Stan Pawlowski and Dreaming

News Clippings
Press Releases

Stan Pawlowski's new sculpture depicts Snoopy at rest under a maple tree. Above the dog, ensconced in the tree, is Snoopy's bird sidekick, Woodstock. The piece is titled "Dreaming."

These articles are arranged from the most recent down, so you'll always find the newest news about Charlie Brown and his friends toward the top; older articles will be located further down, or on previous pages.

George Winston's solo-piano melodies breathe life into old songs

July 10, 2010

By Scott Iwasaki
Deseret News

Pianist George Winston clearly continues to admire the late jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. His new album is titled "Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi Vol. 2."

It's the follow-up to 1996's "Linus & Lucy: the Music of Vince Guaraldi Vol. 1."

Winston, who arranged solo-piano versions of the songs and medleys, said he "just loves (Guaraldi's) songs."

"I've tried all his pieces," Winston said during a telephone interview from his studio in San Francisco. "I don't play them all, but I've tried them all."

He's tried to play every Guaraldi song from "The Peanuts" scores, Guaraldi family tapes and the live and studio recordings.

"There are three artists that I have tried to play all their music," Winston said. "Vince Guaraldi, the Doors and Professor Longhair from New Orleans."

While Winston has tried to arrange solo-piano versions of these artists' catalogs, it doesn't mean they all will be recorded.

"My personal voice is so different," he said. "It doesn't always work. I mean, theoretically it works, but it sometimes (the songs) don't live and breathe."

Winston said the most challenging Guaraldi song he's recorded is "Little Birdie," which appears on the new album.

The original song features Guaraldi on vocal and electric piano, highlighted by horns, bass and drums. The horns feature an improvised trumpet segment that answered the vocal part.

"When I first heard it, I was astounded," he said. "It had great Vince vocals, and he didn't sing much. I first heard it in 1973 and started working on it, but really focused on it in 1995."

Another difficult work is "Air Music," which is also on the new album.

"The original was minimal piano playing a high part and horns playing the main melody," Winston said. "And like 'Little Birdie,' the horns answered the main melody and the bass line.

"I wound up trying to get the same bass feeling with my left hand playing in the style of (New Orleans piano pioneers) James Booker and Henry Butler."

Winston said he chooses songs for his albums the same way he does for his live shows, which he calls "Winter" and "Summer."

"I'm lucky it's perfectly constructed," Winston said of his set list. "There are only two minor hits that I have to play -- 'Variations of Kanon by Pachelbel' and 'Thanksgiving.' I play 'Pachelbel' in the summer and 'Thanksgiving' in the winter."

And he changes the rest of his program, too.

"The Doors had one they had to do, 'Light My Fire.' And I would hate to be in a group where I have 10 hits that I had to do," Winston said.

"I'm lucky. I don't want four, and I don't want one, I have two. And that's perfect. Everything else (in the set) is what I am focused on at the moment.

"There's always some Guaraldi, Doors and Professor Longhair," he said. "And there is always melodic folk piano from 'Autumn,' 'December,' 'Summer' and 'Winter Into Spring' albums."

Winston said his songs are like cats.

"They're all different," he said. "I can tell a song that I want it on the record and the song will tell me, 'I'm not ready yet. I'm not getting up.'

"It's like when I want them to pose for a picture," Winston deadpanned. "They look at the camera and say, 'I'm not gong to do it.' And I say, 'But you did it every other time.'

"And they say, 'Yes, but there's that camera and I'm not going to do it now.' "

Blimp Has Best View Of TPC River Highlands

June 26, 2010

The Hartford Courant [Connecticut]

THE SKIES OF HARTFORD AND MIDDLESEX COUNTIES -- Pilot Jeff Capek reaches to his right and begins to turn the wheel at his hip that controls the angle and elevation of Snoopy One, the MetLife blimp that floats tranquilly over so many major sporting events.

The blimp -- airship, actually -- is about to nosedive to a 20-degree angle, which seems rather insignificant.

"There's a slight delay," Capek says, still spinning the wheel about 1,200 feet above the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

And then Snoopy One, this massive nylon chamber made weightless with 69,000 cubic feet of helium, quickly tips forward, darting, it seems, toward the ground.

"Only 20 degrees," Capek says, "but you'd swear you're looking straight down."

Indeed. Quad muscles are key here, unless you want to slide forward in your seat with your face pressed to the windshield like the cellphones that rest on the dash. Snoopy One, 132 feet long and 45 feet high, is more agile than you might think. The view from the gondola -- not even the size of a small car -- is breathtaking on a clear day such as Friday, and the ride can be, believe it or not, a little like a roller coaster.

Snoopy One, based on the East Coast, and sister ship Snoopy Two, based on the West, cover the continental U.S. and hover over PGA Tour events, NFL games, Triple Crown races and more. Snoopy, the "Peanuts" character and the MetLife logo, adorns the side, and 350 pounds of camera equipment are mounted to the bottom for live telecasts. At Capek's control, the ship bobs, weaves, dips, climbs and spins in an effort to capture a tournament's most captivating moments from high above.

