FLIGHT FROM THE PAST
March 26th, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rod in action at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001. 
Photograph courtesy Jay Hagan.

A Thought for Today

Be tender when you bid a friend goodbye. Who knows when or if you'll meet again.

 

Rod is on the road for a couple of weeks and will be back with you at the beginning of September.

SOME OF THE BEST: 20 April 1999

Rod,

Last year in response to a request you published your Martini recipe and in the same installment spoke about your Sinatra concert at Carnegie Hall. I'd like to read it again.

Thanks, Ned Baron

ASK ROD

Some days the mail is predictable, at other times it's very unusual. But I read it all and answer as much of it as I can. There's no rhyme or reason to when mail gets answered, so if you've missed seeing your letter come back again and I'll probably get to it. Actually your letter may have already been already been answered so check out the archives. Usually I do mail on Mondays and Tuesdays.

AN AMERICAN IN LONDON

Dear Rod, I have known you -since forever- or at least a lifetime, a part that has stood still. Shall we meet to talk in another time? Another dimension?. I fancy that the Piazza Nirvana at sunset is the place. I travel far and wide with my soul and thoughts and your words have helped on some of those journeys. Thank-you. No- I'm not crazy, I'm a mother of 3 wonderful children, living in London and married to Michael- a doctor -for 15 years now. I was a nurse. I am American. I am one of no doubt many who are looking still. - Hello. It was so good to find you on the Internet. I would find it so heartwarming if you could answer me- or maybe can I take you to the Tate next time you're in London? I wish you "vintage wine in every Coca-Cola glass" Bye for now Candy

Dear Candy, You've managed to marry, settle down and raise a family in one of my favorite world cities. I long ago gave up counting the trips I've made to London and on several occasions I've taken up residence to work and play there. I've been to the Tate many a times, though never enough, so I'll try to take you up on your offer the next time I'm in London Town. Cheers and thanks, Rod

MARTINIS & MEMORIES

I am so excited about finding your web site. It is wonderful! You
were/are a major influence in my life, my only complaint is that I have lost the opportunity to play LP's and am now in the hell hole of CDs. Thank you for opening my eyes to the wonderful covered eyes of sheepdog, learning and later losing the love of a wonderful friend, and I would kill for the perfect martini recipe.

By the way I am also involved in AIDS and other infectious diseases. Please visit my web site safety1stmedical.com. Thank you for re-appearing after all of these years. Craig Wilhelm


Dear Craig, Thanks for the note. I will check out your website. What you're doing is important work. All of us have lost too many friend to what I've termed "The Terrible "A's"; AIDS, Alzheimer's, Alcoholism and addictions of all kinds.

I enjoy LP's & CD's in equal measure. We sell nearly as many LP's at Stanyan as we do CD's. For continuous playing, I think LP's with all their clicks and ticks, are easier on the ears.

So you don't have to kill for the 'Perfect Martini Recipe,' here it is.

3 parts Gin / 1 part Vermouth / dash of bitters / fresh lemon peel.

As ever success is in the details. The glass must always be chilled, the shaker too, And keep your favorite gin inside the freezer along with the martini glasses. Don't use cheep gin or exotically flavored stuff: Booths. Boodle's, Bombay Sapphire, Tanquery and Gordon's are all good. Try to lay your hands on the Gordon brand that's bottled in London. French Vermouth (Noillly Prat) is fine, though I like the Italian brands: Martini & Rossi, Cinzano and lately, Botsstere . . . . which is probably as French as it is Italian. Bitters are bitters.

Place four or five ice cubes in a solid metal cocktail shaker [a glass shaker is OK but metal is better, because it stays colder longer.] Add the gin, vermouth & a dash of bitters. Shake the shaker vigorously, about 35 times, then let rest for 30 seconds or so while you prepare the glass. Rub a fresh lemon peel around the rim of the glass, drop a stuffed olive [or don't] in the bottom and gently pour your martini mixture over it. Enjoy. You will.

