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Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

No time given to thought is wasted.

 

I’m resigned to never getting totally caught up on answering mail, but here’s another stab at it.

A GHOST FROM THE PAST

Dear Rod: I don't know if you remember me: Lynn Fuller, the former book buyer from the Diamond's/Dillard's days in Phoenix, Arizona. I certainly do remember you, every day for that matter. Your wonderful framed large letter for my 25th anniversary hangs in our bedroom and many times I read and re-read it.

I was often wondering what happened to you since I never hear anything about you. Do you still live in the Beverly Hills with lots of cats? This morning, and that is the reason why I just simply tried the Internet, I read a wonderful article in the Houston Chronicle by Celeste Bowman entitled "I still read Rod McKuen". If you would like to have it I will send it to you if you give me an address.

Anyway, this article is a love letter to you and very sweet. It brought memories back from our wonderful book signings. Yours were the most loyal fans I have ever encountered, bar none!

From your website I see that you are still giving concerts. Anything planned in Texas in the near future? We moved to Houston 8 years ago and really like it here. It is a very beautiful state with very nice people, basically. Of course there are many things strange about Texans and right now especially!

But all in all, we are very happy here. I found a new 'home' in a company, which distributes cookware from Germany and other related merchandise. Enough gab about me. I would love to hear from you if you feel like it. But mostly I am happy that you are still amongst us and obviously still doing your thing. Fondly, Lynn Fuller


Dear Lynn, Do I remember you? Are you kidding? Of course I do. Despite the little time for anything but signing a book tour affords, we had some good times, fine meals and great talks together. I always looked forward to you and Dillards. You really knew how to promote a book-signing event & I think we broke a few attendance records together.

Boy, how I wish you were still in Phoenix now that I have a new book out and haven’t a clue as to how to drum up a book tour. This is one I’m really proud of since I designed it myself and it includes two CD’s between its covers. Please write and tell me your street address so I can send you and Gar a copy. The book is selling seven and eight hundred copies a week through Stanyan’s mail order. I haven’t contacted any bookstores such as Borders or Barnes & Noble. Wouldn’t even know who to get in touch with online bookstores.

People are still amazed to find that I’m among the living since I’ve deliberately kept a low profile for the last 15 years or so. This is making it difficult for my concert manager Jerry Lonn to book concerts since most of the promoters who used to handle my appearance have all gone. In their place are much younger bookers who ask “Rod who?” Having sold out nearly every theatre, concert hall, nightclub, university, stadium or venue I appeared in doesn’t mean much since it happened decades ago. But you know me, Lynn, I bide my time knowing it will all happen again sooner or later.

You’re right about the loyalty of my fans, they are the best and now there’s three generations of ‘em.

So, no I can’t tell you when I’m coming to Texas. Hope it’s soon though because my audiences there have always been so enthusiastic. I did a couple of concerts earlier in the year and had a great time performing again. Next up is a concert and a hot air balloon rally in Riverton Wyoming on July 21st. At the end of June I’m off to Atlantic City to catch Frank Sinatra Jr.’s opening (he’s featuring “I’m Not Afraid”) and then I hope to be involved in a civil rights event in Northern California

When I read about the Houston Chronicle piece in your letter I went immediately to their online Webster but couldn’t get any information, so please send me the article. I can use all the love letters I can get. And I want to send a letter of thanks to Celeste Bowman for remembering me. I’m still at the same address and at the moment my cats number four.

What a pleasure to hear that you too are still with us. Give my love to Gar and a big hug to you by mail till I can do it in person. With much affection, your old friend. Rod

DREAM ALONG WITH ME

Dear Rod: When I heard Perry Como died Saturday night I thought of sending you a note but, I let the moment pass. You popped into my mind first probably because of your love and respect for all those wonderful singers. I love ya you mentioned him anyway-I thought you might.

What kind of twelve year old goes out and happily gets Como's Golden Records? He was one of many I'd have in my collection Maybe it was his soothing voice I'm not sure. His material came from many different composers unlike Sinatra. I mean to say he didn't seem to have his Sammy Cahn. Yet his songs all seemed to fit.

