An Interview by Michael Barrier
[Click here to listen to a roughly one-minute/1,000 KB audio excerpt from the Schulz interview (MP3 player required); be prepared for rough sound quality.]
[My apologies to Jim Sasseville, who ghosted the "Peanuts" comic books for Schulz, for misspelling his name in the interview as originally posted. I spelled Sasseville's name phonetically, and incorrectly, in my 1988 transcript, and I somehow failed to correct that misspelling when I was editing and posting the interview. A full account of Sasseville's work with Schulz, by Derrick Bang, was published in The Comics Buyer's Guide No. 1473, February 8, 2002.]
In the late eighties and early nineties, I wrote features called "Lessons of Leadership" and "Making It" for Nation's Business, the magazine where I was a senior editor. The "LOLs" were about the heads of relatively large companies, the Making Its about the heads of relatively small ones. It was an enjoyable assignment, for the most part, one that involved lots of travel, some of it to places I actually wanted to go (Los Angeles, for instance, where I combined my work assignments with research for Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age). In choosing subjects for the features, I slipped in animation- and comics-related people as often as possible. Bill Melendez, director of the "Peanuts" TV shows, was a Making It, for example, as was Will Vinton, who was then still in charge of his Portland, Oregon, Claymation studio. I also wrote a Making It on Denis Kitchen, the publisher of alternative comics, and an LOL on Chet Krause, the publisher of Comics Buyer's Guide and other collector publications.
The subject of my only other comics-related LOL was Charles M. Schulz, whose "Peanuts" was by the late eighties generating licensing revenues, especially overseas, that made Schulz unquestionably a big businessmanalthough, as he made clear to me, "businessman" was not a title he would willingly accept. When I called his offices in Santa Rosa, California, about scheduling an interview, I was startled to be put through immediately to Schulz himself. Although Schulz worked in the same small building as Ron Nelson and Evelyn Ellison, who oversaw the licensing of his characters, the usual phalanx of assistants and PR people was missing. When my wife and I arrived for the interview, on August 1, 1988, it took place in the room where Schulz drew his comic strip, with him seated at the drawing board. In the interview, although Schulz professed no interest in business as such, he showed the same concern for the integrity of his "product" that any good businessman might show.
Schulz differed markedly in one respect from many of the people I interviewed, though. The typical entrepreneur is absorbed in his work almost to the point of self-parody. As I sometimes said in those days, I could have walked into most of my interviews wearing a grass skirt with a ring in my nose, and the person I was interviewing would have grabbed my arm and said, "Let me tell you about my business." Schulz, on the other hand, actually seemed interested in what Phyllis and I did and thought (there's some evidence of that in the excerpts that follow, and much more on the tape itself). I can't recall encountering a similar awareness of other people in anyone else I interviewed for an LOL, except for Julia Child, who like Schulz is a celebrity who is and is not a business person. As genuinely nice as Schulz was, though, he was also a very proud and competitive man, and that comes through clearly in the interview.
Schulz expressed skepticism about whether United Feature Syndicate would be able to successfully recycle old "Peanuts" strips after he retired. The last new "Peanuts" appeared early in 2000the last Sunday page appeared the day after Schulz's death on February 12 of that yearbut UFS is still distributing "Classic Peanuts."
The Schulz LOLbased not just on my interview with Schulz, but also on interviews with his associates Nelson and Ellison and Robert Roy Metz, head of United Media and its UFS subsidiaryturned out very well, I thought, but, sadly, it was mangled at the last minute in the editorial process. Scheduled to fill three pages, "Working for 'Peanuts'" was cut clumsily to make room for a half-page ad. I seem to have lost my copy of the article as I wrote it, but the first pagewhich was not damaged significantly in the editingis on display in Snoopy's Gallery in Santa Rosa, a block away from the new Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center that I write about in the Essays section of the site. For reasons best consigned to history, Nation's Business in those days sent the subjects of its LOLs the first page of each article as a metal plaque, and it is that plaque that is on display.
Excerpts from my interview with Schulz follow. For many more Schulz interviews, see Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi), a collection edited by M. Thomas Inge.
BARRIER: My focus here is not on dollar figures, but on the way
you have blended business and the creative side of your work. You've
been able to balance the two over a long period of time, in a way
that a lot of people in the comics haven't been able to do. The
more typical thing seems to be like Jim Davis and "Garfield,"
where you have essentially a corporate operation and a corporate
SCHULZ: How'd you find that out?
BARRIER: There was a TV special; I didn't see it, but I understand they were quite explicit about the way the work is delegated. And, of course, you've had examples like Al Capp in the past. There were long stretches where Al Capp didn't do anything on the comic strip, except sign it.
SCHULZ: I never knew how Al worked; I never got to know him that well. He kept it pretty quiet.
BARRIER: People like Frank Frazetta, I know, drew the strip for a long time ...
SCHULZ: Probably drew all the girls.
BARRIER: I'm sure that's why he was hired. But from what I've heard
about your work, you've always done everything on your strip. That
must make you an exception, certainly among successful cartoonists.
SCHULZ: I suppose 1 or 2 percent. I just spent the last few hours with Pat Brady, who does "Rose Is a Rose," and he does everything himself. I don't know the working habits of hardly any of the others; I know Lynn Johnston, who does all of her own thing. She's a wonderful lady, lives up in Canada; we talk to each other on the phone quite often. I don't know about Cathy Guisewite. I'm sure [Garry] Trudeau doesn't draw his strip.
[The conversation turned to Bill Watterson, whose comic strip "Calvin
and Hobbes" was very popular at the time, and Schulz mentioned
an Editor & Publisher item about Watterson's stipulation,
for his appearance at a "Pogo" celebration in Ohio, that
he would not be photographed or interviewed.]
BARRIER: That's kind of sad.
SCHULZ: Well, you know, you have an obligation, because this is
not a pure art form. You have an obligation not only to the syndicate
with which you work, but you have a strong obligation, I think,
to the poor salesman out there who's marketing your work, going
from newspaper to newspaper and setting up appointments with the
hard-hearted editors and trying to sell your work. You have an obligation
to a lot of people. If you're Picasso, or Andrew Wyeth, that's all
right. But we're not Picasso or Andrew Wyeth.
[To Phyllis Barrier] Do you read the comics, too? There aren't very many worth reading.
BARRIER: One focus of this article, obviously, is going to be the licensing operation, because that's the real business side of your work. You were born in 1922, is that right?
SCHULZ: November 26.
BARRIER: So you would have been growing up in the early thirties, when the first wave of Disney licensed merchandise was coming through, and some other comic-strip licensing. You've mentioned in other interviews how much you were influenced by other comic strips, like "Krazy Kat" and "Wash Tubbs"; but were you attracted by the licensed merchandise that was available then?
