Flight Plan


  18th - 24th December, 2017











Photo by Eric Yeager 2009 All Rights Reserved

A Thought for Today

Keep the smiles coming, even as the year runs out.


Performing Again

Living as I do in South Africa item two on my lists of goals, getting Rod back to performing again, was clearly something beyond my control. I could only hope and pray that once he realised his audience was still there, diminished in numbers perhaps but nevertheless still there, he would eventually find his way back on stage.

He did. Starting in 2001 he kicked off with shows in Thousand Oaks and Aurora. I would have given my left arm to attend but the fans were terrific, sending me pics and reports of the concerts to such an extent that I almost felt part of the proceedings.

Rod was dead keen for me to attend the 2003 Carnegie Hall show and generously offered to pay my flight. I calculated the cost of spending a week in New York, given the ZA Rand exchange rate at the time, and took a deep breath. The music gods had other plans however and in the run-up to the concert my mother-in-law passed away. There was no way I would leave my wife at such a time so once again I enjoyed the pics and reports of this momentous return to the site of so many his past triumphs.

Goal number three, getting Rod back to South Africa, proved a challenge. I lost count of the negotiations which fell through and the number of offices I was laughed out of. Nobody was interested. One memorable meeting was with our premier impresario, Hazel Feldman, who had been responsible for bringing Sinatra, Pavarotti, Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Neil Sedaka, Queen and a host of other stars to our shores.

Hazel listened politely to my pitch then said she didn’t believe the audience was there anymore and that it wasn’t for her.

“Go away and prove us wrong, Ken.” I needed no stronger motivation.

Bernard Jay, CEO of the Joburg Theatre, had a reputation as a go-getter who had turned around the fortunes of the city’s premier theatre complex. Being in the city centre the theatre wasn’t ideally situated as Johannesburg, like most major cities, has over the years suffered from urban decay but working on the principle that “if I built it they would come” I felt it could be a suitable venue and that Bernard might prove to be sympathetic to the cause.

He was. He invited me to lunch and while enthusiastic about Rod appearing at his theatre mentioned they did not put on productions but rather rented the venue out to promoters. They would, however, consider a co-production if terms could be agreed.

Jerry Lonn, Rod’s manager at the time, stepped in to negotiate the deal and we were all set to go. Once the deal had been signed I asked Rod to announce it in an upcoming Flight Plan.

He declined. “I think you know who should make the announcement,” he said. And I was proud to do so.

Following a daytime flight from Paris Rod arrived in Johannesburg at 10.00pm on Monday 11th May 2009. My wife Priscilla had been furiously practicing her photographic skills so she could take a pic of us as Rod came through customs and into the arrivals hall. When he finally did all thoughts of photographs were abandoned due to the fact that he was in a wheelchair.

Not knowing what the problem was my immediate thought was that we would have to cancel the shows. As it turned out his legs had swelled up during the flight and he was in some pain and having difficulty walking any distance. Nothing some rest wouldn’t fix, he assured me.

It was a busy week with radio and press interviews daily but finally we were ready for the first show on Friday. It went reasonably well though there were some production problems, it was overly long, Rod was clearly still having problems with his legs and the band, having only arrived late the previously night, seemed slightly jet lagged.

When it was all over Rod was absolutely exhausted and he and I found ourselves alone in his dressing room. He sat slumped in a chair, his hands covering his face. He slowly looked up, stared me straight in the eye and uttered a sentence that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“Maybe this is God’s way of telling me to stop.”

The online reviews the following day were probably kinder than they should have been except for one sharp-tongued critic who expressed the view that we’d exploited Rod by bringing him back to South Africa and that Rod had exploited his audience by agreeing to come. The audiences didn't seem to care one way or the other and were only too happy to see Rod on stage again.

Late Saturday afternoon Jerry called to ask if I could try and find some elastic bandages for Rod’s legs as they felt this would help the discomfort and provide some support. The mission was accomplished and we set off for the theatre.

Given the hiccups of Friday I was a tad nervous for the Saturday show and spent the first half watching on CCTV from the stage manager’s office. Later, wandering down the long passageway to the wings, I heard what sounded like one of electric thunderstorms we’re famous for on the Highveld. This was unusual seeing as it was May and not storm season. As I drew closer to the wings I realised it certainly wasn’t a storm but the audience going crazy, stomping, cheering and applauding after a typical McKuen rendition of “If You Go Away.”