Friday morning, Snoopy One was tied to a mast in the middle of a field at Hartford's Brainard Airport. A crew of 13, including Capek and crew chief Cory Yglesias, work to get it off the ground, adding and subtracting 25-pound sandbags to make sure the weight and balance are correct, pulling on ropes to properly position it for takeoff.

Capek soon says into the headset microphone, "Brainard tower, good morning, our ship is Snoopy One." The ship is quickly skyward, two propellers making for easy acceleration. It sounds like a lawnmower. After dipping a couple hundred feet to avoid an oncoming helicopter, Snoopy One is traveling about 40 mph, heading south along the Connecticut River like a bulky truck would trudge along the right lane of I-91.

There is a clear view of the Hartford and New Haven skylines, Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the UConn Health Center in Farmington. And then the TPC, its 18 holes, the galleries, the jam-packed parking lots, the signature Travelers umbrella in the middle of the lake near the finishing holes. Snoopy One runs on gasoline, and Friday's 50-minute trip burned only about four gallons.

For the crew, moving from event to event is the big project. For instance, Snoopy One arrived this week after a four-day flight from Memphis. Capek, maybe joined by a colleague or two, will fly the blimp; the rest make their way via trucks. They must be ready to change course if weather forces the blimp, which becomes unsafe in winds over 20 mph, to do the same.

This is a lifestyle as much as a job. Like most of the crew, Capek (Jacksonville) and Yglesias (Lakeland) are based in Florida, where the blimp spends winters. Another no-no for blimps: snow. Too much accumulates and could collapse the ship. Forget Super Bowl XLVIII, to be held at Giants Stadium in 2014.

"No chance, no way, that there's a blimp there for that," Yglesias said.

Capek, 37, has been piloting Snoopy One for 10 years. A Pittsburgh native, he attended aeronautical school in Daytona Beach, Fla. A few years later, a friend hooked him up with someone on a blimp crew. He's rarely home during the spring and summer, plodding around the country, positioning the blimp in just the right spot as, say, Tiger Woods lines up for a critical putt.

Amid the silence of golfing galleries, the drone of the blimp propellers can be heard on the course and on television, which is why Capek often slows to about half speed. During the epic playoff round of the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods backed away from a putt as the blimp entered his field of vision.


Then again, Capek said, golfers have been known to study the ship in an effort to gauge wind.

"They throw grass, look at trees, and if that doesn't help, they look at the blimp," Capek said.

Capek has seen the nation from above a dozen times over. Snoopy One is part of a group of about 15 ships worldwide owned by The Lightship Group, based in Orlando and Telford, England. The group leases its airships to companies looking to advertise, such as MetLife.

With fewer than about 25 in the world, blimps inspire a good deal of curiosity. When Capek lands, usually at small airfields like Brainard, cars will often stop.

Beyond anything, though, ships like Snoopy One have basic functions -- to advertise and televise.

"Really," Capek said, "I'm a camera platform."

At events, Capek is joined by a camera operator, with whom he must be in constant communication in order to be at the right angle, or over the right hole, or over the right group of players. The airport tower chatter is virtually nonstop through the headset. Producers in the television truck are constantly in his ear, too.

"It never stops," he said. "So you're listening to three people. Then there will be a rare minute of silence and, inevitably, they all start talking again at once. I have selective listening skills. I don't hear anything until key words like 'blimp,' or 'Snoopy.' "

Capek goes weeks without seeing his longtime girlfriend. Yglesias, like many crew members, is single.

"Not a job for a married person," said Yglesias, who grew up in New York and New Jersey. "This crew basically stays together and doesn't split up. ... It's like a traveling circus, 52 weeks a year on the road. It gets in your blood. I didn't think I'd be here [after 12 years], but here I am."

Jill tosses the first pitch

Behind the Angels' scenes: throwing out the first pitch

June 28, 2010

By Dan Woike
The Orange County Register [Southern California]

ANAHEIM -- It's a dream children have all over the world: to stand on the mound, wind up and pitch in a big league stadium. And even though that was never Jill Schulz's dream, Saturday night, she got a chance to try it.

"Baseball is not really my sport, but it was a lot of fun," she said. "It was an honor to be asked to do it."

Schulz is the daughter of Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz, and this year, Knott's Berry Farm is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the comic strip with a number of Peantus-themed attractions, including an ice show Schulz is producing.

But Saturday night, it wasn't about blades; it was about one pitch. And, it was about not being embarrassed.

"My brother told me he couldn't believe I agreed to do it. He said, 'You're going to end up on YouTube as one of the 10 worst pitches,'" she said. "So three nights ago, I looked those up and set the bar for myself kind of low."

"I feel like I didn't qualify for any YouTube video, which is good."