SCHULZ: I don't think we even paid any attention to it. I don't recall any licensing, except Mickey Mouse watches, which I never got. But I also recall that we always wanted some Buck Rogers things. Some of the other kids in the neighborhood and I loved Buck Rogers, and we always wanted a rocket pistol. I don't recall if they ever put out official rocket pistols or not. Beyond that, my only acquaintance with licensing would have been in comic magazines and Big Little Books. I used to buy every comic magazine that came out and every Big Little Book that came out, until finally they both became so popular and I was just overwhelmed and I couldn't keep up with them all. That was all, of course, just before the war. Then I was trying to think of how to get started, and I used to draw comic strips, and couldn't really establish myself in any particular direction, so I started drawing gag cartoons. I read all the magazines that published gag cartoons, and I used to buy all the gag-cartoon books that were reprintsthe New Yorker and Saturday Evening Post reprint books, and things like that. Books by George Price and all of those. I was concentrating on gag cartoons in those days. Then, of course, the war wiped me out for three years.
When I came back, that's when I got my job with Art Instruction. So I don't recall that much about licensing. I never even thought about it, and I certainly never thought about it when I began the strip. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I think the first thing that I was interested in was to get a reprint book, because along about '52, I suppose it was, Walt Kelly came out with Pogo, and I remember it had a writeup in Time magazine; I think it was just a dollar reprint in a small format. He had 80 papers, Time magazine said, and I thought that was astounding, because at the time I only had 40 and didn't think I'd ever get more than 40. Then one day I got a letter from the editor at Rinehart, and he had seen Schroeder play one of his first pieces, and being a pianist, had been quite impressed, because he'd never seen anybody use real music in a comic strip before. He began to read the strip, and I suppose he was influenced by the Pogo book, too, so he came out with our first dollar book. That was the first real licensed product. We had a regular series of them after that.
So, I never even thought about licensing; all I thought about was just trying to draw the strip as well as I could, each day. I realized this is a business, and I knew it was possible to make a lot of money at it, but I just wanted to draw something that was really good and was different. We never sought out any of the licensing, for years; everything that we ever did was the thought of someone else who came to us. Hungerford Plastics came to us with the idea to do that first set of dolls; I think there were six of them. Then he retired, and I don't know what happened to Hungerford Plastics; they just disappeared. Each person that came to us had a particular idea. Connie Boucher got the idea to do the datebooks, and that exploded; her company got bigger and bigger. Lee Mendelson was doing a series on Bay area personalities; he had done Willie Mays. He called me to see if I'd be interested, and I said yeah, I'd seen the Willie Mays, I thought it was wonderful. So he did a documentary, which never got on the air, but it opened up the chance to do A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Everything like that has always been somebody coming to me. Robert
Short came to us with The Gospel According to Peanuts, Clark
Gesner came to us with the idea for the play, the musical, You're
A Good Man, Charlie Brown, the Ford Motor Company came to us
with the big project to do those ads. We got criticized quite a
bit for that, which is something that always puzzled me, why they
thought that that should have been the wrong thing to do. We've
received a little bit of criticism for doing the insurance ads.
A lot of people apparently don't believe in insurance and hate insurance
companies. Maybe they're justified; I hated them a couple of years
ago when they were destroying skating rinks, too.
BARRIER: Oh, the liability insurance problem.
SCHULZ: Yeah. I suppose licensing now has become enormous; I don't think United Features even had a licensing department when I was drawing the first 20 years. They had a business manager, but that was it. I don't think he ever really went out and sought licensing; everything came to us. Now, this doesn't mean that he took everything, but the one thing that was different about mineand I'm not sure, there may have been others, but none that I know ofI think I was the first cartoonist who insisted that he see everything that was done. I tried to watch over all the products and make sure that what we did was right. I tried to make all the drawings that would appear, even though my contract didn't necessarily allow for that supervision. I've heard some cartoonists complain because their syndicate doesn't let them get involved. Well, I think they should just demand that they [be allowed to] get involved. Fortunately, I had good people to work with, they were understanding people, and they always let me see what they were discussing with other people, and I had a chance to meet with all the different licensees. They never did anything behind my back. At least, the first group of people. Later on, when those men all retired, another group of people came in, and they began to do some things behind my back, and that caused us a lot of trouble. Since then, within the past seven or eight years, I have a new contract. Again I'm dealing with reasonable people, and I now have the legal right to have complete control over everything's that done.
BARRIER: I was going to ask you about that, because I knew that
traditionally when a cartoonist signed up with a syndicate, the
syndicate owned the strip, and I guess in the fifties, technically,
they could have fired you and hired somebody else to draw "Peanuts."
SCHULZ: They would have had to show, however, that I was not keeping up the quality. They would have had to show some justification for doing it, but I think legally they could have done that. But not any more.
BARRIER: Now around 1970 was when you had this fellow Warren Lockhart [working for Schulz as a business representative]; what has happened to him?
SCHULZ: I don't know. He got involved with a film projecthe was one of the producers, and it won an Academy Award, and he used that as a jumping-off point, to go off on his own. I haven't seen Warren for a couple of years.
BARRIER: How long was he with you?
SCHULZ: Boythe time goes by. He and Ron Nelson both had worked for Ice Follies, and Ron was just telling me yesterday that he now has been with me for 18 years. I suppose Warren was with me maybe 10 years. I can't remember.
BARRIER: According to a 1971 Newsweek article, the Creative
Development Corporation, as I guess it was called originally [later
Creative Associates], started in 1970, so that would have been 18
years ago. At that point, in 1970, how had things developed so that
you werewell, let me put it this way. I read a story from
1965, and at that point you said that when people were calling you
about licensing agreements, you would refer them automatically to
United Features. You had nobody working with you, I guess, who could
help you screen such licensing requests or handle them otherwise.
You would refer them to UFS, which would decide if it wanted to
do them or not, and then the licensees would get back to you as
to exactly how the product would be handled. How had things developed
by 1970 so that you felt the need to set up some other mechanism?
SCHULZ: It all started with the ice arena. The small arena across town had been forced to close because of structural difficulties, and my first wife, Joyce, came home one day and said, "The ice arena's closed," and I said, "That's terrible." We had just started to skate there with our kids, and I wished there were something we could do about it, because we liked the two men who were running it, the Baxter brothers. She said, "I was hoping you'd say that." She already had in her mind, I'm sure, just in driving across the town, and two years later she had built what has been regarded as the world's most beautiful ice arena. She tried running it herself for a while, and then one dayI don't know how it happenedI think a couple of men came in and conned her into helping her promote the arena with shows. They got the Ice Follies to come in, and the Ice Follies had Warren Lockhart and Ron Nelson running that division. It was a smaller version of the larger Ice Follies show. Warren had always liked Snoopy, and said that if we had the Ice Follies here, we should also sell Snoopy to the Ice Follies. He arranged that, and so Joyce hired them both to help her run the arena; they were not hired to work for me.
