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That’s me interviewing Beach Boy Carl Wilson on September 1, 1974, after a concert with Kansas, the Eagles and the Beach Boys.

Writing

Jack Nicholson with Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas.

Everything is done with Everybody Had an Ocean, which will be published in April.  I have a beautiful finished copy which I hold in my grubby paws.

I wrote this book while undergoing cancer treatment and was able to put together a story I’d wanted to write for a long time — 30 years, at least. I interviewed all of the Beach Boys — except Brian Wilson — several times during the early 1970s. That was one of Brian’s lowest points and he did not appear in concert.

Beyond the Beach Boys, the book has an impressive cast of characters, including Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Charles Manson, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner, Bobby Fuller, Phil Spector and an buttload of others. It’s a history of Los Angeles rock’n’roll in the 1960s, with a focus on the crossroads of the music business and crime.

I’m very happy with the result.

 

The Dana-Farber Red Sox baseball cap

Cancer

After two years of treatment and a near residency at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, I’m cancer-free.

I’m still having surgeries that are tangentially related to cancer, but not life threatening. I’m very lucky to have care of such high quality. I discovered that the most important thing about cancer care — other than the operations and treatments, of course — is attitude.

When I first got the diagnosis, I began thinking about death and what would happen in the post-Bill world. Then I decided, Fuck it if I can’t take a joke. In fact, I turned the whole thing into a joke with the kids. I didn’t want them to worry. If they saw Dad joking about it, then maybe they wouldn’t worry — and largely they didn’t.

The attitude of the technicians, physicians and nurses also helped. For two months, I rose early and drove to my radiation appointments at 8 am. For 20 minutes, four kind young women aimed powerful instruments of radiation at my naked midsection. When treatment ended, they showered me with confetti and gave me a diploma. Things like that kept up my spirits.

The cancer may be in remission but the surgeries keep on coming. I’ve had four operations since the cancer treatment and am preparing for my fifth. A couple of them are cancer-related, but not cancer. As a matter of fact, I do know how lucky I am.

My agent is circulating a proposal for a memoir about my cancer, which is supposed to be kind of amusing. I hoped a publisher likes it. It’s extremely honest, which means it’s kind of graphic. We’ll see if anyone bites.

 

That’s me during my Western Kentucky University years. Photograph by John Rott.

Teaching

I continue to do double duty as chairman of the journalism department and associate dean for the College of Communication at Boston University.

So far, the associate dean job has been fun, because it gets me out of the college for meetings several times a week. I have gotten to know a lot of people in other departments and in the provost’s office (which has become like a second — or third — home).

As always, I look forward to teaching. When the semester isn’t in session, I feel like a nuclear power plant that’s been shut down.

2017 marks my 40th year as a college teacher and I’ve never gotten tired of it. For the spring semester, I’m teaching History and Principles of Journalism, which is my favorite course. I first taught it in Fall 1977. It was fun then; it’s even more fun now.

I taught at Western Kentucky University 1977-1982, at the Un diversity of Oklahoma 1982-1986, at the University of Florida, 1986-2010 and at Boston University since 2010.

If you were in one of my classes, I’d love to hear from you at wmckeen@bu.edu. I keep up with a lot of former students on Facebook, which I use as a sort of illustrated Rolodex of my life. It’s good to see how everyone’s doing.

Take care.