Now when I listen to him and others, people just think I like it because I'm older. Of course I had no friends I could share with when I was a kid. And the adults around me didn't really play music. There was one sampler album I had that was great: Como doing the theme from Picnic/Moonglow medley, Jo Stafford (I think) doing Midnight Sun right after him, Judy Garland doing Zing Went The Strings of My Heart and a bunch of others. What about Como doing The Sweetest Sounds?

Well maybe I was pretty much alone when I was a kid but I had great music."A Kid Alone" might have made a good song but I must admit Age is better. You Are Never Far Away From Me,
Bob White


Dear Bob, I don’t think anyone can put their finger on just what attracted all of us to Perry Como. There was something so mellow and natural about his voice. His appeal was wide and he could sing anything and make it believable. Novelty tunes like “Round, Round Round” and “Catch A Falling Star” were sung so effortlessly by him that despite their less than standard quality they became instant classics. And when he had a ballad like “Till The End of Time,” If I Loved You” or “And I love Her So” nobody made the lyric more meaningful. Two of my special Como favorites are “No Other Love Have I” (Oscar Hammerstein’s setting to Richard Rodgers haunting theme from “Victory at Sea”) and “The Wind Beneath My Wings".

I remember getting a call from Frank Sinatra just before Christmas one year, he was going to Europe for the holidays and wanted me to pick up all the Perry Como cassettes I could find for him to take on the trip. A while later when Perry recorded “I Think of You” Frank demanded to know why I hadn’t given him a crack at it first. I had to admit that it was Don Costa and Nick Perito who got the song to him, not me. I’m so lucky and proud to have something that is part of Como’s vast canon.

Bob, you and I were so lucky to have so many great singers to listen to when we were growing up. Remember his “Watching the Trains Go By?” I just finished programming Vol.11 of my Songs That Won the War series, “Remember Pearl Harbor” and I included a V Disc version of him singing “First Class Sergeant Mary Brown” on it.

Thank God those artists that seem to be leaving us all at once left such a vast legacy of recordings behind. Thanks for sharing. Luv, Rod

RIVERTON ADVENTURE

We got our packet from the Chamber of Commerce in Riverton. What a nice surprise. Every question we have, has been covered in the packet. I was advised to get rooms early as that week, people come from all over. So I called the same day we got our tickets. Am looking forward to the occasion.

I still have three CD’s I haven’t listened to yet, I just can't get past Joanna. .I listen to it so much, maybe I should buy another one, as this won’t last a lifetime. Joanna is marvelous; I know it by heart now.

Sending only good thoughts and Blessings your way. Lola


Dear Lola, The Riverton Chamber of Commerce is really on the ball. They sent me a packet of material and have done so for several of my friends who plan vacations around the car rally, balloon ascensions and my concerts. I’ll be sharing some ideas I’ve gleaned from the brochures in a Flight Plan soon.

Glad you like the “Joanna” CD. It’s one of my favorite scores. The CD contains more than twice the music of the original LP. It was done for a Japanese company that specializes in soundtracks. Unfortunately we’re running out of copies so like “ConcertoWorks,” “Sold Out at Carnegie Hall” and “New Carols of Christmas" it will be disappearing from the mail order list before long. “Music for Guardian Angels” is also running low.

For the record here are the top mail order sales of last week.

1. ASPTL BOOK & CD SET
2. The Platinum Collection (2 CD set)
3. Early Harvest (single CD)
4. Listen to the Warm (single CD)
5. The Sea (LP)
6. Love’s Been Good to Me (Book)
7. McKuen at the Movies (single CD)
8. Frank Sinatra: A Man Alone (LP)
9. And Autumn Came (Book)
10. The French Connection (single CD)
11. Speaking of Love (single CD)
12. An Outstretched Hand (Book)
13. Five Poster Set
14. The Platinum Collection (Double Cassette)
15. Too Many Midnight’s (Book)

All the best, Rod

OPUS 40 & OTHER SORROWS

On January 26, 1993, I sent you the following letter to P.O. Box 2783 in Hollywood, CA for which I received no reply.

"It's been nearly twenty years since "OPUS 40", a concert my date and I drove 1250 miles to attend. Well, twenty years later, that date is now my wife and we live within an hour of New York City. We have lived here for over ten years and have been waiting patiently for a Rod McKuen Concert in the area. Where have you been? Getting near time for "OPUS 60", isn't it? Yes, I know "OPUS 40" was a year too early - that means you have an extra year to plan for "OPUS 60".

