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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Genius doesn’t need to jitterbug.


With all the running around I’ve been doing lately, learning new songs, recording, mastering and the rehearsals for tonight’s performance, my food intake has been a little ‘ragged.’

For instance yesterday I had a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast, drove to sound check with Edward where lunch consisted of an apple and a handful of cookies at the performer’s hospitality table. Driving home we stopped at The Abby where for dinner I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and a double order of fries (after an unbelievably bad martini). This was topped off with a too sweet chunk of lemon meringue pie.

Later after watching Night Gallery on the tube I downed a big mug of buttermilk heavily seasoned with salt and pepper before I hit the road to dreamland.

Imagine my delight to read in this morning’s LA Times that all of that wonderful cholesterol intake may just keep me from contracting Alzheimer’s. This means that while dying from hardening of the arteries, at least I’ll remember every piece of pie and jug of buttermilk that got me there.

On another health note (this one directed to the ladies) I’m sorry to advise you that the latest Journal of American Medicine contains a report that many of you who are taking estrogen pills will go blind. Let’s hope this will turn out to be as false as my old Boy Scout Manual’s edict that masturbation would accomplish the same trick. Had that been true I’d be on my sixth or seventh Seeing Eye dog by now.


Most of you know by now how much I love toys. Dress rehearsal for “Tap Your Trouble’s Away” is supposed to end tonight at 11:30 (I’m writing this Friday afternoon 11/9/01). So, I’ll go direct from the theatre to stand in line at Computer Associates in order to be one of the first to buy Apple’s new iPod which goes on sale at 12:01 AM.

For those of you still unfamiliar with the iPod it’s Apple’s new MP3 player that’s about the size of a credit card, weighs only ounces and holds 1000 songs. It’s a bit pricey but I owe myself a treat this week. Now, if The Powers That Be at Apple would send me a couple more of these gadgets (in my dreams) I could travel around with the lifetime of songs I’ve written in my hip pocket. Talk about an ego trip.

“Hey mister, would you like to hear my latest 42 caret creation?”

The iPod’s got fire-wire, an eight hour rechargeable battery and automatically downloads tunes from your Mac in seconds; and like all of Apple’s products of the past couple of years, the little feller’s cute too – all titanium and white enamel. Every time I open a magazine and see the foldout advertisement for it I start to drool. Gad, I’m sounding like an iPod shill.

I owe my love for the MP3 format to Professor Eric for dragging me kicking and screaming into this newest technology.

I’ll give you a full report on the new toy soon.


For some reason the song I’ve chosen to sing at tomorrow night’s gala is turning out to be one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to learn. I think it’s also the most beautiful one in the show. I was originally intended to perform “Before the Parade Passes By” but Jerry Herman wanted it sung by a female, he was right and Carol Cook will bring down the house with it. My song (I want to keep the title a surprise) is a much lesser known ballad and I’ve really grown to love it.

At yesterday’s sound check I was a basket case and screwed up what words I could remember, wish me luck on finally hog-tying this sucker’s words and whipping it into shape.

Why is it I had no trouble remembering Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining” and Kurt Weil’s “September Song” in last years shows but I stand every chance of wreaking havoc on the work of a composer very much alive and well who will be present for this performance?

Jerry and I are old friends but that could end abruptly if I screw this one up. When you’re singing tunes by talented dead guys you can always cover on the fly but living writers are not amused when one ad libs their lyrics. Rightly so. Sinatra once showed me a wonderful slightly faded telegram from Cole Porter that said. “Dear Frank: I’ll write ‘em, you sing ‘em. Love, Cole.” Porter was referring to a few substitute words Sinatra offered while performing one of his standards. Frank actually loved the admonition, not that it ever prevented him from singing any song his way.

FS was crazy about songwriters, so if he dropped an occasional “swingin’” into a song’s lyric it was an act of love. And Frank always, but always, prefaced each song he performed in his act with the writer’s name. It’s a kindness, an act of professionalism and a tradition that his son Frank Jr. continues to this day. Incidentally Frank, The Second is a walking encyclopedia of everything concerning popular music.

The Gala is sold out to the point that Edward had to buy 2 tickets for friends from a scalper at $500 bucks each. It is an incredible show with Wilson Cruz doing a reverse strip as one of the many show stoppers. After each doing their own individual turns Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Rita Moreno and Bernadette Peters (led by Mr. Herman, himself) field a quartet that leads the rest of us into the Grand Finale. The chances of ever seeing the likes of that ensemble harmonizing on a single stage again are minimal to none.

The hours draw on and there’s a final piece of pumpkin pie waiting downstairs with my name on it so before installing OSX.1 on my Mac, showering and dashing off to the theatre, I need to go down and grab a few memory bites.

Sleep warm and with visions of iPod’s dancing in my head I’ll see you on stage. Join me tomorrow for “Some of the Best.” This one’s about writing poetry and the featured poem in “Whistle Stops.”

RM 11/9/01 Previously unpublished.


There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.

When asked to define "great" he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.

-David Chinn

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Vanessa Angel o Bob Ashley o Marilyn Bergman o Richard Burton o Francois Couperin o Matt Craven o Donna Fargo o George Fenneman o Jane Froman o Oliver Goldsmith o Chris Joannou o Greg Lake o Dave Loggins o Martin Luther o J.P. Marquand o Billy May o Mackenzie Phillips o Claude Rains o Ann Reinking o Tim Rice o Jack Scalia o Roy Scheider o Johann Schiller o Pippa Scott o Karl Shapiro o Sinbad
Rod's random thoughts Old men were never young, older women always will be.

You win if you think you've won.

Silence like a scythe divides all reveries.


Finally no one lives here.
Echoes, wind, climate climbing
               or falling down -
rain rains while no one listens.
In the night, as in the day,
nothing moves, turns, climbs, runs,
               jumps, or even is caught
                         standing still.

Passion seeps
below the bedsprings
to the slats and imperfection
             in the sagging floor.
Truth hides back
behind some bolted door
        that no key fits.
At least not one I own
or loaned to me
and now in my possession.

Not even the legitimate lie,
if there is such a thing
        is bothered with,
trotted out and dusted off
to slide past silence
         into something.

Strangely I’m complacent,
not predisposed or looking.

Anxieties that I have lived with
day into night for years,
seem less important now.

This must be some new kind of peace -
                demanding nothing.

What I have done
was done deliberately.
I placed my sensibilities
       in some blind trust
like a presidential candidate
who takes his new influence sincerely.

I do not expect
that one day
        things will change
go back to what we’re told
                is normal.
( And what is normal
certainly one man’s definition
               is too simple
as a hundred guardians
of what they call normalcy
confuse, conspire and even
               trap the word
until it has no meaning).
There must be reasons
for this unnoticed disappearance
of nearly everything I prized.

Disappointment with myself
        is surely one,
another might be
some new culture
        that crept in
while all our backs were turned.
some new strain
that no vaccine has been
               invented for
must bear responsibility
for so many changes
or so much I cannot figure out.

I only know that even ghosts
would now call this land uninhabited.
Do not expect people or a poltergeist
to enter through an archway
or from behind a hidden panel.
Let go.
Do not be disappointed.
No keys are jangling
and no door is left ajar.

Figures. People maybe -
move about behind barred windows,
stalk as shadows
past drawn blinds
and newly shuttered screens.

Two nights past the last full moon
and all the streets
        are lunar landscapes.

-from Folio, 1974.

© 1974, 1984, 1988, 1999 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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