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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

SING OUT! Don't die with all of your songs still inside of you.

 

RUMORS ARE FLYING

Dear Rod, I suppose you know that rumors about your concert next Saturday night in Wyoming are running a bit rampant on and off the net. . . everything from the fact that you might be broadcasting from a balloon and that you’ll be going ballooning every morning at 6:30 AM for a week to the one about you driving from Los Angeles in a vintage Mercedes.. What about the “totally different look that you’ve assumed?” In the chat room someone said that a planeload of celebrities are flying in and the theatre has been completely redesigned to fit your needs. Have you shaved off your beard? There are supposed to be new songs and special “T” shirts. Any hints about all this? What will be on sale at the concert? Joe

Dear Joe, I’ve heard rumors too and I’ll have to take The Fifth on most of them, I mean why spoil all the fun? 

The theatre has been refurbished and redesigned, but not because of me. I will be the first attraction to play in this “new and improved” venue and they’ve got crews working around the clock to make sure all the changes are completed in time, but I just had the luck of the draw to be the first act to play there. As for the celebrities, a balloon full maybe. I will be flying every morning I’m in town, wanna go up?

Merchandise? Three different styles of T Shirts, “The Platinum Collection” & “Listen to the Warm” CD’s will be sold and so will copies of the new book. And yes, this time they have all arrived safely and are waiting at the hall.

As for any other surprises including some you might have mentioned, come and see for yourself Regards, Rod

PHYLLIS DILLER

Last Friday night The A&E TV Network had an excellent biography of Phyllis Diller and there you were. What an unexpected surprise to see you looking so well and happy.
Looking forward to your concert in Riverton and I hope I can make it to Santa Fe. Best wishes, Cynthia Myres 


Dear Cynthia, The original Phyllis Diller biography had its first run about a year ago and I was looking forward to catching the show again. Phyllis has had a varied career, an even more interesting life and we’ve known each other since a year or two before forever so I’m always thrilled to see her over a drink or even on the tube. Naturally I got busy, forgot all about it and missed the program completely.

“Summer Reruns” are about to become a very important part of my life. With the exception of Saturday’s when I’ll make every attempt to print new ‘love letter’s unsent’ this will be my last original Flight Plan for about six weeks. I’ve got a couple of concerts, several pending book signings and quite a few other things planned on my upcoming working vacation. I’ve been picking past flight plans (a new one for every day I’m gone) so that you can still tune in every day and find something I hope you’ll like.

Ken Blackie’s Wednesday Flight Plan will be drawn from his past work too, so he’ll get a little time off as well. Though with having to post a nightly FP it’s a stretch to say that he will have time off or anything resembling a vacation.

The past month has been busier than ever and I have a lot of things I’d like to write about, including an amazing week in Redding, more experiences with FSJ and other good and exotic things. And, that doesn’t even count answering all the Ask Rod mail (E & otherwise) that’s piling up around here. Still all of it will have to wait until September when I come off the road.

I know it sounds odd that with all that’s on my plate that I’ll still be making an attempt to share a weekly love letter with you, but that only goes to prove that no matter what’s going in our lives we still ought to make time for romance, even if it’s only on paper. It remains to be seen if I’m up to the challenge. Warmly, Rod.

ANOTHER PHYLLIS SIGHTING

I have loved Rod since the first time I discovered his poetry and song. As a student the highlight of my time at the University of Edinburgh was being able to afford to go to one of his concerts. I remember being so high up I felt dizzy (as I hate heights!) but I will never forget the memory. As someone who has and is going through depression I could understand that he has suffered from the same ailment.

It was this evening, watching the biography program on Phyllis Diller, that I was reminded about the impact he had on my life and the enjoyment he brought into it. I just wish him all the best. Regards, Alisa E. Campbell.


Dear Ailisa, Ken forwarded your letter to me. Thanks for all the nice thoughts. Tell you what, the next time I’m in Edinburgh for a concert it’ll be my treat for seats in the orchestra section. No more nosebleeds.

Sorry to hear about your bout with depression, but as you know it can be overcome. If I can kick Clinical Depression, anyone can. If you ever need to talk about it feel free to write me again. I’ll be away for the summer but then home for quite a stretch. 

We may even be related, Ailisa, since the Campbell Clan gobbled up the MacEwan/McKuen Clan long ago. Take care. With affection, Rod

THE CELEBRATION IN REDDING

Dear Rod, You are an amazingly wonderful person. I heard you speak in Redding last night. I was much moved by the entire experience. I am not gay, or of any ethnic background that would experience hate crime first hand, but it does happen in Redding, and it does affect me profoundly, as it does all of us. We need to be alarmed. Thank You. Life is short, Make it sweet! Lura

Dear Lura, I hadn’t planned to stay in Redding for as long as I did after the “Celebration of Life” event, but I wanted to get to know the town and the people who make it their home. And, of course I wanted to try and understand how these crimes happened.