She kept saying, "These are bright young fellows. They can probably help you in your business, too." I used to think in the back of my mind, oh, yeah, just what I need, somebody to help me run my business. As it turned out, Ron really was an enormous help. He sort of took over all the financial affairs, not only of the arena but our own financial affairs, and then eventually did come in to work in here, and we formed Creative Associates. I still don't know exactly why we did that; you'd have to ask Ron. I just don't pay any attention. He hands me pieces of paper, and I sign them, and that's it. Then we built this studio, and they've been working with me ever since. Ron now has become a real expert on all the ramifications of licensing and promotion. I trust him implicitly; he handles all of my business affairs. I rarely question him. He doesn't question my drawings, and I don't question the business part of it. And that's really how it happened. I didn't hire them at all to help me run the business; I was perfectly satisfied with the way things were going.
BARRIER: You were not swamped with too many distractions?
SCHULZ: No, I'm never swamped by that kind of distraction. The only kind of distractions that bother me are the continual requests for special drawings for my grandfather who's retiring, or the priest in our church who is retiring and who uses your cartoon, or so-and-so's birthday's coming up, or so-and-so is sick in hospital, and auctionswe get auction requests every day. Some are fine, and some are not; if they write "Dear Celebrity," and it's a form letter, we throw it away. I cannot understand anybody wanting a favor from somebody and not only not evenmost of the time not spelling your name right, but not even using your name at all. But we try to do the best we can with all of these things. Those are the things that bother me the most.
BARRIER: I can't imagine that would be that much of a drain on your time. Are there so many that you have a blanket policy of saying no to every one of them?
SCHULZ: No; it's not the time, it's the anxiety and the guilt feelings that they give to you. Time is no problem with me. I actually don't even work very long hours. I start here at 9, and usually I go home at 4 o'clock. That's not bad. Five days a week; I don't work at night, or on the weekends. So it's not a matter of time, it's just a matter of the energy, I guess, plus the fact that it's not a job which depends strictly on the amount of hours you put in. It depends on what you can think of. The never-ending burden of having to do something day after day after day, and it never lets up. Plus there are the television shows and the other little side items that have to be thought of, and the requests for special drawings for program covers and different things like that. I was very flattered to be asked, for the third time, to do a cover for the AT&T golf tournament; it used to be the Crosby. I've been drawing golf cartoons for the Crosby tournament now for about 32 years. I enjoy that, but again, it's just another group of things that you have to think of. Always having to think of something funny. And the television shows: That's a monstrous medium, to try to write those stories. Right now we're in the midst of doing a special film on cancer for people who are relating to children who might have cancer. It's a difficult thing to write. So something's always in the back of my mind; I wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning, and I roll over in bed, and suddenly I'm awake. Well, what am I gonna do in the third scene in the cancer film? Maybe I can think of something before I go back to sleep. Then I wake up in the morning, and I haven't thought of anything. But that's the way it goes all the time.
But I purposely don't get involved in the business affairs. I never
see any of the business people who come here to see Ron on things
like investments or things that he might be buying. I never see
those people; I don't even know who they are. Somebody asked me
today, "Who are these people that go into your studio that
carry briefcases?" and I say, "I don't know." If
they're carrying a briefcase, that means they're trying to sell
us something. And I would say that I attend maybe three quarters
of the meetings with licensees. Sometimes I simply don't go in and
get involved; I let the other people here do that. If I know it's
something very important, if it's a new group, then I might do it.
But again, I stay mainly in my own room here and draw the comics.
BARRIER: How much of the artwork for the licensed products do you do yourself?
SCHULZ: I don't but rarely make new drawings any more. We issued orders, a long time ago, that they use only pickup art from the strip. And then another man who does some special designing for us, on a free-lance basis, came up with the idea of creating a large booklet which has glossy reprints of all of the characters in a variety of poses, and the licensees are supposed to pick whatever drawings from that, and be inspired in some cases by those poses. In rare instances where it's something that I feel is very importantif it's a cover of a certain box or a book or something like that, and they want a drawing which would be unique, then I might make a special drawing, but I rarely do that any more.
BARRIER: Years agothis would be back in the early sixties, maybefor Hallmark, for example, they had other people actually drawing the characters
SCHULZ: No, never. Hallmark has never had anybody draw [the characters].
BARRIER: I worked with a fellow whose wife had worked for Hallmark in Kansas City, and she was speaking of having done art for "Peanuts" cards; this would have been in 1965, or something like that. I was startled, because it had never occurred to me that you had not done all the artwork.
SCHULZ: In fact, I did the first drawings myself. A man named Arnold
Shapiro was the one who came up with the idea and finally sold Hallmark
on doing it. I drew all the first cards. Some of them were foldout
cards that had as many as four to six drawings. I was also doing
all of the Ford ads at that time. Some of them would have as many
as six drawings; it would be a whole newspaper ad. I was working
with the J. Walter Thompson people, creating all of the ads. And
I did the [drawings] for the billboards, and helped them do the
television commercials. And I was doing the special drawings for
Connie Boucher's Happiness Is a Warm Puppy books;
we did six of those. I illustrated two books for Art Linkletter,
on Kids Say the Darnedest Things. I did a couple of
books on letters to President Johnson, things like that, and I was
also doing teen-age cartoons for a church publication. Finally,
I said, "Forget it, this is too much." I just couldn't
stand it all. Now, if anybody said they did some drawings for Hallmark,
what they did was to draw in some backgrounds and create the cards.
I've always admired the way Hallmark created the cards, but no one
ever drew the characters themselves. Since then, of course, there
have been a few poses that might require an extra arm of Snoopy
holding something or doing something, but beyond that, they rarely
make any special drawings themselves, but they do make some wonderfully
decorative backgrounds and things of that kind.
BARRIER: There was a series of comic books back in the late fifties; you couldn't have drawn all that.
SCHULZ: No. I had a very close friend named Jim Sasseville, who now lives down in the San Jose area some place, and he always wanted to draw comic strips and everything, and when United Features came up with the idea of having a few comic pages in the Nancy books and all of that, I said, "I can't do those myself, but I have this friend who can really draw." Jim did those for quite a while, and moved out here to California with his wife. Later on, he quit and went on to something else, and I had another man work with me for a while. It was just a good way to have somebody around who could help in the studio, to do all the little things like answer the letters. In those days, I had no secretary. This fellow who took Jim's place was named Tony; since then he has died, but he used to answer the fan mail for me, and do all the little extra thingsrun to the post officeand he drew all of the comic magazines. All of the money we got from the comic magazines went to pay Tony's salary, so that worked out fine. He liked doing it. But then, for some reason, they didn't want us any more, so we just stopped doing it.
BARRIER: In other words, the time pressures you've felt have never
been from having to spend too much of your time being a businessman
or a celebrity, but just from having to draw too many things.
