and sick he would play it constantly. Take care and hope to hear from you....Best, Alan Eichler

Dear Alan, Seldom have I been to a memorial service that was as warm and full of love as that for our old friend Jay Livingston. Too many legendary musical figures left us this past year. I enjoyed offering my thoughts on stage with Michael Finestein, Corky Hale, Red Buttons and Army Archard. It was great too to see so many old friends like Donald Kahn and The Bergman's. Thanks for introducing me to Monica Lewis.

“Flowers on a Hillside” is one of my oldest songs and one of the first to be recorded by a major record act. I love The DeCastro Sisters’ version of it. Great seeing you Alan & we’ll talk soon. All the best, Rod.

P.S. If you're curious, Monica Lewis has an interesting website at


My Rod McKuen Platinum Collection arrived today. I've had a very enjoyable evening listening to it - finding some old songs I haven't heard in many years. Thank You! Emily

Dear Emily, I just spent the day with Dwight autographing books and discs that folks have ordered for Christmas. In addition to The Platinum Collection this year’s best-sellers include, A Safe Place to Land, Early Harvest, The Power Bright & Shining, Posters, T Shirts, Dusty & Rod video and Christmas Discs by Louis Armstrong, Crosby, Sinatra and The Stanyan Brass.

I’m not surprised at the number of LP’s we’re selling. Album sales have doubled since a year ago. Dwight’s working overtime to get all the orders out before the holidays and says it’s still not too late to order. With affection, Rod

Throughout the month I’ll be featuring poems from past Christmas Cards. Today is the verse I sent out in 1969. Please join Webmaster Ken Blackie tomorrow for “This One Does It For Me". I’ll see you on Thursday. Sleep warm.


Today it belongs to Bob Gentry. Here’s an e-mail I got from him last week.


“uh, i found a dead guy last night...i was in our studio playing the piano...heard a big bang (sounded more like a pop)...went outside...and saw a car literally wrapped around a telephone pole...i went closer to see if i could help....but there was nothing i could do.....ended up calling 911. Very freaky night how was yours? Bob”

Obviously better than yours Bob, and that is the FINAL word.

RM 12/3/2001 Previously unpublished

notable birthdays Max Baer, Jr. o Tyra Banks o Pappy Boyington o Jeff Bridges o Horst Bucholz o Samuel Butler o Freddy Cannon o Thomas Carlyle o Ronnie Corbett o Dena Dietrich o Deanna Durbin o Francisco Franco o Wassily Kandinsky o Wink Martindale o Lila McCann o Alex North o Lillian Russell o Jozef Sabovcik o Marisa Tomei o Dennis Wilson

And looking heavenward, Happy Birthday and love, Nan Peden.

Rod's random thoughts This Holiday Season don't forget the women and men serving our country overseas.

Alas the fire wanes and waxes, not even smoke is everlasting.

I wish you Christmas every time you close your eyes.


Because I love the sound of bells
I haunt the churchyards all year long
no matter where I might be traveling.

Because true hilly makes me smile
I wait for Christmas just like Children.
And I wait for children too.

Because September travels slow
I catch it while I can
and hold it over for another month or two.

Because this year I’m poor again
I’ve written you another Christmas poem
made with last year’s love and next year’s too.

- from “Twelve Years of Christmas,” 1969

© 1959, 1974, 1999, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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