2nd & 3rd August, 2004





















Rod 4/16/04 Photo by Billy Iz

A Thought for Today

The pit stop of wisdom is learning. Take a book to lunch.




Dear Mr. McKuen, I met you at one of your concerts at Saddleback College. It was around a year and a half ago; perhaps more. You knew my mother and we were just overwhelmed by your performance.

You told me to e-mail you whenever I wanted and I deeply appreciated that. So here I am now, writing to you and feeling rather anxious. I'm going through some hard times right now. Things that a 20 year old woman shouldn't be dealing with. I have no one to turn to and to tell you the truth, I'm scared and I'm alone. I need somebody who cares because none of my friends do.

I was admitted into the hospital for pancreatitis for about a week. Three weeks later I found myself back in the Emergency Ward and had to stay there for another two days. The doctors won't tell me much and I don't understand what they're saying half of the time.

The only other thing is that I know is that I have a drinking problem and I don't want to tell my family until I know exactly what I'm going to do. I just don't want to go through this alone-I'm so scared!

I don't know if you can help me and if you can't I understand. Your poems have helped me through so many tough times and I thank and praise you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Sincerely, (name withheld)

Dear Friend, No one is alone. To a twenty-year-old who feels the kind of anxiety your letter indicates that must sound like a hollow and meaningless statement. But, I promise you it is true.

It applies to you and to all of us even when we are feeling friendless or are overwhelmed by solitude and unable or afraid to share our feelings with another human being. The great advantage of being at the bottom of a well is knowing that up is the only way out. To some ‘up’ means having faith in something higher than you and if yours is a genuine belief in a Supreme Being that faith will see you through. To me ‘up’ means I’ve had enough of being down.

If you think you have a drinking problem you probably do and you should seek help. Fortunately because alcoholism is no longer a stigma but now recognized as the disease it really is there are many places to go for aid. The Salvation Army has an excellent program for treating alcohol dependency. Its proud graduates include Angela Lansbury.

For any program to work you have to want it to work. Alas no one can help you get to that point but you, yourself. Once you reach the point where you really feel the need to be cured half the battle has been won.

As for pancreatitis, it can be pretty serious but it is treatable. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that alcohol intake aggravates the condition. Nevertheless I called my own physician for confirmation and he agreed. If you are not yet ready to tackle your alcohol dependency at least lay off the booze till you kick the pancreatitis.

Good luck to you and keep me posted. Affectionately, Rod


Dear Rod: My friends and I just love your poetry, music, calendars, etc.

This may seem an odd question. One of my friends seems to believe that you are no longer with us, as in, having passed on. I didn't believe her, and decided to revisit your website in the hopes of finding some recent news of you and your wellbeing.

However, when I was reading some of the literature contained in the website, I saw nothing that would indicate either state of being in the year 2004.

Would you or someone connected with the running of your website please confirm or deny my belief that you are still with us in the physical? It's a strange request, I know, but I mean no harm by it. I sincerely wish to know the answer. Thank you. K.M.

PS I have finally found a copy of your, "In Someone's Shadow."
What a treat!

Dear KM, If you look at the date on the bottom of this column you’ll find that as of 8/1/2004 10:32PM PDST I was still living. Beyond that I can’t guarantee anything. Still, for further updates you can check out The Flight Plan on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure that should I suddenly pop off Webmaster Ken or “someone connected with the running of my website” will post the news.

Thanks for the kind thoughts on In Someone’s Shadow.

Warmest wishes from the alive and well Rod.


What's the status of your scotch? Eric

Dear Eric, My Scotch. That’s a sore subject. For my big seven-o celebration I got a concert at Carnegie Hall, a contract to represent Hewlett Packard, my own radio show and a Rod McKuen label Scotch. Well two out of four ain’t bad. The radio show will come and it’s my fault for not getting around to doing several episodes of it as a template that it isn’t on as we speak.

As to the Scotch: The North American / Scotland Scotch Association promised me my own brand and it was their idea not mine. The label was even designed. Originally it was to be introduced at the party following the Carnegie Hall Concert. HP objected because their name was attached to the concert and presumably they didn’t feel like being associated with alcoholic spirits. Then the Association wanted to price it at $100.00 a bottle. I balked, since no matter how great ‘the malt’ my fans are not in the millionaire class. I wouldn’t spring for a hundred bucks no matter whose name was attached to it. Would you?