SCHULZ: It probably wasn't so much a matter of choice as it was just plain ignorance or lack of ability. I don't know anything about business, I really don't; it doesn't interest me. If I were to have to sell a product, I wouldn't even know how much to charge for it. I don't know anything about it, and I refuse to get involved in something I don't know anything about. That was the syndicate's job; I would draw the comic strip and they would market it, they'd make the decisions. I always liked the people at United Features, the business manager and the president. The president was named Larry Rutman, [and] he treated me not unlike a father. We always got along well; we only had a couple of arguments in all those years. And now, again, they're a good group of people. I trust their judgment, although Ron, really, probably puts a lot of pressure on them now, too, I think. Ron has learned probably more about the business than they have.
BARRIER: But you said that at one point, I guess after Rutman had
retired, that there was a period there when you were not happy with
SCHULZ: Oh, terribly unhappy.
BARRIER: When would this have been?
SCHULZ: I don't know; I can't remember dates.
BARRIER: Would this have been around the time that Ron
SCHULZ: Ron was working for me at the time.
BARRIER: Oh, it was in the seventies.
SCHULZ: Yeah. I think these new people mistrusted Warren, and maybe with justification; I have no idea. But there was really some mistrust there. I remember once they signed a contract with Random House for me to do eight books, and I said, "Where in the world did that come from? I can't write eight books. Who said I was going to write eight books?" And they said, "Well, that's what the contract says." I said, "I can't write eight books." They said, "Well, okay, if you can't do it, we won't do it." But why in the world some man would sign a contract for me to write eight books is beyond me. And then I remember they were selling Charlie Brown razor blades over in Germany. Whose idea was that? Charlie Brown shouldn't be selling razor blades. These were the things that were beginning to annoy me. I can't even remember the others.
I also, for a long period of time, even back in Larry Rutman's day, I remember talking with him down in his home in Monterey once, and I said, "Larry, I think I have done more for you than any cartoonist you've ever had. I think I deserve something extra." "What do you mean?" "I don't even know, but I think I deserve a little something extra. How about a guaranteed income of a certain amount for the rest of my life?" "Oh, well, we can't do that. But you get more than the others." "No, I don't get any more, I just get 50 percent, that's what everybody else gets. If I get more, it's because I work harder." He couldn't understand that; and the next man didn't even come close to being able to understand that. I kept saying, "I want something more. I don't know what it is, but I want something more." They just couldn't understand it. It was interesting that when the third president came in, Bob Metz, he understood it within five minutes. All I wanted was to control my property. I wasn't out to destroy it. I think the other people were afraid that I was going to run away with it, that if I got control of it I would go off and do all sorts of wild things. Well, it was just the opposite: I was afraid that was what they were going to do. And so I now have a contract which means that I can do anything that I want, as long as it does not destroy the property, which I'd been insane to do, anyway. I never asked for more money.
BARRIER: The 50 percent split is still
SCHULZ: I'll bet anything that I could have threatened them and said, "From now on I want 70." But why? That wasn't the object. The strip brings in plenty of money. That's not the object of the whole thing. There's plenty of money to go around for everybody. I just want to make sure that this product is not killed off and we can do everything properly. This doesn't mean I've always made the right decisions, but I bet I've made more right decisions than they have.
BARRIER: Have there been occasions when United Features has sent back a strip, or said, "We're really worried about this one?"
SCHULZ: Yeah. There were only two occasions. One was a long time ago; Linus's blanket suddenly took on a life [of its own] and began to attack Lucy. Larry Rutman called; this scared him to death. He thought for sure that it would frighten children, that the blanket doing this would frighten the child reader. Which was ridiculous, when you think of the things that they see in other places. I remember I finished up the little series and let it go at that. Later on, when Franklin was introduced into the strip, the little black kidI could have put him in long before that, but for other reasons, I didn't. I didn't want to intrude upon the work of others, so I held off on that. But I finally put Franklin in, and there was one strip where Charlie Brown and Franklin had been playing on the beach, and Franklin said, "Well, it's been nice being with you, come on over to my house some time." Again, they didn't like that. Another editor protested once when Franklin was sitting in the same row of school desks with Peppermint Patty, and said, "We have enough trouble here in the South without you showing the kids together in school." But I never paid any attention to those things, and I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklinhe wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, "Well, Larry, let's put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How's that?" So that's the way that ended. But I've never done much with Franklin, because I don't do race things. I'm not an expert on race, I don't know what it's like to grow up as a little black boy, and I don't think you should draw things unless you really understand them, unless you're just out to stir things up or to try to teach people different things. I'm not in this business to instruct; I'm just in it to be funny. Now and then I may instruct a few things, but I'm not out to grind a lot of axes. Let somebody else do it who's an expert on that, not me.
BARRIER: I've read a number of interviews where you say in effect that social issues are not what
SCHULZ: What are called "social issues" in some of these
strips I think are so obvious and so obnoxious thatI think
the social issues that I deal with are much more long-lasting and
more important than losing the White House. Those are easy targets,
no matter which party is in the stew. People say, "Don't you
ever deal in social issues?" "Well, don't you read the
strip?" If you read the strip every day, you'll see that I
deal with more social issues in one month than some of these deal
[with] in a whole year. But you have to be a little more sensitive
BARRIER: Watterson, when he was still doing interviews, had what I thought was a very interesting comment about you, and I wanted to get your response to this. He said, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for 'Peanuts.' Every now and then I hear that 'Peanuts' isn't as funny as it was or it's gotten old or something like that. I think that what's really happened is that Schulz's 'Peanuts' changed the entire face of comic strips and everybody had now caught up to him. I don't think he's five years ahead of everybody else like he used to be, so that's taken some of the edge off it. I think it's still a wonderful strip in terms of solid construction, character development, the fantasy element... Things that we now take for granted-reading the thoughts of an animal, for examplethere's not a cartoonist who's done anything since 1960 that doesn't owe Schulz a tremendous debt." I read another quotation from an interview with you, in which you described yourself as a very competitive person, and I wondered now that you've done the strip for almost 40 years, and there are cartoonists who are obviously tremendously in your debt, like Watterson, do you feel a certain satisfaction at seeing that kind of thing, or do you feel a certain edginess, like "I want to get out there and knock these kids out of the park"?
SCHULZ: Well, in the first place, I'm always stunned to discover that I am now one of the old-timers. Somebody said, "Now that Milt Caniff has died, that makes you kind of the dean of the comic-strip artists." I still think of myself as being one of the young ones. Garry Trudeau stopped by here over 10 years ago, and he was doing an article for a magazine on the bright young cartoonists of the day, and I noticed that I was not in there; and then all of a sudden it occurred to me, I'm not one of the bright young cartoonists. It's flattering to think that these men were influenced by me, and for the good ones, I think that's fine. It's a little bit sad when I see some of the others that are imitating, or at least think they're imitating, what I am doing, by having little sly, philosophical remarks in the last panel which are neither sly nor philosophical, but are just plain dumb. They don't have the touch to know how to do that. And I think if you don't have the touch, you shouldn't do it. I see this so often.