The above recipe is for what I call 'the Weekend Martini.' For weeknights I suggest 2 parts gin / 1 part vermouth. If you'd rather have a Vodka martini use Holland's Ketle One, Grey Goose from France or Sky from the USA. Absolute's good too, besides I like their ads.

Jana Eiche has recently turned me on to The Tall Blonde brand of vodka from Estonia. Itís the cleanest, clearest vodka Iíve ever seen and the taste is quite unusual. The infamous martini I made onstage at the recent Riverton, Wyoming concert was made of Tall Blonde and the band killed what was left of the bottle while they were packing up their instruments.

New brands of vodka seem to appear almost weekly. Many of them quite distinctive. Recent worthwhile additions include Chopin, made (naturally) from Polish Potatoes and Prolewska, also originating in Poland but distilled from grain.

WARNING: It didn't take The Surgeon General to determine that drinking alcoholic beverages before & while driving or operating heavy machinery is not healthy & pretty stupid. It may also impair your ability at line dancing. Also: If your girlfriend is pregnant or your boyfriend belligerent, don't tempt her/him with Martini's . . . better still, don't get your girlfriend pregnant in the first place. And, Psst, weed out those belligerent friends. Best Regards Craig, Rod

THE HAUNTING III

Dear Rod, Twenty-eight years ago, I was working in an office in Pretoria, South Africa. A DJ on one of our radio stations had been playing cuts from your Carnegie Hall Album every Saturday morning. I loved it and tried to track it down. It wasn't available in this country and I had to order it When the Post Office informed me it had arrived, I could hardly contain myself; I had to wait for my lunch break before I could collect it. The girls in the office had heard, ad nauseum, about this 'Rod McKuen' - I'd even told them that I knew what you'd look like even though I'd never seen a picture; they laughed. I took my pack of 30's and made a few quick pencil sketches of a man sitting on a stool with a microphone - next to him, a pair of sneakers...and I said 'that's what he looks like'.

I had truly never seen a photo of you or even heard a description. When I came back from the Post Office, I still remember the excitement of opening the cardboard wrapping, then the bubble plastic and finally, gently taking the album out. Only one of the girls was in the office with me (the others were still out - at lunch) - her name was Corrie and she looked at the cover and said: 'Shame, he doesn't look anything like your drawing.' Of course, when I took off the plastic seal and opened the album up - there you were, on a stool. I know I was as stunned as she was and the sneakers were a puzzle for a long time.

Don't ask me what the significance of this little story is. I can only tell you it is true and that I kept that cigarette packet for many years until it got lost in one of our many moves. I didn't think I'd ever get to tell you this.

Thank you for many, many years of thought provoking, comforting and thrilling words. I even got to see your performance in Johannesburg and have your autographs in the six books I'd bought up to that time. June, Cape Town, South Africa


Dear June, well you do live in South Africa. Got any WitchDoctor friends? Speaking of which, the last time I was in Botswana the local Witch Doc told me I'd be back. Hope he was right. And I hope your pack of 30's has been greatly reduced, or eliminated all together. Thanks for the nice letter and story. And, please say hello when I do come back to S. A., Rod.

THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

I felt so privileged the other night when I happened to find your web page. I was filled with so many wonderful warm feelings and special memories. All because of you. I loved the three record collection of the Complete Sea. They are still treasures to me. I own all of your books. They mean more than anything. I wonder what you are doing now. Are you still writing and recording? Are you happy? Do you have someone to share your life with? I hope so. No one deserves love more. Thank you so much Rod. With love from Canada, Margaret

Dear Margaret, Yes to all the questions asked above. Thanks for thinking of me and tracking me down. Flattery at my age is always welcome and yes I still know how to blush. Love, Rod.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

