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Rod preparing for his Riverton flight. Photo courtesy Linda Becker.

A Thought for Today

Energy implies purpose.


ROD LIVE! Follow this link for Santa Fe ticket information.

With all the feedback we've had from Rita I doubt she's had much time to do any sightseeing. Thanks for a sterling job, Rita, we all appreciate the reports.

July 21, 2001

Dear Ken,

It’s almost 3:00 am on Sunday as I start to unwind and make notes about the past 24 hours. No use trying to sleep as memories keep replaying in my mind. Before I even start to recount my versions of the day that was July 21, 2001 let me clarify something I mentioned on Friday. Thursday night Rod fondly nicknamed Linda the "Marquise de Linda" and it has been a running joke since then including some comments that Rod made during the concert.

Linda Becker has done an outstanding job of seeing to it that the town of Riverton knows who Rod McKuen is. Everywhere in town you see posters and flyers with Rod’s picture and information about the concert. The local newspaper called “The Ranger” has carried front-page articles every day this week about Rod and his many interests and talents. Friday’s paper also had an extensive piece about various Rod fans who had traveled to Aurora and now were visiting Riverton. The talented writer of these articles is Carolyn Tyler who is Linda’s sister.

Riverton is a beautiful Western town, rich in history, scenic beauty, and friendly people. Rod’s comments near the opening of the concert that “once you get here you don’t want to leave” is very true but it brought a round of laughter. Everyone knew he was referring to the fact that to leave you have to again be at the mercy of Great Lakes Airlines which you must experience to appreciate.

Rod’s schedule since leaving California Thursday morning had not allowed him much sleep. He spent almost 24 hours in the Denver airport and once he set foot in Riverton he was whisked from one event to the next with little time to recover. Rod has the ability to make every person feel special and appreciated and it is what makes each of us love him.

Back to the events of Saturday:

Rod was at the balloon field before 5:30 am and by 5:45 his balloon called the “Defiance” was lifting off. After a series of 4 flights, Rod attended a tailgate party and then was part of a team of judges at an Antique Car Show. When Kyletta and I caught up with him at the Car Show there was Rod going from car to car carefully checking out each model and making sure each owner would feel that their work was evaluated. The temperature was in the 90’s and it was hot even for this Mississippi gal.

As I watched Rod walking from car to car in the hot sunshine, I wondered how he would ever find the strength to give a 2-hour performance that same night. Ky and I had the luxury of leaving the sunshine for the peace and quiet of a nap at our hotel room and then dinner. We were invited to attend a 5:00 sound check at the theater. Rod had invited Jay, Melinda, Larry, Kyletta and myself to be there. As we walked into the theater the house lights were up and Rod waved and greeted us while he played with pieces of various numbers so the technicians could adjust the sound. Rod was wearing a gorgeous pink sweater and looked fresh and sounded great. One of the numbers he did during this time was “Stay With Me”. As I watched and listened I could not hold back the tears.

At 6:10 Ky and I had to leave to get changed and back in time for the 7:00 concert. When we returned there was a full parking lot. As we entered the Arts complex you could feel the excitement as people purchased t-shirts, CD’s and books, then entered the theater. The newly refinished theater was gorgeous with wonderful acoustics and lighting.

I took my seat and had a few minutes to visit with the young man on my left who was there because his Mother offered him a ticket. He confessed that it really wasn’t his thing, but he was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Just before the lights were dimmed, Linda came in and sat next to me. Bob Peck came on stage to introduce Rod.

The magic began. The audience rose to applaud as Rod came onstage. I could hardly believe my eyes. There was Rod in a black suit with a black shirt and a very dapper purple tie. However, the feet said black sneakers and the voice was all “Rod” as he sailed right in to “If I could Fly”. Even though I heard him do this just a short time earlier in the sound check, this was different. It was “electric”. When he got to the words “the things I do, I do for you” I thought of all the things he does for all of us and tears filled my eyes. He changed the closing words to “I may not fly, but I’ll give it a hell of a try”. With that first number, I think our collective hearts took flight and Rod was once again reeling us in. He moved on to the familiar words of “The World I Used to Know” followed by a gentle, friendly, playful version of “Rock Gently”.

The lighting at the backdrop slowly changed from blue to soft purple. As he finished the third number he did a humorous monologue thanking the wonderful people of Great Lakes Airlines and the Marquise de Linda. About that time the jacket and tie were done away with. He undid his top button of his shirt and started a comfortable rendition of “The Summer Gone” followed by “I’ve Been to Town”. I don’t think Frank Sinatra ever did it with more feeling.

Next he talked about his website and held up the new book. He began to read “I Always Knew”; it was a slow deliberate delivery and I recognized that some of the words were being changed. Rod had borrowed some reading glasses from Melinda during the sound check, but even those did not help enough to easily read the small print of the book. Those of us familiar with the words as printed realized that Rod was improvising, but he did it very well which only confirmed what a true professional he is.