Finally, Rod McKuen 20 Year Old Single Malt was to be a boutique label. In an already crowded market (Johnnie Walker has just introduced a White Label priced at $100) where would we come up with the advertising money to get it into the stores and on the shelves? Right, the producers were delighted to give me my own liquor but they wanted me to spring for the promotion. As you know Eric, funding THE Barn is higher on my list than the vanity of my own liquor brand.

Finally, I thought we could move a few cases by selling in through Stanyan House. A no-no, because we don’t have a liquor license.

Billy Beer anyone? As ever, Rod


Mr. McKuen: I am trying to track down more information on the Unknown War series that you worked on in the 1970s.

My wife, who is Russian, saw the full series in the Soviet Union, although I understand from your Web site that the series was pre-empted in the U.S. by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Still, I am frankly amazed that this series has not shown up on the History Channel or a similar cable network.

Might you have any additional insights into where we might be able to track down this series? Many thanks in advance.

Best regards, Andy Reese

Dear Andy, The Soviet-American co-production of The Unknown War is very close to my heart. I worked on it as a composer and script supervisor for nearly two years. Much of that time I spent in The Soviet Union working with Russian composers and filmmakers.

I had a terrific time, enhanced by Edward sending me footlockers containing fruit bars; Franco-American canned Spaghetti and Macaroni, Jiffy Pop and other assorted non-perishables. The people in Russia were wonderful, the food miserable. I mean how much Borsht, potato soup and caviar can one man eat?

As your wife no doubt knows the series consisted of unseen (even in the USSR) newsreel footage of the WW II battles on The Eastern Front. In addition to the many soviet filmmakers and musicians who inspired me, the small band of Americans involved immediately bonded and we have become life-long friends.

The American unit included producer Isaac Klinerman (Victory at Sea), writer John Lord who wrote new material and worked from an outline by Harrison Salisbury, Fred Weiner produced the series for Air Time international and the associate producers were Bruce Fogel, Mark Goodman and Kal Liebowitz. Bob Estes facilitated the US/Soviets relations. Burt Lancaster narrated the series and the additional theatrical feature we made “A Soldier of the Unknown War.” In addition to myself I used seven arrangers with the principal being Skip Redwine who also conducted my score.

The artistic direction and supervision was by Russian filmmaker Roman Karmen with each episode being directed by a top soviet director. My co-composers were Vitaly Giviksman & Liut Guidravitchus.

Some of my songs that came about as a result of the series were Toward the Unknown, Homeward, Land, To Live Another Springtime, An Angel in Amsterdam, Give Me Your Hand Across the Field and All My Road. My classical composition Birch Trees, for piano & symphony orchestra originated as a music cue for one of the episodes.

You’re right Andy, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the series run was interrupted in the United States. Why it hasn’t surfaced on The History Channel I don’t know but the head of that channel is a friend of mine and I’ll pass along your suggestion. As to its unavailability on DVD, that probably has something to do with the contracts being signed in the 70’s when provisions for Video & DVD rights were seldom addressed.

Since I own the music rights there will be more than one CD available in the future containing the music. At the moment Stanyan House still offers a double LP containing twenty-seven selections from the score.

One of these days I’ll get around to listing the titles & directors of each episode on this website. Right now that’s a lot of typing.

All my best to you and your wife Andy & under separate cover I’m sending you a copy of the LP. Kindest Regards, Rod


Mr. McKuen I have the CD, Songs that Won the War and I was wondering where did the song The Day After Christmas originate? Who sang it originally? From what era was it popular? Does sheet music exist for it?

Sorry to ask so many questions but the researcher in me never stops. Thank you, Arthur Funni

Dear Arthur, As you may or may not know I’ve produced about 16 CD’s of Songs That Won the War and I assume you are talking about one entitled Christmas Songs That Won the War
(Varese-Saraband ).

The Day After Christmas was not written or published during the WW II era. I wrote it for the series of 20 hour-long films I helped score for “The Unknown War. It was used instrumentally as part of the underscore for a Christmas in Moscow episode. I felt because of its use and resulting popularity (particularly overseas where the series enjoyed wider screenings than in the USA) it qualified for the Songs That Won the War series. Particularly since it was written as a song of hope for the future.

