Edward & Rod: The Brother's McKuen.
Photographed by Diane Kopperman, May 2002 at BB King's New York City
A Thought for Today
When in doubt, cross it out.
Today’s photograph was made by Diane Kopperman at B.B. Kings in New York
this past May. I think it’s one of the best pictures ever taken of Edward
and me and that’s my excuse for running it.
I first met Diane in South Africa and we’ve been renewing our quarter of a
century friendship this past year. The other night at the 50th Anniversary
concert of Theatre West she presented me with an embroidered sampler
pillow that reads “Stop and Think.” I love it and even though it came a
few decades late to prevent me from making past mistakes I have a feeling
it will come in very handy in the future.
Today’s mail has nothing to do with Edward; it concerns itself with
Christmas, weddings, demons and Jesse Pearson.
MORE ABOUT JESSE PEARSON
I love your website. I would like to know if you
could give me some more information about Jesse Pearson.
Do you know where he came from and if he did anything else besides Bye,
Birdie & poetry readings for you?
Was he Gay? Thanks, Georgie
Dear Georgie, Thanks for the kind words about my Website. I've got a great
team that makes it a lot easier to keep A Safe Place to Land current and I
hope interesting. There's no shortage of ideas on what to write about
every day just never enough time to write the way I'd like to.
Jesse Pearson was a young actor and singer from Oklahoma who was chosen
for the part of Conrad Birdie in the national stage company of the musical
"Bye, Bye Birdie." The producers of the film liked Jesse's performance
enough to cast him in the same role for the movie.
Despite excellent reviews for his work in 'Birdie' Jesse, like many actors
in Hollywood, found it difficult getting other acting jobs. He released a
single on RCA, "Talk to Me Baby" and was featured on the Bye, Birdie
soundtrack album. A small part in the film "Don't Go Near the Water"
followed as did guest spots on several TV series.
I met Jesse when, between acting jobs, he came to work for me as an
assistant. He stayed with me until I was lucky enough to find Gerry
Robinson who became my secretary, assistant and confidant for two decades
until her retirement. Jesse remained a life long friend to Edward, Gerry,
Wade and me. When casting a voice for "The Sea" I felt his presence and
intimate vocal quality was just what the project needed. He was easy to
direct and both Anita Kerr (who wrote all the music for The San Sebastian
Strings albums) and I found him a joy to work with. He was the voice on
"The Sea," "Home to the Sea" and "The Soft Sea." Later he did two more
albums for Stanyan, "The Body Electric" & "The Body Electric, Two." They
consisted of Jesse reading the erotic poetry of Walt Whitman that I had
set to music.
Jesse has an album of love songs that remains unreleased and before his
untimely death he had completed a session in a projected collection of
Woody Guthrie songs. His smoky, Southern accented baritone voice was at
home with a wide variety of material and I'm hoping to assemble a CD that
will be chosen from all the material he left behind. He was a kind, sweet,
handsome and more than a little complicated man. In the hands of the right
agents and managers his charm, acting ability and lanky good looks should
have made him a natural for film and TV work.
As to your question, "Was he Gay?" I don't know Georgie, I never went to
bed with him. Since I'm not in the business of "outing" friends dead or
alive, Georgie, if I knew the answer to your query I probably wouldn't
tell you anyway.
Again thanks for the nice words about the site. All the best, Rod.
SO MY SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE
Dear Mr. McKuen, It's been about 20 years ago that I
sang a song in school that to this day I have not been able to get out of
my head. I remember the joy I felt singing that song way back then and
thought it would be a wonderful song for the children to perform in my
church's Christmas program. The only problem was, I didn't know who wrote
it and I didn't have the music or lyrics to it. During a long exhaustive
Internet search (coming up with a lot of Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze"),
I stumbled upon the fact that you are responsible for the lovely song "So
My Sheep May Safely Graze". Thank you for such a wonderful song and a
melody that haunts me to this day.
Besides thanking you for it (there's always a catch), I also would like to
know where I would be able to get the sheet music and lyrics for this
song. I hope you will be able to assist me. Thanks again, and God Bless.
Connie Moody, Age 29
Dear Connie: Thanks for writing. I'm always amazed at finding out how many
people learned or heard "So My Sheep May Safely Graze" in school or in
church. Amazed and very pleased that it's still out there.
You can get The New Carols for Christmas songbook that contains words &
music to "Sheep" from Stanyan By Mail.