I'm very proud of what I think is the most difficult thing to
do in a comic strip, and that is to come up with the very broad
theme on which the strip can be built. That I have created what
has become part of the language, the term "security blanket,"
the Great Pumpkin, just the term "Charlie Brown"someone
says, "Oh, he's a real Charlie Brown." I was stunned last
night-it's about 10:30 at night, I'm lying in bed, and I'm reading
the biography of Shirley Jackson, and right near the end, about
10, 12 pages from the end, she is talking about one of Shirley Jackson's
friends, and she brings up Charlie Brown kicking the football. And
I said to Jean, "Look at this. This is astounding." Here
she's writing a serious biography, and yet she uses Charlie Brown
to point up a certain point in this book. That makes me feel wonderful.
Every now and then I'll be reading a detective novel or something
like that, and Snoopy will be mentioned. John MacDonald used to
mention Snoopy in his detective novels, the Travis McGee ones. But
some of these other imitators, who try to do this little philosophical
thing ... It's kind of sad; they should just try to be themselves
and not try to imitate others. Of course, when "Doonesbury"
became so successful, I could see in college papers and in submissions
that young people would send to me hoping to get criticism, they
were all imitating "Doonesbury." That's crazy, because
every individual is unique, and you should just draw yourself.
BARRIER: You said something else, in another interview, about "Peanuts" that took me aback a little bit. You talked about the strip having "a bitter feeling" to it, and said it "dealt in defeat." I was thinking about that in connection with all the licensing of children's products in particular. There are certain ironies and paradoxes connected with "Peanuts"; it's never been a children's strip, and yet Snoopy has become a sort of icon, like Mickey Mouse, divorced in a way from the strip itself.
SCHULZ: Oddly enough, I have fought against children's products all these years, because I do not consider it a children's strip. I have always said, "If you have to do something for children, that's fine, but let's not forget that our main reading audience is out there among the college kids, and in the fathers and mothers and grandmothers. Let's not forget all of those products; I just don't want a bunch of children's things out there. But they keep coming out anyway. I have not been able to close the floodgates. The children's products just keep coming. And I guess it's all right; it doesn't hurt anything. But that always has been a personal problem with me.
BARRIER: Still, I would think there would be a certain satisfaction in seeing a child carrying a Snoopy doll, for example. It's kind of like seeing your audience ...
SCHULZ: Oh, yeah. If you go to a skating competition, invariably
there will be two or three girls involved in the skating who are
carrying their little plush Snoopy around with them. I think one
of the most satisfying things is to pull up at a school stop sign
early in the morning and see some school kids crossing in front
of you, and one of them is carrying a Snoopy lunch box. There's
something about that that's very satisfying. I mean, they have to
carry something and they might as well carry mine.
BARRIER: What do you think people get out of having a product with a picture of Snoopy on it? What do you think makes them buy that sort of thing?
SCHULZ: I was driving along one day, and came to a stop sign, and there was a truck in front of me, and glued to the window of that truck was a little cartoon character of Yosemite Sam. Now, I defy you to tell me what Yosemite Sam has done. He's been in some animated cartoons, he was a funny character, but you can't tell me anything that he ever did, really, or that he ever said. And yet, this just showed to me that people like cartoon characters. They like to be able to try to draw them themselves, and they like all sorts of cartoon characters. I think this was the foundation of cartoon licensing; people just like cartoons, that's all, and they'll put anything on their refrigerator or on their car, their bumper sticker, anything that they happen to like. If you can come up with a cartoon character that is even more appealing than the others, then it's a real natural, and I think that's where it all starts.
Now, there are some people who are against licensing, and in a way, I suppose it should be flattering. They have become fond of your work, and they clutch it to themselves very selfishly. They want it to be theirs. They have discovered this new comic strip and they want to talk about it with their friends, and all of a sudden it becomes popular. It's like hearing a new singer for the first time, and you think she's just wonderful, and before you know it she's got four or five hit records and everybody in the country is talking about her. You've lost her-she's not yours any more. You've lost your discovery, and I suppose this is one of the things that people don't like. But we live in a culture where this is almost taken for granted. Everybody is involved in licensing. If Bill Cosby can sell chocolate pudding and all of the other things that he sells, and Willie Mays can sell things with his picture, and all the movie actors, everybody does it, why should I say, "No, I'm too good for this sort of thing"? Because it's not all mine anyway. As I said back at the beginning, this is not a pure art form by any means, it's a commercial product, and I've always said, "How can a commercial product be accused of turning commercial?" It doesn't make sense. As I've also said, I've been very careful about all the things that we've done. Perhaps we've made some mistakes, but I don't think we've ever turned out anything that was offensive, and I know I've never drawn anything that was offensive. Our television cartoons are as inoffensive as we can make them, without being sugary sweet and dumb. All I can say is that I've just done the best that I can, that's all.
BARRIER: Have there been products that people on your staff have wanted to license and you have said, "No, this makes me uncomfortable, I don't want to do it."
SCHULZ: We talk about that every now and then, and I just can't
remember which ones.
BARRIER: I've heard about some vacuum-cleaner company that wanted to use Pigpen as a mascot.
SCHULZ: I don't know why we turned that down. Maybe it just didn't interest me. Offhand, I just can't think of anything.
BARRIER: It sounds as if you and your people here are pretty much
in sync ...
SCHULZ: Oh, yeah. Evelyn [Ellison], who handles the first look at the products that come in, always brings all the Hallmark cards in to me. They're doing a new line now, which are slightly religiously oriented, and I bet I turned down half of those, because I'm very sensitive to what we call "spiritual humor," or something like that. I don't like phrases like "the man upstairs," and things like that. I despise that kind of humor. So I turned down at least six of those cards. I also turn down anything where you're using a phrase that has become quite popular but created by somebody else. I want all of the phrases that are used to be mine, and not something that was created by some comedian.
BARRIER: You're not going to have Lucy saying, "Make my day."
SCHULZ: No, I don't think so. That would be a perfect example.
BARRIER: On the TV shows, I gather from what Bill [Melendez] told
me that you've always kept very tight control over the scripting.
SCHULZ: Yes, I wish that I could live right in Hollywood and work in Bill's studio and not have to do all these other things, but be right there when all these shows are done, and be there every daywork with the animators, and look at every scene, and have absolute tight control over them. But I can't. I believe the strip is still the most important thing, so a lot of the things get away from me. He has a good group of animators, and I like them all; we get along well, but I still watch over things so that they don't do animators' tricks. My characters do not run into trees or go speeding off in different directions. It's a different type of animation. Our shows are very difficult to do, and I don't think Bill is given the credit most of the time for overcoming all of the difficulties, because these little characters act almost real, in the things that they do; they don't do many cartoon things, in the animation. Snoopy does, but not the kids.
