November 28, 1994 12:00 PM

HE won worldwide acclaim—and not a little sniping—as the bard of middle-of-the-road romance. But fame and riches couldn’t shield poet-songwriter Rod McKuen from a 1982 tailspin into what he calls “a bad case of clinical depression.” It would last a decade. “I’m not complaining,” says McKuen, 61. “But I would go through periods where I was really down.” It’s not hard to see why. The son of a sawmill foreman who left Rod’s mother before he was born, McKuen was sexually abused by an uncle at age 7 and spent much of his lonely

childhood moving from town to town throughout the West.

Even at the height of his fame, he was unable to enjoy it. In 1981, the year before he dropped out of sight, he performed 300 concerts worldwide. “I never saw any of the places,” he recalls. “I would do a sound check, do the concert, go back to the hotel. Then I’d get up early in the morning and leave for the next town. It wasn’t much of a life.”

McKuen spent his low-profile years writing and doing film and commercial voice-overs. He never married the mother of his two grown children, who now live in France. He regrets not having spent more time with them, but “I wasn’t willing to give up my work and stay home,” he says. Currently unattached, he’s optimistic that “I’m going to fall in love.” In the meantime, he lives in his old-world Beverly Hills mansion with his brother and manager, Edward.

McKuen says he is once again lining up book and song projects and that Prozac is aiding his recovery. “I don’t consider myself cured,” he admits. “But I’m going in the right direction.”

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