AS I SEE IT - 2/18/2000
by: Bob Magee
Nothing about wrestling this week...
Instead, I wanted to give a salute to a shy, gentle man who became a cultural icon; who brought his often poignant humor and a simple, gentle way into unforgettable characters treasured by people in homes around the world for 50 years... Charles Schulz.
Schulz could make you laugh or make you cry with his daily creation of pen and ink called Peanuts, which started as "Lil' Folks" at the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press, and was syndicated by United Feature Syndicate in October 1950. Peanuts became a world-wide institution; the most successful comic strip in newspaper history, appearing in some 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, translated into 21 languages to an estimated audience of 355 million readers.
Additionally, the Peanuts characters have been featured in the off-Broadway musical Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which debuted in 1967 (and was revived in February 1999); and the Emmy-winning A Charlie Brown Christmas, which has run every year since 1965, along with many other Peanuts television specials.
Even for those of us who claim we haven't read the comics since we were kids (like those who in years past claimed never to watch wrestling but always could ask you about their secret favorite)... how many of us can honestly say that we haven't heard of: Lucy's Psychiatric Booth... Linus's "security blanket"... Snoopy's fantasies of being everything from Joe Cool to the world-famous golfer that never quite got his hole in one to that fearless airplane pilot that battled the Red Baron... or Charlie Brown's baseball team that never seemed to win a game, but always kept on trying?
I think his strip was so beloved by people because they could identify with at least one of the characters in it. Let's face it. We've all had our "little red-haired girl" (or guy) that we've pined for...or had the football yanked out from under us. We've all pondered the questions of life, just like the Peanuts gang did looking up at the clouds on top of that hill, or at that fence that Linus and Charlie Brown always seemed to be at.
Through the Peanuts gang, Charles Schulz also addressed such very adult topics as spirituality, race relations, and war. Schulz was a World War II veteran, and on Veterans Day he always gave Snoopy, in one of his many alter-egos of a World War I infantryman, a pass to drink root beer with the soldiers from the trenches and WW II cartoonist William Maudlin, whose work inspired Schulz to become a cartoonist himself.
Schulz was always modest about his success. He never took himself too seriously. Some would argue never took himself seriously enough, a sentiment the San-Jose Mercury News put so well this past week:
"After Charles Schulz announced his retirement, fans from coffee shops to the White House, tried to express their gratitude and explain what the strip had meant to them, writing to newspapers and sending sentiments into cyberspace.
Last week, a hundred letters a day still were arriving at Schulz's studio, located at 1 Snoopy Place in Santa Rosa. Schulz stopped by and saw boxes of them in the conference room. 'What is all this?' he asked secretary Edna Poehner.
'Your love letters,' she said.
'All I did was draw pictures,' he said.
No, the letter writers say; he changed lives. Since Schulz announced his retirement, a lot of flesh-and-blood people admitted they had been crying, grieving for a troupe of two-dimensional children, an imaginative beagle and a plucky little bird....
Even at the end, with a strip published in more than 2,600 newspapers, Schulz, a man who said 'Good grief' in real life, wished he was 'a better drawer.' He never seemed to believe his success.
How much proof did he need?
His name is in the dictionary (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). National Cartoonists Society President Daryl Cagle considers him the most successful artist in history. In a tribute to Schulz, President Clinton said Charlie Brown and his friends "taught us all a little more about what makes us human."
There's something sadly poetic in Charles Schulz leaving this world on the night before his last original Peanuts strip was seen by readers this past Sunday. A segment from an interview shortly after the announcement of his retirement appeared on MSNBC.com recently, and in some ways makes it clear how sadly poetic it was.
Schulz said: "Why do musicians compose symphonies and poets write poems?" he once said. "They do it because life wouldnt have any meaning for them if they didnt. Thats why I draw cartoons. Its my life."
Indeed, it was his life....and it was his very special creation that all of us have enjoyed, and will miss terribly.
Charles Schulz leaves behind his wife, Jeannie; five children, Meredith, Monte, Craig, Amy and Jill; two stepchildren; and several grandchildren. Private services were held this week.
The Peanuts.com website and numerous news reports have stated that the Schulz family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, located at:
The Bill Mauldin WWII Cartoon Art Gallery Endowment/
National D-Day Memorial Foundation
202 E. Main Street
Bedford, VA 24523
Until next time...
(Thanks to Peanuts.com, the San Jose Mercury News and the St. Paul Pioneer Press for some of the biographical information on Charles Schulz)
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)