BARRIER: Something I've always wonderedand this is more a
matter of satisfying personal curiosity than for the articleis
why, in the cartoons, you never hear Snoopy's thoughts as you do
in the strip, or as you did on the stage, in the musical.
SCHULZ: That was a decision that was made years ago when we were doing the first animation, which was for the Ford commercials. J. Walter Thompson was the advertising company, and they had several people come out, and we discussed all of these things, and we actually made some tests of some Hollywood actors imitating what they thought Snoopy's thoughts might sound like, and all of that, but I just vetoed the whole thing. I said, "We can get around it. We will lose something there, but we will gain something else in animation." Which is the difference between the two mediums. As long as you know which medium you're working in, you're all right. You'll gain something in animation, and you'll gain something in strip; they're two different mediums. I'm glad that we stuck to that.
BARRIER: There have been fewer new "Peanuts" specials in the last few years, and Bill said that you were the reason, essentially, you were the bottleneck. One thing I wanted to get clear, you actually initiate the scripts yourself, is that right?
SCHULZ: Oh, that's an enormous problem. I like to initiate the
scripts myself. I think that our best shows have been ones that
have been created spontaneously by a certain thought which has come
to me. Being forced to do a show because our producer, Lee Mendelson,
has committed himself to the networks for a show, I have not always
turned out our best work. We have done a show for virtually every
holiday that is, and I think in some cases they have not been as
good as they should have been, simply because we were forced to
grind out a show on a subject which I was not ready to write about.
Our best shows are shows which have come about because I just happened
to make a trip to France and visit Omaha Beach and be inspired to
do "What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?" or read an article
in Sports Illustrated once about sled dogs, and suddenly
thinking to myself, "Snoopy would make a terrible sled dog;
he has to run on his two hind feet and he's too civilized."
That's always been one of the favorite shows of Bill and myself.
And, of course, my acquaintance with ice skating prompted the Peppermint
Patty ice-skating show, which we have been complimented on so often,
because of the authenticity of the skating in it. We had real skaters
perform for Peppermint Patty, and the animators followed their actions,
so that when Peppermint Patty skated a third-test figure, it was
absolutely authentic. This is the way shows should be done; shows
should not be ordered by somebody else from the outside, and then
ground out that way. That's the worst way of all to do them.
BARRIER: I did want to ask you about the arenadid I read that you had sold it?
SCHULZ: No. Nobody else could own it. Because it loses so much money.
BARRIER: It's more of a hobby than a real business.
SCHULZ: It's more of an obligation.
BARRIER: In what sense?
SCHULZ: Well, I don't want to let down all the people that love
skating. Last week we finished our fourteenth Senior Hockey Tournament;
we had 600 men 40 and over, on up into their seventies, come to
play hockey. They look forward to this all year long. We gave them
a barbecue one night, and we served 1,500 steaks. We gave them all
nice jackets and shirts, and all sorts of things. I just don't want
to let them down, that's all.
BARRIER: Why does it lose money?
SCHULZ: Because we run such a quality operation. We employ about
50 or 60 people over there. I don't think an arena could make money,
anyway, even if we set it down to a bare operation. It's so expensive
just to keep the ice going; that's quite a buildup.
BARRIER: That's on Steele Lane, is that right?
SCHULZ: You can't miss it; it's across the street. The big Swiss-style building. And then right across from it is our Snoopy Gallery, which we built because we didn't have room for the all the things that we sell and the skating equipment and all the Snoopy things. And then I had accumulated so many other gadgets and trophies and plaques and things that the whole upstairs is Snoopy's Gallery, which you'll enjoy visiting.
BARRIER: There was a lot of publicity, when you first moved to Santa Rosa, about the arena being a tourist attraction, and this place being a tourist attraction, and tourists were knocking on the door. Does that still happen?
SCHULZ: Well, it does if I go over there. It's almost impossible for me to go over there without somebody coming up for an autograph, or 15 Japanese students lining up, all giggling and wanting drawings. Drives me crazy. But we don't allow visitors here any more, unless they accidentally knock on the door and walk in. I just can't take it. The payoff, I think, was when a busload of Japanese tourists pulled up one day. Without even asking us, the driver was going to make this a curiosity stop. They all came roaring in, with all the little cameras. They wouldn't do that to a doctor or an attorney, but I'm supposed to go out there and pose for their pictures. Again, it just lays another guilt problem on me, because I'm thoroughly grateful for all the nice things that have happened to me, but I also am being driven by all of the obligations, too. I just can't do all these things. And I hate autographing. I just despise autographing. I get so annoyed. Every time you pick up the paper, it shows some athlete signing something; it's always a picture of so-and-so autographing something. What's so great about autographing? I declined yesterday at the county fair. We had some visitors from England, and Jeannie and I walked in the gate and walked down in the midway and were looking around, and some couple stopped me and said, "Aren't you Charles Schulz?" I said, "Yeah." "Can we have your autograph?" I said, "No. Can't I just be left alone to enjoy the fair?"
BARRIER: You moved to California inwas it '58 or '59?
SCHULZ: '58. Jill was just a baby.
BARRIER: And you lived in Sebastopol at first, and then moved here.
SCHULZ: Yeah. And all the kids grew up and moved out into the country, for a while, and then Joyce and I separated. She lives in Hawaii, and I now live here right on the edge of town.
BARRIER: A former bishop's residence?
SCHULZ: We sold that. That was owned by the local bishop; beautiful place.
BARRIER: How did you settle on Santa Rosa as a place to live?
SCHULZ: Jeannie lived in Santa Rosa. Her kids were still teenagers,
and were still going to school, so we just bought a house in Santa
BARRIER: One more thing on the TV shows. Bill did the first "Garfield" special, and he said you had told him that was a conflict of interest and he should not be doing "Garfield" as well as "Peanuts."
SCHULZ: Not true. The president of United Features came to me one day and he said, "I've got something very sensitive to ask you, and I'll understand whatever your response is. We have a chance now to sell a 'Garfield' show, and we think Bill is the best person to do it. Would you mind if we asked Bill to do it?" I said, "No, not really, because I know Bill always needs work to keep his animators going, and if Bill wants to do it, that's all right with me. I don't want to stand in the way of Jim Davis, if he has a chance to do a television show, as long as it doesn't interfere with Bill's doing 'Peanuts' things. If Bill suddenly decides he'd rather do 'Garfield' and forget me, then I would object." I think Bill did the first one, then one of his animators broke away and took over doing the "Garfield" shows, so Bill didn't do any more after that.
