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Photo by Bob Gentry 2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

It's impossible to be in love, sensible, dignified and have balance of thought all at once.

 

JEROME KERN: LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE

Here's the complete information on the above benefit I'll be part of on the nights of March 2nd,3rd & 4th.

Time: 8:PM Friday & Saturday / 2:30 PM Sunday
Place: Luckman Theatre, Los Angeles
Tickets: Start at $30.00.
Ticket Information: Phone: 323 656 9069 / Fax 323 656 9039
Online: www.stagela.com

Last week I gave you the wrong area code, but it has been corrected in the information above. As I was writing this I tried the online address and got an error message, hopefully by the time you read this that too will be corrected.

The great Jerome Kern songs in "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" include; Ol' Man River, The Last Time I Saw Paris, Bill, The Way You Look Tonight, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, Look for the Silver Lining, Why Was I Born, I Won't Dance, All the Things You Are, Dearly Beloved and Yesterdays.

A partial list of the stage, screen and television artists who'll perform them include; Ian Abercrombie, Jamie Anderson, Charles Busch, Alan Campbell, Jane Carr, Carole Cook, Karen Culliver, Pam Dowber, Melissa Errico, Joely Fisher, David Holladay, Kim Huber, Sally Kellerman, Lauren Kennedy, Marsha Kramer, Dale Kristien, Jane Lanier, Lee Lessack, Michael Maguire, Pat Marshall, Rod McKuen, Linda Michele, Robert Morse, Pamela Myers, Hugh Penaro, Roger Ross, Ron Rifkin, Joan Ryan, Peter Scolari, Street Sounds, Lea Thompson, Kathy Lynn Trien, Bruce Vilanch & Marissa Jarel Winokur. The musical director is Ron Abel and the evening will be staged and directed by David Galligan

It's hard for me to pick a favorite Jerome Kern song but I'm performing one of his best and most beloved standards. Being part of these three special evenings with so many artists I admire and respect is a dream come true. First of all it's fun and exciting and most important the show benefits one of my favorite charities, HIV/AIDS care. 

This all takes place, by the way, the weekend before my solo concerts in Aurora Illinois and Madison Wisconsin. What a warm-up!

And now to the mail.

A COLD NIGHT IN ILLINOIS

It's a cold night in Illinois. I've got my Walkman playing The Sea from the San Sebastian Strings as I work on my little Web Design Home Business and it came to me to check if you have a web site.

What a nice surprise to find you and in this moment of now. Thank you for all these moments we've spent together. I'll bet you that often we've been physically close together. Like we were being turned in Thunderbirds at the same beach parking lot - but in different Thunderbirds. Love, John Ammer


Dear John, Please don't throw around the term "a cold night in Illinois," since I'll be heading to Aurora March 10th for a concert. Only last week Ken Blackie wrote me a note saying:

"Brrrr, Are you sure you want to go to Illinois in March?"

Yep, I'm sure, though as much as I love Illinois and as many good times as I've had there, I guess I'd rather be heading South for the winter.

As to those Thunderbirds, John, they may have been different vehicles on separate beaches, but I'm sure they were shared experiences. Love, Rod

THE PLAINS OF MY COUNTRY

Just discovered your web site. I have the LP versions of your music from "Joanna," "The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie," and "Plains of My Country / Seascapes."

There is a motif in "Plains" that sounds just like the old Land O' Lakes butter commercial that I used to hear all the time here in Minneapolis. Is this coincidence? Or did you write the music or that commercial?

The words to the spot go --

"Get a taste of the country,
Land O'Lakes country."

I think that ""I'll Catch the Sun" is one of the loveliest songs I have ever heard. And next in line is the song "Jean" from the Jean Brodie movie. The movie was nowhere as good as your song. I think somebody should go back and do the movie based on a lovely lady schoolteacher who has lost her love, teaches school, and finally falls in love again -- that WOULD match the lyrics to your song.