I have been a Rod McKuen fan for over twenty-five years. I was #129 for FOLIO (later changed to #1492 because when I moved my subscription got messed up). Speaking of FOLIO, I have every issue from #1 to #64. Have there been issues since #64? If so, could you have someone send them to me with an invoice? Maybe my subscription was again messed up when I moved into my current home.

I still listen to your recordings; especially the few I have that have been released on CD's and I regularly re-read your books. A little over twenty-five years ago I had a string of events that caused me to question my very existence. As a result of your writings and some other good fortune, I was able to piece my young life back together and go forward. The self-analysis your writings brought about, I'm convinced saved me. For this reason, I still refer to your work to clear my thinking and to find answers to some of life's emotional challenges. It seems appropriate as you turn 59 to share this with you.

The final reason for my note is to complain. Why aren't you still "out there" helping others like you helped me? Since I have so much of your work, I didn't realize until recently how hard it was to currently obtain copies of your work. This caused me to realize that while I have maintained contact with you through your past work that I have nothing more current than FOLIO #64, nor do I know what you are currently doing. So, if it's not too much trouble, could you drop this "old fan" a line and let him know how you are, what you're up to, and when he can see you perform your work again.

God bless and thank you for being there when I needed you many years ago! Warmest Regards, Gary"

Well, last year I discovered your web-site. It was a wonderful day! I read it everyday and have gone back and read all the old postings. I am glad to see you are doing well, working hard but having fun. I am most glad that young folks that may be experiencing some of life's challenges before they are seasoned enough to handle them on their own have a place to find you. In any case, I am still happily married to the young lady with which I saw OPUS 40 and we still have the two OPUS 40 tee-shirts you gave us for traveling so far to see you. I still live near New York City and I'd still love to see another Carnegie Hall Concert. I have ordered your new book-CD combo and can hardly wait till it arrives.

Enjoy your Birthday and thanks for the gifts of your work that you have given us over the years. Thank you for being you and sharing you with all your fans, Gary Childers


Dear Gary, Sorry about that letter from 1993 not finding its way to me till now, but it’s all the more appreciated. And, your newest letter did get to me in time to wish me a Happy Birthday.

So much seems to be going on that I find it hard keeping up with the mail so this answer to your heart-warming letter is past due too.

While I was in The Bay Area for my class reunion last week it occurred to me that in 2003 I’ll turn 70. I’ve asked Jerry Lonn to try and reserve Carnegie Hall for a Birthday Concert for that event. I hope to play New York again long before that but 70 sounds like a good time to return to that beloved place where on my first appearance there I turned 36. For the next ten years I had a Birthday concert in New York every year and when we couldn’t book Carnegie the performance took place at Lincoln Center.

I am happy that some of my thoughts got you over a hump or two. That’s what all of us are here for Gary, to help each other. None of us can aspire to more than that.

Thanks for the courage and the push both of your letters gave me. With deep affection, Rod

PS: I promise not to be so long in answering you next time.

COME HOME SAFELY . . . AND HE DID

Mr. McKuen, I became aware of your poetry and music courtesy of Glen Yarbrough's "The Lonely Things" which I bought back in 1967 when I was a young Infantry Lieutenant stationed at Ft. Benning, GA. I wrote off to Stanyan Music and purchased "Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows," "Listen to the Warm," and all of the records which were then available (all of which I still have and still listen to).

In December of 1967, I passed through San Francisco on my way to Vietnam and was fortunate in that you were appearing at one of the nightspots while I was there. I don't recall if it was the hungry Eye or the Purple Onion, but it was written up in Life Magazine. After the show, I was allowed backstage to talk to you and you autographed my copy of "Listen to the Warm," saying "Jim, Come home Safely! Rod McKuen."

At the time, I didn't realize that you were also a vet. All I knew was that your poetry spoke to me on a very real and very deep place. And it still does.

"Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows," "Listen to the Warm," and "Lonesome Cities" still have a place on my nightstand. Goddess Bless, Jim

PS: "Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows," and "Listen to the Warm," still have smears of mud from Vietnamese rice paddies....