Sorry you had such a hard time tracking down one of my flock - so to
speak. By the way I’ve written two new Christmas songs with Bob Gentry
that will be released next month on an album entitled “Santa’s Greatest
Hits.” The songs are “Life is too Short Not to Believe in Santa Clause”
and “Santa’s Christmas Band.” Warmly, Rod
A CHRISTMAS POEM
I have hunted for over thirty years to find a poem
published in a Christmas edition of either Family Circle or Woman's Day in
1970. It contained the lines, "And bless the little animals that sniff the
kitchen floor." It touched my heart. Where can I find the full text?
Thanks for any direction you may offer. P.J. Roberts, Lawton, Oklahoma
Dear PJ: The poem is In Order of Importance and it first appeared in
Women’s Day when my editor there, Rebecca Greer, suggested I write a
sequence of poems for the December 1970 issue of the magazine. The
following year it was published by Random House in a collection entitled
The Carols of Christmas. Special thanks to Jay Hagan for tracking the poem
down. You’ll find the text below. Thanks for writing and a very early
Merry Christmas, Cheers, Rod
IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE
Bless the children first,
for they need help
just to get them safely
down the block.
With all the mazes
that we make for them
(like teaching them to hate
before they learn to spell),
it is a wonder that they finally find
the door that opens out to adolescence.
Bless the animals
that sniff the kitchen floor
and those that prowl the hills.
Animals, like angels, need protection
because we use them only
as a substitute for love –
the kind that other people promise us
while they steal our evenings
and before they sneak away.
Keep the animals in safety then –
more in security than in readiness
for sublimation or substitution.
© 1970, 1971 by Rod McKuen & Stanyan Music Group
HERE COMES THE BRIDE
Okay, Rod, I'm desperate. Once upon a time I had all
those albums, but they were stolen when I moved about six years ago. My
dilemma is this, on November 9, 2002 I will be joining my soul mate in
matrimony. The only way I know how to describe the relationship is to say
that all of life and every previous relationship has been a rehearsal for
We are being married in Cedar Key, Florida, a small key in the Gulf of
Mexico. Four of our closest friends, Robert's mother and her husband and
his sister and nieces will be attending the ceremony.
We will take a large pontoon boat to a uninhabited key off the coast and
having the ceremony there. The clothing has been arranged, beach casual,
the flowers (the notary grows roses in her yard) the motel, which happens
to be pet friendly so my dogs can attend. Everything is falling into it's
perfect spot, except the music. The dilemma is not the wedding, it's the
lack of the right music. Yes, I know there's always Pachabel, but somehow
the only thing I can hear are the San Sebastian Strings. I'd like to beg
or borrow from anyone who might have the recordings and could make me
cassettes or CDs ( I gave up stealing a long time ago).
It probably won't be the end of the world if I can't find your music,
after all I will be joining my life with my best friend and lover, but it
certainly would be the most special with your words and Anita's music. Can
you help me in any way?? Please? I have been a fan of yours since I was a
teenager and read the flight plan on a daily basis since I discovered it
about four months ago. Your words have always touched the part of me where
my soul meets my heart, a place where no one else has gone except Robert.
Please let me know if you can help. Thanks in advance. Whatever happened
to The Sky and The Earth? Suzanne Murray
Dear Suzanne: It sounds like a terrific wedding and I hope I can be part
of it. The San Sebastian strings LP’s are all out of print but readily
available in lots of used record stores. Because there were so many
pressings and so many sold they can also be found at reasonable prices
(usually around a couple of bucks each) in thrift shops and on line.
Alas there are no current plans for release of any of the albums you
mentioned on compact disc and certainly not in time for your wedding next
I appreciated your thoughtful remarks and I wish you and Robert a long and
happy life together. Affectionately, Rod
I saw you perform many years ago at Peterborough,
and at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and wondered what had happened to
keep you away from England.
I, too, have suffered from depression, but am thankfully through that
"Love is above all, the gift of oneself" and I am so pleased that you are
again performing, Perhaps, one day we will see you again in England. I
sincerely hope so. Jill Stafford
Dear Jill: Thanks for writing. I'll come back to England as soon as we can
find an English sponsor for the concerts. So far not too much luck in that
Glad to hear you are a healthy survivor of depression. It's a demon few
people understand but one those of us who have finally pinned it to the
mat know all too well. Here’s to you and I both keeping our head above
water in the future.
See you in Great Britain one of these days, Affectionately, Rod
Everybody around here is pretty excited that the late Gene Autry’s
California Angels are going to the World Series. Who Ray! Happy
Thanksgiving to our friends north of the border and happy bank holiday to
those who toil in the USA. Sleep warm.
RM 10/13/2002 11:30 PM PST Previously unpublished
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