I am 62 years old and have finally discovered that I can, indeed, make movies on video -- even if they are seen on cable access. Doing a short video drama about a lost symphony of a great composer, a full length comedy movie about a romance book editor who finally falls in love again -- it takes place in New York City and in Minneapolis, and a short video for a composer friend of mine in New York City.

Thank God for near-retirement -- I can afford to do these things, finally -- with a pension and a bit of money from writing. :)

Glad to hear you are still with us! Thanks for the music! Jim Stokes, NaturaLite Pictures (and all that stuff) 


Dear Jim, 'Near retirement' seems to be affording you a very rewarding life. Isn't it great to have the time and comfort of doing something you really enjoy. Your films sound interesting and maybe one day I'll have a chance to see them.

I enjoy writing classical music as much as I do composing and writing popular songs. While the songs have nearly always subsidized my longer instrumental work, there is a lot to be said for both musical styles. I certainly would hate to choose between the genres. 

I've just finished mastering a CD entitled "Piano Works," which contains my Concerto No. 3 for Piano & Orchestra, several piano sonatas, "Seascapes," "Birch Trees for Piano and Orchestra" and my Piano Quartets and Trios. This will mark the first time all but a couple of the chamber works have appeared on CD. The complete trios and quartets weren't even issued on LP.

"Concerto Works" containing concertos for guitar, cello and synthesizer, has been a consistent best-selling CD for Stanyan and has recently gone out of print. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea combining "Piano Works" & "Concerto Works" as a double CD. It's something to think about.

I'm not familiar with the 'Land O' Lakes' commercial but I hope its resemblance to "The Plains of My Country" is a coincidence.

Good luck to you and all your endeavors, Jim, and thanks for sharing news of your activities with me. Cheers, Rod

FEEDBACK: NED ROREM

I have heard you speak of Ned Rorem and I hope I am spelling it correctly who is this person and were can I find some of his writings if there are any?

Received a copy of "A MAN ALONE" and am truly enjoying listening to memories of my younger years. Thanks Jo


Dear Jo, Ned Rorem has for the past 40 years been one of America's most successful and lauded composer of Art Songs. His vast canon of compositions includes songs and song cycles performed by leading classical artists throughout the world. Many of his works have been commissioned by leading Opera stars and soloists.

Rorem is also known for the witty, revealing and delicious 'dish' he has provided in a series of published diaries about his work and sex life that names names and pulls no punches. The diaries, numbering several volumes, are laced with intelligent and biting music criticism. In reading them it helps to know the ins and outs of the world of classical and theatre music. 

I'm a fan of Ned's songs and his prose.

Glad you're enjoying "A Man Alone," writing the songs and working with Sinatra while he recorded them remains one of the most enjoyable and vivid experiences in my life. Best Regards, Rod

IS FANG STILL ALIVE?

I love Phyllis Diller too. I also sleep with a clothes hanger in my mouth at night. So I have a smile. She taught me well. Is Fang still alive? Egg Sandwich

Dear Egg, Since Fang is a part of Phyllis' very fertile imagination he is not only alive and well but is still occasionally trotted out as a straight man by the funniest lady in show business. The lines in her act are ever changing just like the woman herself who refuses to stop learning and growing. Warmly, Rod

VALENTINES DAY

Dear Rod, I finally found you and am thrilled with the opportunity to write to you personally. In 1965 I was a freshman in high school. I met and fell in love with a then senior, Glenn Sarot. He graduated and we went our separate ways. Last year we found each other. He was visiting a friend in the hospital where I worked. He invited me to go to Egypt for the millennium (no strings attached). I thought about it, prayed about it, and talked it over with people who know and love me. I went. Today a year plus later, Glenn and I have rekindled a love that is over thirty-five years old.

Glenn admires you and your gift so very much. He recently said I need to find Rod McKuen's CD's. I ordered your platinum CD set with the hopes of giving it to him on Valentines Day. I begged and pleaded with Dwight at Stanyan to mail it over night or priority mail so I would have it in time. 