Admittedly the second anniversary of the murder of two young men simply because they were lovers, the torching of temples of worship and the attempted fire bombing of a woman’s clinic is an odd reason to visit such a beautiful place. But the two very busy bigots who will go on trial for those crimes are hardly typical of the people I encountered in Redding last week or thirty years ago when I last gave a concert there.

Since the crimes they committed were done partly to flush into the open more of their own kind and instead helped to unify a city, fragmented like most others in our country, against people of their stripe.

Redding is a lovely, not so little town, peopled with caring folks. I can’t imagine a nicer place to live and work and bring up a family than this scenic, modern, Northern California city. As I said in my address that Sunday in the park “bigotry has no favorite stopping place, it shows its ugly self everywhere.” All of us have to stand up against hate wherever and whenever it happens.

In my own case the longer I’m allowed to live on this beautiful earth the more committed I become to using what celebrity I may have to help in the fight against hate and for more understanding. Thanks for your letter, Lura and remember all of our neighborhoods are only as good as we are willing to make them. Affectionately, Rod

THE BOOK SIGNING IN REDDING

Dear Rod, I just returned from a vacation to Oregon. If only I had known, I would have been at your book signing in Redding. We spent the night not too far away in Shasta. I am so disappointed that I missed it. 

Coincidentally, while I was in Ashland, Oregon I went into a used bookstore down a little alley. Right when you walk in the door, there was a little table with new arrivals. On the table were 3 of your books in beautiful condition. I bought them for my daughter who has been sharing the books you gave me so many years ago. I did buy some from Stanyan but somehow I like the older ones better. Now she has a good selection. 

If you ever do a book signing in the SF Bay Area, we'll bring them to get them signed. It would be great to see you again.
Sincerely, Carol O'Brien Stoddard 


Dear Carol, There’ll be lots of book signings in the future, old friend, and concerts too. This one happened on the spur of the moment and was arranged by my old friend Richard Kornfield because I was in town. Thanks for passing the word along to your daughter; I look forward to meeting her and seeing you again the next time around. As ever, Rod.

AND THE FIREWORKS

Hi, Rod; I have enjoyed visiting your web site and being pleasantly surprised that you wrote “Love's Been Good to Me”, a song that I can hear Frank Sinatra singing in my head, I’ve been so busy enjoying the music that I never took the time to get to know the author. Thank you for great, timeless melodies that simply soothe the soul. It was an honor and a pleasure for Larry and me to make your acquaintance. Gale Montgomery

Dear Gale, My turn to be surprised. Thanks for looking up my website and writing me. I hope it doesn’t take another year and a gorgeous fireworks display on the 4th for me to see you and Larry again. You sure make a handsome couple and, hey, if being the songwriter of “Love’s Been Good to Me” is still enough to impress a beautiful woman, things can’t be all bad. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have the singer of the century adding his modest (!) talent to a few of my compositions. With affection to you both, Rod.

FRANK SINATRA JR.

Loved your piece on Frank Sinatra, Jr. today ---- closest thing to being there. What a terrific review and tribute. You must send it to him! And when he records next, write his liner notes! W.

Dear Wade, Seeing FSJ in concert and getting to know him better is quite an experience and there were more than a few old friends in the orchestra. His management team is top flight, exactly what you’d expect from a man who all of his life has been exposed to the best. I really do hold Frank, the younger, in great esteem. Here in LA and on the road he’s made me feel part of the family in the very same way his dad first did all those years ago.

I wish I’d had the time to write a proper review of his performance (I hesitate calling it an act), but there will be many performances ahead. I’ve already started making plans to attend some of the concerts he’ll be doing with symphony orchestras in the fall. I feel every bit as committed to him and his career as I was to his father. Hearing and watching him sing “I’m Not Afraid” was something I’ll never forget.

Although it wasn’t intended for or featured in the show, during precious rehearsal overtime (with the full orchestra) he surprised me with a couple of wonderful run throughs of “If You Go Away.” Afterward he introduced me to the orchestra. That’s the kind of grand, unexpected friendship gesture that his dad was famous for and his regard for songwriters is every bit as real as that of FAS. 

On a personal level FSJ is a complex man. Honest, caring and the genuine article when it comes to integrity. I have to confess that as great as the concerts were, my favorite part of every night was sitting next to him after the show and talking about nearly everything but music. The guy’s an encyclopedia propelled by, but not confined to, the arts. Intelligent conversation is harder than ever to come by these days and so those nightly feasts were more than just culinary. R.