He than sang “Many Summers Ago” followed by “Jean” with the new verse added. The selections seemed to carry the tone of nostalgia and summertime as he continued with “Love’s Been Good To Me” and “Blame it on July” which he played with beautifully and ended with the line “Blame it on the 21st of July”. He read “Love Letter Unsent #6" and then did a hauntingly beautiful “Solitude’s My Home” Once again it was time to get the Kleenex out.

His eyes sparkled as he sang “Watch the Trains” and “If you Go Away”. He closed the first half with “Stay With Me”. It was the most inspired, humble, prayerful and awesome thing I’d ever heard.

As the lights came up I asked the young man next to me for his reaction and it was totally affirmative. Rod had captured another fan.

The second half, Rod entered with that pink sweater that lights up his face and makes him look so boyish. He also had on new white sneakers and started out with “I’m Not Afraid" and then “I’ll Catch the Sun” This number evoked a round of applause as it started, indicating that it’s a favorite for many of us. Next was “Blessings in Shades of Green” and then he did his 90 second Opera of “Madame Butterfly”, followed by reading the poem “Goodbye” and the songs “Sleep Warm” & “The Ivy that Clings to the Wall”.

With each song Rod seemed more relaxed, more at ease, and I had the feeling he was really enjoying old friends as he sang “Times Gone By”, “Joanna” and “Season’s in the Sun”. Then the mike gave out and Rod left the stage only to come back carrying a suitcase.

He introduced the band and before continuing he mixed a Martini and shared it with the band. I recognized the bottle of “Tall Blond” which Jana had sent and when Rod asked if anyone had a lemon, amazingly enough someone who looked just like Melinda had one. She took it down and was given a kiss for her kindness. After sipping his Martini Rod commented that he had earned that one and indeed he had. He gave us an encore of “Mr. Saturday Night” and “September Song” then closed with comments about how great it was to be 68 and how much he was enjoying this time in his life. He announced that he would greet folks in the lobby. It was nearly 10:00 when he left the stage and after 11:00 when I left the auditorium. I spent part of that hour getting off a quick email to you.

It’s now nearing 9:00 Sunday morning. Rod was at the Balloon Field again before 5:30 am and his Balloon took off to good winds and a clear bright sky. He still has a book signing this afternoon, and is scheduled to fly out of here about 5:00 on the same flight that Kyletta goes out on. 

Thanks for all the good wishes and prayers. The weather has been great for the flights. I took two rolls of pictures yesterday and had some developed. I am having them put on disk but won't be able to share them until I get back home which won't be until after July 29th. I'm headed out to Yellowstone tomorrow for a week of leisurely sightseeing.

Love to all,

Rita Bartlow

If I've learned one thing from Rita's reports it's to never again attend a concert without a nice big lemon in my pocket! Never know when it might prove useful. Have a terrific time at Yellowstone, Rita, you've earned the rest.

I'll see you all back here tomorrow.

-Ken, Johannesburg, July 23


Frank Sinatra Jr & The Wood Herman Orchestra have only three concerts on their European Tour left and they are all in Spain. On the 24th they’ll be in San Sebastian at Plaza de la Trinadad. On Thursday the 26th they move on to Marbella for a show at the Puente Romano Tennis Club and the European Tour comes to an end in Calello on Friday the 27th at Jardins de Cap Roig.


Next Sunday afternoon, July 29th Rod joins Sally Kellerman, Bruce Vilanche and an all star cast in Santa Fe, NM in “Live at the Lensic.” For ticket information follow the link at the top of this page.

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

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Rose Adkins o Coral Browne o Raymond Chandler o Bert Convy o Gloria DeHavan o Don Drysdale o David Essex o Nomar Garciapara o Woody Harrelson o Don Imus o Emil Jannings o Monica Lewinsky o Sharon McElroy o Karl Menninger o Pee Wee Reese o Vincent Sardi, Jr. o Halle Seassie o Slash o Arthur Treacher o Marlon Wayans o Michael Wilding
Rod's random thoughts Death is not our final hour, we have God’s promise on that.

View the end as the writer does the blank page just in front of him, a beginning.

We do not grieve because the earth reclaims its own. We weep because we are suddenly deprived of good companions, sound judgment and familiar counsel.


One drop of rain
Cannot fill a fountain.
One grain of sand
Cannot make a mountain.
And a handful of earth
Is just about all we’re worth
In the eyes of the Man
Who made us all from the earth.

Those who go alone
Those who go together
Those who give the world its trouble
Those who make it better,
We’re all on our way to dust
From the day of our birth,
From the ground we’ve come
And we’re all going back to earth.

So stay for awhile with me
Walk another mile with me,
Live another day for what it’s worth.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
We’ll go back to the earth. 

- from "The Earth", 1969 & "An Outstretched Hand," 1980

© 1969, 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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