My hope is that you will respond to this e mail and whatever you write I will be able to print it and wrap in a box to present to Glenn on 2/14/01, until the CD's arrive. I would have preferred if you were performing somewhere near San Diego, where we live, so I could have gotten tickets for your concert. I'll keep hoping. For now, thank you for taking the time to read this request. My very best to you, Ellie Parrish


Dear Ellie, I'm a sucker for a real love story and yours and Glenn's is the best. You know what Sinatra sings about love being lovelier the second time around. Between us romantic geeks love amid the Salot Pyramids trumps Christie's "Death on the Nile" every time.

Good news, Dwight was in last week and your copy of "The Platinum Album" is in the mail. Have no idea if or when I'll be playing San Diego, but if you could go all the way to Egypt for Glenn is it too much to ask that you follow me to Illinois or Wisconsin J? (See the letter from Simran below) Or, you could join me in LA for one of the 'benefit' evenings.

An early Happy Valentines Day to both of you Ellie and congratulations on a love regained and realized. Luv, Rod

FEEDBACK: THE DUH LETTERS (1/25/2001)

Rod, Great Flight Plan today! I'm glad to see the barn dream is still alive. Even if it doesn't materialize at least you can look at the book I sent you and the one that Barbara Johnsen recommended. I'll definitely be tuning in to watch the Phyllis Diller story on E! --how cool! I am doubly excited over the fact that I'm flying out from San Diego to see you in Aurora. 

My hubby found it rather humorous that I was flying across the country to see someone who lives a couple hours away. I find it worth it --plus I'll get to meet all the message board folks too! I even convinced him to come with me, although I had to agree to let him buy the electric guitar he's been wanting. I hope my ears can handle it! I may need a barn now too -- for him to practice in! Hehheh. Can't wait to see you perform. Cheers! --Simran

PS: A canary that sings along? I have a ferret that rolls over & stands up and begs. I bet I could train her to do it to your music too. Then we could have singing AND dancing! Ha-ha. Simran Zilaro


Dear Simran, I can't remember if I ever thanked you properly for the book of beautiful barns you sent me. It was such a thoughtful gift and yes it did propel my dream and increase my need to one day have my very own barn.

I'm happy that you are coming to Aurora, now if I could just get your San Diego neighbors Ellie and Glenn to follow your example.

It might get worse in your household. One thing leads to another and now that he's getting an electric guitar your old man might decide to write and perform songs. Who Ray for the ferret, but what does she stand up and beg for? Or, do I really want to know? Never mind. Thanks and Luv, Rod

Good Morning Rod, I see you were in good form when you wrote today's FP. That line... whistling, Dixie... was cute and then to include the DUH letters. But I must take offense with the last thing you said about not needing the letter W... I feel I must inform you that my middle initial is W. Have a great day... WWWishing you WWWell and WWWaterfalls, Jay

Dear Jay, Wilbor, Washington, Wallingford, Winston, Warner, Wexford, Wisteria, Walpole, Wimple, Watussi, Weimer, Wannabe, Whasup, Wa-Wa, Whoopie, Wiggle, Watergate, Wampum, Washboard, Wiggedout, We-We, Waterfall, Windup. WetWhistle, WarmUpJacket, Willow, WaterfallFreak, Wanker or whatever that "W" stands for, one of my middle names is Marvin but I almost never mention it. Don't dwell on Dubya. As ever, Rod.

Dear Rod, I think "The Duh Letters" should be a regular feature, Steve Blume

OK Steve you asked for it. Here's a "Duh Letter" that arrived today. [Dear Rod: Did you really shoot that guy in "Wild Heritage"?] Care to answer it? Cheers, Rod

FROM AN EMERALD CITY IN OZ

Hi Rod I have so very much enjoyed visiting with you today, after wondering for some time what had become of you! I was at your concert at Mayne Hall, University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, in ~1980, at a time when I had already become an admirer of your works, and owned a selection of your records, tapes and poetry books.