PPS: I was the senior platoon leader (and Ranger qualified to boot!), so when I read poetry to my fellow platoon leaders, they had the choice of listening or getting the *bleep* out of my way. But one of them was an artist, and I still have a drawing that he did for me after listening to "Stanyan Street: 1" ("You lie bent up in embryo sleep..."). It's pasted in between page 24 and 25. Someday, I'll get a scanner and I'll send it to you.

Someday, if you like, I'll send you some of my poetry about Vietnam. Jim


Dear Jim, I was appearing at Basin Street West when you came backstage to see me. I felt so helpless seeing so many young men and women going off to Southeast Asia to fight a war that nobody could adequately explain to any of us. It was worse when ‘kids’ started returning home as damaged adults to a country that held no parades and had no ribbons tied around trees to greet them.

While I was against the Vietnam War my heart was with each and every grunt who served there. I sent hundreds of packages of books and tapes and records to GI’s I would never know or meet, it was a very small thing to do but I felt it gave me a connection with our men and women in harms way.

You may not believe it but I do remember you, you were young and smiling and seemed almost cheerful about leaving, still in the short time we talked there was something I caught behind your eyes that betrayed a certain uneasiness.

I love the story of you force-feeding your platoon their dose of McKuen. You’re probably responsible for some of the letters I’ve gotten over the years. Thanks for that and for your moving letter. Do scan that drawing and send it to me, I’d be proud and honored to have a copy.

Write and tell me what you’re up to now, Jim. Warmly, Rod

UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO

I don't really have a question. Just wanted to say that in 1972 or 73 you did a reading in Albuquerque at UNM. You pulled up your wooden stool and opened your book and transported us all away to a magical place. Even now, so many years later, when I open Moment to Moment and start reading, it is your voice I hear reciting the words. What a beautiful gift to have been given. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Donna. I suppose a refresher wouldn't be at all amiss...maybe I will see you in Riverton. “Flyfreefilly.”

Dear Flyfreefilly, get yourself to Riverton post haste! And don’t forget to come back after the show to say hello. Fondly, Rod

 - RM 05/21/01

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Riverton Concert Details

notable birthdays Charles Aznavour o Kenny Ball o Richard Benjamin o Naomi Campbell o Mary Cassat o Michael Constantine o Frank Converse o Judith Crist o Sir Arthur Conan Doyle o Binnie Hale o Tommy John o Quinn Martin o Peter Nero o Sir Laurence Olivier o Vance Packard o Barbara Parkins o Michael Sarrazin o Susan Strasberg o Bernie Taupin o W. Richard Wagner o Paul Winfield
Rod's random thoughts Without the fatherhood of God, the family of man would have no meaning.

Hedonism is humanism on drugs.

There is no mistaking costly scent; like beauty, it cannot be approximated.

PROLOGUE - CLOSE WATCH

1.

I began by loving nobody.

Then nobody’s face
became the face of many
as I traveled not to Tiburon or Tuscany
but battled back and forth
between the breasts and thighs
of those who fancied for a time
my forelock and my foreskin.

If they could overlook my acne
and the inch I lacked
to carry them to heaven,
I too could deal in charity
forgetting how their faces
always seemed to be the same
and thinking only how their thighs
were rowable and readable
and right for me and wrong for me.

See the stars.
Count them.
Watch the stars go sailing
through the sky.

And as the stars
move through the heavens
preordained and predestined,
so too the faces in the street
file by as if by prearrangement.

2.

Now they’re everywhere,
in cars with tops down,
stopped at red lights
or whizzing by at glider speed
toward some intersection
       in their lives
that I’ll not share.

              My God,
when seeing them
my car can barely hug the road.

Barefoot and barelimbed on beaches
they hump white waves
and disappear as lovers
in the final feathered plunge.

Can this be a ballgame now
or some new choreography
that makes them leap and limbo
through the sand ?

Are they innocent
of what they do to me
or am I meant to be
audience and umpire too ?

I’d gladly be their volleyball
and call it victory
each time I bounced against
their beach brown bodies.

Whatever battering a beach ball takes
I’d receive with grace,
and some thanksgiving.

If they covered up
on summer evenings
I’d roam the waterfront at will,
but while they bulge and burst and boast
I stay home for safety’s sake
( my own and theirs ).

Bartok’s blessed the Gramophone
with music of another kind
though even he cannot wall out
              my mind’s percussion.

-from “Fields of Wonder,” 1971

 
© 1960, 1971, 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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