I last saw you in Atlantic City, Miss America weekend. You were a judge. I gave my out stretched hand for a shake at the end of the concert and you pulled me upward and gave me a kiss, making my sister envious. We miss your Birthday concerts...like Lincoln Ctr. Unicycle Oranges! You always made me feel good...love Mr. Bojangles sung by you. My daughter loves Barry Manilow and she is 18 yrs. old ...we saw him last wk at Carnegie Hall (saw you there too). He is singing Sinatra so kids like my Jamiann can be exposed to this style of music or should I say music with style! Please Rod I want Jami to see you too....give us a concert date. I've always loved John Denver too and we can no longer see him in concert, There is a lovely theater in Easton, PA only hour and one half from NYC ...THE STATE THEATER ...would love to see you there! Your long lost fan...Diane the cat lover.

Dear Diane, no one misses the birthday concerts more than I do. I played Carnage Hall again a couple of years ago as part of a week long Salute To Sinatra. It was a special thrill because I shared a dressing room with Jimmy Webb and the evening with Joe Williams, Nancy La Mott, Michael Feinstein, Jimmy, Vic Damone, the great songwriter Burton Lane and young John Pizzarelli who's filling the large footsteps of his legendary father, Bucky, very nicely.

It was an evening of the Old meeting the New that I'll never forget. Wade Alexander was with me and delighted about how familiar Michael was with Stanyan Records. Michael was at the elbow of the ailing Lane and sang beautifully to Lane's accompaniment at the piano. Jimmy, in great voice, premiered a new arrangement of "Didn't We" and we talked fondly of the old days when we worked demo-ing our songs in adjoining studios.

Vic was one of the first major artists to record one of my songs ["Very Warm" written with Richard Loring way back in the fifties.] We reminisced about that backstage and his recording of "I Never Go There Anymore," nearly twenty years later. I sang "Love's Been Good To Me" and "A Man Alone," both written for Frank.

The hall was filled to capacity and halfway through the show the air conditioning failed, but nobody left. At the time, probably none of us realized just how lucky we were to be a part of this salute to our friend and idol.

The evening was made even more memorable because it was the last public appearance of Burton Lane. He died shortly afterward, as did Nancy La Mott who was on the verge of leaving her mostly cult following with every chance at real stardom. Now we've lost the great Joe Williams, whose great voice never diminished.

Sinatra was still hanging on at the time and when I got back to LA he said: "I want a full report." I told him how well everything went and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Yes Diane, I miss performing very much. And, who knows maybe The State Theatre will be a stop off one of these days. Regards, Rod

Have a better than good evening and sleep warm.

- RM 4/19/99 - First published in Flight Plan 4/20/99

A 2001 UPDATE

Carnegie Hall has been booked for a birthday concert in 2003. While my natal date is the 29th Iíll be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my 40th Birthday Concert on April 30th, 2003 at Carnegie. Tickets go on sale one year in advance.
 

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

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Joan Allen o Connie Chung o Fred Durst o Art Farmer o Anatole Fistoulari o Rajiv Ghandi o Edgar A. Guest o Benjamin Harrison o Isaac Hayes o Peter Horton o Betsy Knowland o H.P. Lovecraft o Craig Nettles o Betsy Nolan o Robert Plant o Jim Reeves o Al Roker o Eero Saarinen o Eliel Saarinen o Kyra Sedguick o Jacqueline Susann o Jack Teagarden o Paul Tillich o Justin Tubb o Lurene Tuttle
Rod's random thoughts What this country needs is a good twenty-five cent quarter.

If you really want something, ask for it. The most confusing thing anyone can say to you is yes.

Life quartered, life divided, is not life at all.

STARGAZING

I'm floating
spread-eagled
held down by stars.
I want to believe you
because I want you
and so I believe
I do.

But what a wonder
you
closing on me and caring
saying that you care.
Stay
I'm coming over there.
Better
best.

I am floating
spread - eagled
lifted up by stars.

- from "Celebrations of the Heart," 1975

 
© 1976, 1980, 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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