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.
NO ONE IS ALONE
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
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
THE LATE ROD McKUEN
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
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.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING SCOTCH
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
THE UNKNOWN WAR
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
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
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
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
Thanks for asking, Arthur. Cheers, Rod
'TIS A PUZZLEMENT
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
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,
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
NAUGHTY BUT NICE
Today almost the last word comes from my friend
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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