MORE FRANK

I was in Atlantic City last week staying at the Hilton and caught Frank Sinatra Jr.'s concert. Not only was the concert good, but when he introduced you, my heart just skipped a beat! I had thought about you and wondered what you were up to only about a month ago.

I have never written to anyone as a fan before as that is just not me, but I had to tell you how much seeing just a glimpse of you meant to me. My husband had no idea of even who you were, but I filled him in after the concert. 

As a teenager in the 60's, you filled my life with joy, poetry, appearance on the talk shows, your albums and books (I still have lots of them!) filled my life with expectation and joy beyond words. I was a member of "FOLIO" and still have all of the ones I received. I also must admit I had a terrible crush on you and just wanted to let you know how much you meant to me in my teens and twenties (I'll be 49 this month, so times does fly doesn't it?).

As soon as I got home I checked out to see if you had a website and was pleased you do. My question is two-part - Are there any plans for a calendar as you did years ago, and would you ever consider starting "FOLIO" again? I would be interested to know your thoughts. Well, that's it. So very pleased to see you. It truly made my day. Bonnie Wemyss


Dear Bonnie, You can imagine what a thrill it was for me to be introduced by Frank Jr., The last time I was accorded that kind of privilege was when his dad did the honors. I feel very lucky and happy these days.

The ovations from both Sinatra Sr. and Sinatra Jr.'s audience meant and mean so much to me because many of the people then and now heard their first McKuen song at a Sinatra concert or on a Sinatra record. Both men continue to inspire and support me as a songwriter and it doesn’t get any better than being able to carry on the love and friendship I shared with Sinatra the elder with the young keeper of the flame.

There’s been some talk recently about resuming the yearly calendar but I don’t expect that to happen before I get another tour or two under my belt.

Folio came about for two reasons; to provide scholarships for would be veterinarians through Animal Concern and to force me to write. There’s nothing like having a deadline four times a year to keep your writing chops active. Animal Concern no longer exists and thanks to this website I now have a daily deadline that keeps my mind and fingers in shape.

By the way, don’t forget to pick up a copy of FSJ’s new CD “As I Remember It.” (Angel 36681). The show is loosely based on the album but there is lots of different material featuring those great Riddle, May, Costa and Ralph Burns arrangements that FSJ inherited along with the talent. “Lonesome Road” is sensational and another real standout is Frank the younger’s version of “The Verse from Stardust.” Sinatra uses the same Don Costa arrangement his dad recorded, but the difference in interpretation shows just how much of his own man FSJ can be when he decides to let go. If this version of “Don’t Ever Leave Me” doesn’t touch you then you’re untouchable.

FSJ’s conductor Terry Woodson performs with the same understanding and acumen on the album as he does on stage. The album should have won Grammy’s for concept and sound alone, never mind the knowing, brilliant performance. You can expect a full review of the album when I return in September.

Thanks for the nice memories Bonnie, I’m glad we’ve been part of each other’s lives and I hope our interdependence continues. Luv, Rod McKuen

A REMINDER TO OUR FRIENDS IN EUROPE

Tomorrow night, July 17th & Wednesday the 18th Frank Sinatra Jr. will be in concert with The Woody Herman Orchestra in Pori Finland at the Sony Jazz Center. Both performances begin at 8:30. This space will continue to keep you informed on the upcoming Sinatra/Herman dates or you can check out the 7/12/01 FP for a complete list.

I hope you have a warm and relaxing summer and that I’ll be lucky enough to run into some of you in my travels. Be good to yourselves and each other. But again, don’t be a stranger to this address on the web, because it’s still your safe place to land and there will always be a surprise or two waiting for you. Sleep warm.

RM 7/15/01 Previously unpublished

Rod McKuen concert and appearance details can be obtained via the link below.

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Ronald Amundsen o Ruben Blades o Mindy Carson o Phoebe Cates o Jean-Baptiste Corot o Mary Baker Eddy o Corey Feldman o Michael Flatley o Barnard Hughes o Carmen Lombardo o Bess Myerson o Nancy Reagan o Corin Redgrave o Sir Joshua Reynolds o Ginger Rogers o Barry Sanders o Barbara Stanwyck o Sonny Tufts o Pinchas Zukerman
Rod's random thoughts Love objects cast long shadows.

To catch the wind, it isn’t necessary to erect a windmill.

Greatness lies within the individual, not within his comprehension of it.

JULY 16

Years from now we may not need 
to touch so often
          or roll together in the sand
or eat each other with our eyes.

It could be time will make it easy
to go together side by side
with not a single bedroom thought.

But now the elevator man nodding at you
as we step inside his four-by-four castle
makes me worry more than generals worry
when they lose a war.

- from "In Someone’s Shadow", 1968

© 1968, 1975, 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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