Lee Mendelson's wife and another man, Ed Bogas, started to write the music for both shows, and one year "Garfield" and one of our shows were both competing for an Emmy, and they had written the music for the "Garfield," and they won the Emmy. I said, "Now we're getting to a conflict. Now we're competing. Before, we weren't competing, but I just don't think that you people can write music for both shows. Make up your mindeither you write for me or you write for 'Garfield,' because you can't do it for both." It hasn't come out yet, but several months ago, there were two shows, there was a "Garfield" showI think he went to Hawaii, or something like thatand a Snoopy show. They ran the "Garfield" at 8 and they ran ours at 8:30. I thought the "Garfield" show was so terrible that I said, "I don't want any more being paired with 'Garfield. '" Maybe we lose viewers, maybe we don't, I don't know8:30 is supposed to be a better time slot. But I said, "That show was so badnever again. Don't put me with 'Garfield. '" That's the only conflict that has ever arisen. I like Jim Davis; I don't know him real well, but I think he's a nice fellow. But there comes a time when you do compete.
BARRIER: One thing I wanted to confirmI saw a cryptic reference
to a story that there was a real Snoopy, you had a dog named Snoopy
at some point, and you traded him for a truckload of gravel.
SCHULZ: Well, yeah, but that had nothing to do with it. The real Snoopy was based upon the dog I had whose name was Spike, who wasn't a beagle. Later on, after we moved out here, we had the two boys, and Craig wanted a dog. Craig was a year younger than Monte. So we went out to a puppy farm one Sunday morning and we got Craig a little beagle. I said to Craig, "What are you going to name him?" "I'm going to name him Spike." Then Monte suddenly decided he wanted a dog, too, so we bought another puppy, and Monte named his beagle Snoopy. They came back, and within the next few days they began to scrap. As the days went on, the fights got more ferocious. So we thought, this can't carry on. A guy came by one day who was delivering shale to some driveway they were putting in, and he saw the dog. He said, "Boy, I'd sure like to have that dog." So we traded Snoopy for a load of shale. And he loved that dog; every time we'd see him he'd say, "Boy, that Snoopy is a real dog, he and I really get along." So it was a good sale. But Spike outlived Snoopy, by quite a few years.
BARRIER: Something else I wanted to check with you, because it's
such a wonderful story. I have an old press release here that United
Features put out in 1959, about how you sold your first strips to
them. It's the kind of anecdote that would be wonderful to use in
the story, if it's true. Since it's a press release from the syndicate,
I thought, well, the odds are maybe 50-50 it's true. [Reading from
the press release] "'My wife and I kept our fingers crossed,
waiting for the reply,' he says, 'and when the syndicate wrote that
they would be interested in seeing my funny youngsters developed
in comic-strip form, rather than as single-panel cartoons, I really
got excited. I had already developed some definite little characters
that I thought would make a good daily strip, so I drew them up
and left for New York.' It was a nasty, rainy morning when he arrived
in New York, and to keep his drawings dry he tucked them under his
coat and hurried to the syndicate office without pausing for breakfast.
He was so early that none of the staff had arrived for the day,
so he left the drawings with the receptionist and went out to eat.
While he was gone, the editors arrived, and the receptionist gave
them the samples. They looked them over, and by the time Schulz
returned they had decided that his inimitable little charactersgood
o1' Charlie Brown, Lucy, Patty, Violet, Schroeder and the otherswould
indeed make a good comic strip. And thus was 'Peanuts' born."
SCHULZ: [laughing] Not true at all. Basically, 80 percent of it is true. In the first place, I wasn't married.
BARRIER: I thought you got married in '49.
SCHULZ: Well, that's a lie, too [Schulz and Joyce Halverson married on April 18, 1951], but we won't go into that. That's not important. It was drizzling that morning, and I got to the syndicateI had sent them these wonderful panels; it was the best thing I had ever done. I took all of the best "Li'l Folks" ideas I had done for the Pioneer-Press and I put the title up here like this, and then I thought, I've got to do something that's a little bit different, I've got to give them an angle, and my drawing style is so simple, I know what I'll do: I'll draw two cartoons, I'll draw one here and I'll letter in the gag line, and I'll draw another one down here and letter in the gag line, and this will be sold just as a panel, the same size as "Dennis the Menace" and any others. It was really neat; I was very proud of that. I knew that this was going to come close, and I drew 15 of them, sent them to United Features, and never heard a word. In the meantime, I was working for Art Instruction, the correspondence school, and I waited for a month, never heard a word, which was typical of United Features. Since then, I've said, "Couldn't you at least send people a postcard saying, 'Your drawings arrived, we'll be looking at them'?" They never learned. Anyway, I wrote them a letter and I said, "I mailed such-and-such drawings to you, I think perhaps they were lost in the mail, could you tell me if you received them because I'd like to put a tracer on them." I got a letter from Jim Freeman; it said, "I've been showing them around, and we kind of like them. Would you care to come to New York?" Etcetera. So that was great. I took the train to New York.
In the meantime, I had been doing some other strips which were three panels. They were very brief incidents. Up until then, people drawing kid cartoons had used the old well-what-are-we-going-to-do-today sort of theme. Mine was very brief incidents; nobody had ever done things like this before. This is something that people forget about, too, if they talk about imitating me, or something. Nobody had ever done this type of humor before. There was a lot of gag-cartoon humor which was highly original, which I admired, but nobody had done anything like this in a strip, and I had about six of them that I had been working on, and I thought, well, if I'm going to New York I should show them some of the other things that I've been doing, just to show them how versatile I am. I had these in an envelope, and it was drizzling that morning, and I got to the office about 8 o'clock, or whenever it was, and there was nobody there except the girl at the switchboard. She said, "They're not here," and I said, "I'll go out and eat breakfast. It's raining out; can I just leave this package here?" I didn't say what was in it, or for them to open it, or anything. I went out and had breakfast, and when I came back the sales manager was there, and the president, and they said, "We've opened the package, and we kind of think we'd rather have a strip if you think you could draw a strip." I said, "Sure, I'd rather draw a strip." They said, "Could you create some definite characters?" See, in there it says they were fascinatedthere was no Charlie Brown or anybody. They said, "Could you create some definite characters?"
That's when I went back to Minneapolis and asked my friend Charlie
Brown if I could use his name, and he said, "What does he look
like?" He looked at it and he said, "Oh, gee, I was hoping
I'd look more like Steve Canyon." And I drew the little puppy,
Snoopy; originally he was to be called Sniffy, but I was walking
uptown one day and I saw a comic magazine about a little dog named
Sniffy, and I thought, oh, they broke my name. On my way back to
my job, I remembered that my mother had said, "If you ever
have another dog, you should name him Snoopy." I thought, hey,
why didn't I think of that before? I named him Snoopy, and I had
the little boy named Shermy, named after a friend of mine, and a
girl named Patty, who was named after a cousin of mine. Those were
the first four characters. That was it; that's how it started.