After the encore Rod bounced off the stage and gave me a huge grin.

“Tonight, I played Joburg!” he said.

It had taken eleven years. It was worth the wait.

 - Ken, Johannesburg, South Africa

Next Week: Wrapping Up

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notable birthdays

Monday 18 December

Christina Aguilera o "Stone Cold" Steve Austin o Abe Burrows o Ty Cobb o Ossie Davis o Robert Fryer o Betty Grable o Robson Green o Katie Holmes o Celia Johnson o Ray Liotta o Leonard Maltin o Anita O'Day o Brad Pitt o Keith Richards o Saki o Steven Spielberg o Roger Smith o Antonio Stradivarius o Casper Van Dien

Tuesday 19 December

Jennifer Beals o Marianne Faithful o Janie Fricke o Jean Genet o Daryl Hannah o Elaine Joyce o Al Kaline o Richard Leakey o Alvin Lee o Amy Locane o Albert A. Marks o Alyssa Milano o Edith Piaf o Tim Reid o Fritz Reiner o Sir Ralph Richardson o Jessica Steen o David Susskind o Nan Talese o Cicely Tyson o Robert Urich

Wednesday 20 December

Anita Baker o Hortense Calisher o Charlie Callas o Irene Dunne o Harvey Firestone o Uri Geller o George Roy Hill o Max Lerner o Janet Reed o Branch Rickey o Audrey Totter o Kim Weston

Thursday 21 December
First Day of Winter

Alicia Alonso o Andy Dick o Benjamin Disraeli o Phil Donahue o Chris Evert o Jane Fonda o Samuel L. Jackson o Florence Griffith Joyner o Chris Evert Lloyd o Ed Nelson o Jean Racine o Ray Romano o Joseph Stalin o Kiefer Sutherland o Kurt Waldheim o Paul Winchell o Frank Zappa

Friday 22 December

Dame Peggy Ashcroft o Barbara Billingsley o Hector Elizondo o Ralph Fiennes o Steve Garvey o Maurice Gibb o Robin Gibb o Lady Bird Johnson o Andre Kostelanetz o Giacomo Puccini o J. Arthur Rank o Gene Rayburn o Edwin Arlington Robinson o Diane Sawyer o Deems Taylor

Saturday 23 December

Chet Baker o Robert Bly o Jose Greco o Harry Guardino o Corey Haim o Tim Hardin o Elizabeth Hartman o Paul Hornung o Floyd Kaiber o Susan Lucci o Connie Mack o Buzz Miller o Ruth Roman o Vincent Sardi, Sr. o Helmut Schmidt o Joan Severance o Harry Shearer o Eddie Vedder o Madame C.J. Walker

Sunday 24 December
Christmas Eve

Noelle Adams o Yves Mitchell Ayres o Jill Bennett o Kit Carson o Ruth Chatterton o Mary Higgins Clark o Mike Curb o Ava Gardner o Johnnie Gruelle o Carol Haney o Howard Hughes o Robert Joffrey o Ricky Martin o Jonas Mekas o I.F. Stone o Mark Valley o Harry Warren o Franz Waxman

Rod's random thoughts
Christmas is as much a time for summing up as it is a time for celebration.

We can feel ashamed of almost anything but kindness.

The energy of the will is the soul of every great creator.

Christmas Now

There's tinsel in the town already
       and wreaths so fragile
       that I doubt they'll last
through Christmas Eve.

There was a time
when I was bothered by
       commercial Christmas
starting in on All Saints Eve.
But now I welcome each reminder,
however early or ill-timed,
of that sweet saviors birth.
For if we ever needed Christ's
and quiet Christmas men,
there is no time when
they should be more welcome
than just now.

Each reminder -
carols of an evening,
trees trucked early into town,
merchandise in mad array
        in downtown windows,
even plastic garlands
strung across every city street -
should only serve to prod us
into friendship and the fantasy
        of goodness
set down clearly by the mystery
we chose to name as God.

Man can always use reminders,
be they old or new names
served as recipes for love.

-from Women's Day, 1968


© 1970, 1986, 2002, 2010, 2013, 2015 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Webmaster: Ken Blackie • Media Consultant & Sound Supervisor Eric Yeager • Birthday Research by Wade Alexander • Poems from the collection of Jay Hagan • Editor at Large: Bruce Bellingham • Emeritus: Melinda Smith

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