I would just like you to know that I have greatly appreciated the peace and intense intimacy expressed in your works which from time to time have allowed me to escape to a place of calm, relaxation and solace when I have wished to do so - to "listen to the warm"! You have the means of expressing feelings which I am sure all persons experience, but few have the ability to convey to others - even, or especially, to those closest. 

You have identified and validated my deepest thoughts and 
Feelings, and in my sharing your words with my husband over the years at special times, we have been able to create moods where emotional intimacy is heightened and enjoyed, rather than feared. Thank you so much for sharing your very special gift with us!

So pleased to hear that you will be in concert this year. I only wish that I could be there, and I know my husband would enjoy hearing and seeing you in person, too! Do you still incorporate the segment wherein members of the audience offer various words and, hey presto, you pop them all into a song ex tempore?

How about another visit to Oz - perhaps to Sydney and/or Melbourne? I am sure you still have many devoted fans 'Down Under' - we just need to be reminded that you are still very much alive and performing! You still look very presentable. ;-) Maybe just need a new pair of sneakers for the trip!

With very best wishes for your continuing happiness and creativity, Kay Jenkins, Brisbane, Australia.

Dear Kay, Thanks for the nice words and the memory of Mayne Hall in Brisbane. The afternoon of the concert I had a walk around the university, it's a beautiful campus.

You are right, it's been twenty-one years since my last Aussie tour and it is time to come back. The only thing standing in my way is an Australian promoter willing to arrange a tour. If you know of such an animal have him contact my concert manager Jerry Lonn (there's a link to his address on the Home Page.)

Trust you are having a beautiful Australian summer. It's cold and rainy here in California tonight, but a finger of Scotch and cats for company helps drive the cold away. And we have no 'rolling blackouts' like our friends in the North. All the best, Rod 

THE FINAL WORD: MOTHER-IN-LAW OF THE JUNGLE

A big-game hunter went on safari with his wife and mother-in-law. One evening, while still deep in the jungle, the Mrs. awoke to find her mother gone. 

Rushing to her husband, she insisted on them both trying to find her mother. The hunter picked up his rifle, took a swig of whisky, and started to look for her. 

In a clearing not far from the camp, they came upon a chilling sight: the mother-in-law was backed up against a thick, impenetrable bush, and a large male lion stood facing her. 

The wife cried, "What are we going to do?" 

"Nothing," said the hunter husband. "The lion got himself into this mess, let him get himself out of it." (Submitted by Bablaca)

                         RM 1/26/2001 Previously unpublished

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Leslie Bricusse o Ed Burns o Paddy Chayefslky o W.C. Fields o John Forsythe o Sara Gilbert o Heather Graham o Germaine Greer o Noel Harrison o Ann Jillian o Andrew Keegen o Jonny Lang o Claudine Longet o Grey Louganis o Victor Mature o William McKinley o Molly Meldrum o Thomas Paine o John Raitt o John D. Rockefeller, Jr. o Katharine Ross o Steve Sax o Tom Selleck o Marc Singer o Teresa Teng 

and a special Happy Birthday to Oprah Winfrey who works so hard at ensuring the happiness of others.

Rod's random thoughts Prayer is a handshake with hope.

Solitude is company without demands.

The hand has no firmer grips than what it gives to handshakes.

WINTER ALTERNATIVE

Without the sun's sure passion
or rain in friendly autumn
fashioning a need for us,
and no red bedrooms
double-decked with flowers
we'll stay alone in winter.

Our skins white
as any snowflake
and whiter still than any
overhanging bower
weighted down with snow.

Because we need to fill
this time now empty
and as endless
as the worn-out winter
we'll use a cold lock
in the same way
we might have been dependant on
embraces in another season.

Here is this snowy stillness
where there has so long been
an absence of reality
you must make some sense for me,
forcing fact into my life
more true than trumped-up fiction
but every bit as full and free.

I charge you
with invention for me
I trust you to make over
what needs making over. 

                      
- from "Come To Me In Silence," 1973
1969, 1973, 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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