BARRIER: I've read that you are talking now about retiring.
SCHULZ: I don't know how I can. All of my friends are retiringeither retiring or dying. It's become a problem for me. I don't know what to do.
BARRIER: I've heard that you're concerned aboutand I noticed
when you were drawing just now
SCHULZ: Oh, my hand shakes. It's been shaking for years.
BARRIER: You can see a little of that, comparing the strip now with years ago, you can see a little more wavering ...
SCHULZ: It's just annoying, that's all it is. It slows me down, and I have to letter very carefully. I'm learning to live with it. After my heart surgery, it was intolerable, and then I had knee surgery last September. I remember one day I came back, and I was so weak from the knee surgery I finally had to quit; I just couldn't hold that pen still. It's annoying, but I can live with that. I just don't know is it worth it. Am I supposed to sit here the rest of my life drawing these things while all my friends are retiring and everybody's doing different things?
BARRIER: I was looking back at some of the older interviews with you, and you sounded like you never wanted to quit ...
SCHULZ: I know, well...
BARRIER: ... And then some of the interviews I read recently, it's
like all of a sudden you're saying to yourself
SCHULZ: I'm getting old. I'll be 66 years old; I can't believe it. Oh, it's not that I want to [retire], I just wish there were some way of getting rid of all the other things and just drawing the comic strip. But I don't see how it could be done.
BARRIER: It sounds like your people here, though, can do a pretty good job of ...
SCHULZ: Well, yeah, but you take a look at those storyboards that they try to do down there in Hollywood without me. I always tease Bill and Lee, and I look at the storyboards, and I say, "This is what it's going to look like after I'm dead, isn't it?" That's what's going to happen. It won't be the same, for better or for worse.
BARRIER: I've heard that United Features will recycle the strip
rather than having anybody
SCHULZ: I don't see how they can. They say they will. If I die tonight, that's the end of the strip, as far as my drawing it, and I know the first thing they'll do is try to reprint things. But I seriously doubt that works. I know that's the first thing they'll try. But who knowsthat's all speculation.
BARRIER: I can't imagine anybody continuing your strip. The factory-produced strips"Garfield," yeswill continue, but yours, I can't imagine.
SCHULZ: And why? If Andrew Wyeth dies tonight, are they going to bring somebody else in? Everything has to end sooner or later.
BARRIER: How far ahead are you now? What kind of lead time do you
SCHULZ: I'm drawing the Sunday page, I think, for the second week of October, the daily strip-the next batch of strips would be the last week in September.
BARRIER: So you're not as far ahead as you used to be.
SCHULZ: No, I lost a lot after my knee surgery, and different things like that. I just haven't been able to recover; there are so many things that get in the way.
BARRIER: When did you have heart surgery?
SCHULZ: Seven years ago. There was my best lead. I had three months'
lead, because I didn't know what was going to happen; and I only
used a month of it. I wracked up my knee playing hockey. That was
worse than the heart surgery; that just took all the life out of
me. I haven't been able to come back. And then there are so many
things that interfere.
BARRIER: Like interviews.
SCHULZ: Interviews; today. See, now this afternoon is gone. Wednesday, Bill Melendez is coming up to talk about the cancer movie, and he'll be here from 11 o'clock on. Friday I have to play in a charity golf tournament which I just can't avoid. August 15, Spanish TV is coming. August 22, the girl who's doing my biography is coming, and she'll be here all week long.
BARRIER: Oh, somebody is doing
SCHULZ: It's kind of a biography; more of an interpretation rather
than a literal biography [Good
Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz by Rheta Grimsley
Johnson, was published in 1989]. It's that way all the time.
BARRIER: But you do interviews like this one out of a sense of obligation, I gather, to the people who are
SCHULZ: Well, I suppose this one I would do out of obligation to
the licensees, I think, although I learned my lesson on that one
with Advertising Age. Did you ever see that one? Ironically,
it was written by a guy named [Bob]Garfield. The fellow calls up,
and he does a column for Advertising Age; his name is Bill
Garfield or something, I don't know. There was an article about
him in Editor & Publisher last week. I thought, well,
that's fine, Advertising Age, that's good for the
licensing. He came up, we had a nice talk for about a half an hour
or so. Pretty soon he says, "I guess it's about time that I
should tell you something. I don't read your strip any more. I don't
think it's as good as it used to be." "Well, okay, I think
you're wrong, but if that's what you believe, that's all right."
We talked a little bit more about that, and I defended my position.
So he left, and as he went out the door, he said, "In a way,
I kind of apologize, because I've enjoyed talking with you and you
seem to be a nice person." Then he writes the whole column
about the strip not being as good as it used to be. I don't see
any object in that, unless it's to prove how wonderfully perceptive
No, I enjoy interviews, and I like taking the telephone interviews; it's a good way to relax from the drawing.
BARRIER: I must admit I was surprised when I called here, and you were on the phone. I thought, gee whiz, how nice.
SCHULZ: I don't understand people that don't want to do that, because I think it's kind of fun. I enjoy talking to high school students, and college students; I want to do little things like that. I don't like the ones in grade-school classes where they broadcast your voice in the classroom and they have the kids ask the questions, because the questions are so obvious: Where did you get the idea for Snoopy? But I still do them. I also don't like all the commitments ahead of time; like my summer now has been committed. Here it is August 1, and my summer is virtually gone. I've gotten to do almost nothing that I wanted to do, because I'm committed to so many different things.
BARRIER: One last question about the TV shows, about the Saturday morning show. Bill said this was again a case where, I gather, it did not continue because there was a lack of scripts.
SCHULZ: Yeah; they just couldn't do them. I don't know many Bill
sold originallyor Lee, Lee was the producer. Did he ever say
how many? Was it l8?
BARRIER: I think it was 15.
SCHULZ: Which we just couldn'tBill couldn't do that many. And I couldn't write a whole bunch of original stories, so we went back and got the stories out of the various strips. Then he just couldn't keep up the schedule, so he trimmed it back, and back, and then finally just gave up. There was too much. He just couldn't do them all. It had nothing to do with me.
PHYLLIS BARRIER: I have a question: What type of music do you listen to?
PHYLLIS BARRIER: I thought maybe you were a music listener while
you were drawing.
SCHULZ: I used to be, years ago, when I had my studio up in Sebastopol, in the woods. I just had the one secretary; she stayed at one end of the studio, and I was down at the other. We had the radio on to a kind of a quiet-music station all day long, but I don't do that any more. After my divorce, and the sadness of being separated from the kids temporarily and all of thatalthough they eventually all came back. But I used to get so depressed listening to songs and music that I stopped. Now it's just too much of an interruption. Most of my time is just sitting here trying to think of something. Then the phone rings, and the stereo's on too loud. I never listen to it.
[Posted July 2003]