For the series itself we were unable to obtain the rights to my favorite Christmas Song Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This 1940’s inspirational song that points to a better holiday season in coming years was eloquently sung by Judy Garland to a dispirited Margaret O’Brian in the memorable film “Meet Me in St. Louis.” As a result it became an immediate standard; it was the song I would have preferred using in the episode but because of its unavailability I wrote a song of my own.

In addition to Corky Hale’s instrumental version on "Christmas Songs That Won the War” (and her own disc Harp! The Herald Angels Sing) it is available vocally on my New Carols for Christmas album.

The sheet music is contained in a folio of the same name. All three discs & the song folio “New Carols for Christmas” are available from www.stanyanhouse.com

Thanks for asking, Arthur. Cheers, Rod


When I was 18, I was a lifeguard at a beach in Norwalk, CT. One cloudy day, when no one was in the water, my friend and I stood on the porch of the guard shack chatting. Two middle-aged men walked up a sidewalk that passed in front of the shack. As they came within earshot, we heard one of them say, "First there was Rod McKuen, then there was me, then there was Spiro Agnew." Then they were out of earshot again.

To this day, I can't imagine what the context of the remark could have been. Not only were McKuen, this fellow, and Agnew in some group together, the group even had a sequence to it -- first McKuen, then him, then Agnew.

Any suggestions? Gene Callahan

Dear Gene, Beats me.

I never met Mr. Agnew and I was hardly a friend of the Nixon/Agnew administration. I had the unusual pleasure of being on Richard Nixon’s official Enemies List and with that distinction came an annual audit of my taxes. And, I once made a joke about Agnew during a performance at an outdoor theatre in New Jersey. The NJ State Police & Park Dept. run the amphitheaters in that state and I was disinvited from further appearances of same.

So, Gene, your puzzlement continues. Cheers, Rod


Today almost the last word comes from my friend Ann Martin:

A man walked into a supermarket with his zipper down. A lady
cashier walked up to him and said, "Your barracks door is
open." Not a phrase that men normally use, he went on his
way looking a bit puzzled.

When he was about done shopping, a man came up and said, "Your fly is open." He zipped up and finished his shopping. At the checkout, he intentionally got in the line where the lady was that told him about his "barracks door." He was planning to have a little fun with her so when he reached the counter he said, "When you saw my barracks door open did you see a soldier standing in there at attention?"

The lady (naturally smarter than the man) thought for a moment and said, "No, no I didn't. All I saw was a disabled veteran sitting on a couple of old duffel bags."

Hope your week has started off splendidly. Join Ken on Wednesday for This One Does it for Me. Sleep warm.

RM 8/1/2004 10:32PM PDST

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notable birthdays

Monday 2 August

James Baldwin o Jeremy Castle o Wes Craven o Hallie Eisenberg o Edward Furlong o Joe Harnell o Judge Lance Ito o Victoria Jackson o Paul Laxalt o Myrna Loy o Gary Merrill o Helen Morgan o Carroll O’Connor o Peter O’Toole o Mary-Louise Parker o John Shirley Quick o Kevin Smith o Beatrice Straight o Jack Warner

Tuesday 3 August

Stanley Baldwin o Tony Bennett o Ray Bloch o Tom Brady o Rupert Brooke o Alex Cord o Dolores Del Rio o Les Elgart o Frances Gaar o John Gunther o Jean Hagen o James Hetfield o P.D. James o John Landis o Bethel Leslie o Elsa Martinelli o Jed Mattes o Marilyn Maxwell o Jay North o Gordon Scott o Martin Sheen o Martha Stewart o Leon Uris

Rod's random thoughts There are some simple sights that haunt the mind forever.

If roads surround a field, it too is captive.

We don’t begin to grow until we learn to take full responsibility for our lives.


And after every summer rain
an August rainbow
sunlight in the good green wood
laughter in the town
shelter in the noontime shadows
or here inside each other’s arms.

No one can kill our rainbows
though sometimes the world
seems bent on trying.

I want you to remember
when things don’t go exactly right
in your outside world
that there is safety here.
A rainbow bridge,
a patch of light
at the end of trouble’s tunnel.

Walk down the day easy
knowing our security
is movable
going wherever we go.

-from “Celebrations of the Heart,” 1975 and the album “Summer,” 1975

© 1969, 1975, 1980, 2004 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Webmaster: Ken Blackie o Birthday research by Wade Alexander, coordinated by Melinda Smith
Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Sound & Fury: Dr. Eric Yeager o Editor at Large: Bruce Bellingham
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