Schulz did skip the ball to home, but "at least it was straight."

Ballparks celebrate Peanuts' Diamond Anniversary

June 21, 2010

USA Today

Ask a ballplayer to play for peanuts and you're going to get some nasty reactions.

But ask them to play for Peanuts and that evokes a lot of pleasant memories.

This year celebrates the 60th anniversary of the comic strip created by the late Charles Schulz. So since it is the diamond anniversary and Charlie Brown is the most losing pitcher in history it seems logical that Major League parks would want to celebrate the occasion.

The Giants passed out Lucy bobble-heads and on Sunday it was Charlie Brown bobble-heads in Detroit.

Left on the schedule: A June 26th date in Anaheim and an Aug. 15 date with the Minnesota Twins.

Craig Schulz, son of the creator, calls his father "a sports nut" with baseball his favorite sport.

"When we grew up baseball was huge around our house. We'd pull my dad off his drawing board and he would play games on a regular basis with my friends," he said. "When spring came out my dad actually coached our Little League team for a couple years. He just always loved the game, he loved the people in the game. He was friends with Willie Mays, he always loved the Giants."

Craig Schulz talked to Game On! about his father's passion for baseball.

QUESTION: Using Charlie Brown as his hero, was there a better writer about losing than your dad?

(laughs) It actually goes back to his childhood. He told me when he grew up in St. Paul, they found a vacant lot, he never got to really play on a good field, and he says he knows what it was like to lose a game 100-0. He'd get his buddies together, they would go from one neighborhood to another, similar to what Charlie Brown does, and these kids would round up their own little teams and they would get killed, they would get slaughtered. I think every kid knows, every adult knows that we are going to lose more than we are going to win in almost everything. We might as well get used to it, suck it up and Charlie Brown shows us what it is like to lose and keeping coming back day after day and struggle on and hope for that rare victory.

QUESTION: Didn't he want to slay those demons in print?

I think that was the success of the strip, he hit it right on the nose. It is easy to focus on the winning part. But this is what we all suffer with. That resonates with readers and what we all relate to.

QUESTION: Would you agree that the timelessness of the strip is one of its strongest attributes?

We take a lot of pride in that and put a lot of work in that. People have that feel of coming back to the comfort of Peanuts. The word we get from people is that "I was raised on Peanuts and I want to raise my kids on Peanuts." It feels like a safe zone to go to. The message is always really straight forward.

QUESTION: It was a strip that appealed on different levels, was it not?

I was noticing (the other day) watching the Giants play that they had to make two or three pitching changes. The pitcher walked off the field and in comes the shortstop, the third baseman, the second baseman, they are all standing on the mound and I immediately flashed back to the strips when my dad has all these players coming to the mound to talk to (Charlie Brown) and none of them are talking about baseball. They are talking about theology, and Schroeder with his piano and Lucy with her problems. You start to think 'what are they really talking about there." These little kids standing out there talking about the world's issues while Charlie Brown just wants to talk about baseball. I think that is the most amazing thing about the strip is that it reaches so many different levels from an adult reading it, from a child reading it and in between and what every took from it was the magic of the comic strip.

QUESTION: How did the strip change over the years?

(My father) was a great observer of life and in his own life every character is really a piece of him. As his life changed from raising kids in the 60s to remarrying in the 70s you can see the strip softens in the 70s. The characters are no longer as harsh to each other. Different characters are introduced.

QUESTION: What do you hope readers get out of the strips and books?

(My father) had the ability to speak to more people each day than anyone in history I think. He had a platform that he could use and he never did abuse that. I think that is his legacy

Linus gets his heart back

Linus Receives a Heart Transplant

June 9, 2010

By Ben Bradbury
The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch [Sleepy Eye, Minnesota]

On Sunday, artist Chris Beech was in town to reattach Linus' missing heart and a new nose for Snoopy over a year after their mysterious disappearance.

The saga of Linus' missing heart is hopefully coming to a close over a year after it had originally gone missing. On Sunday, both the missing heart and a new nose for Snoopy were reattached to the statue.

The work on Sunday was completed by Chris Beech, son-in-law to Sleepy Eye residents Rex and Judy Beech.

Chris, an artist who currently lives in Blooming Prairie, built the nose himself and reattached both pieces with an epoxy. This new adhesive is hoped to be strong enough to prevent any future vandalism.

Although Chris left after reattaching the two pieces, his work on Linus will continue in the coming weeks. He plans to do some sanding, touch up work and repaint the entire statue.

Residents first noticed the heart was missing last May, and Mayor Jim Broich offered a $100 reward for information as to its whereabouts.

In October, two young men -- Edgar Sanchez and Nate Eckstein -- claimed to have found the missing heart along the Sleepy Eye Lake bike trail. This was much to the surprise and delight of Broich.

"I'm glad to have (Linus' heart) back," he told the Herald-Dispatch in October. "This was unexpected."

Man dressed as Snoopy in 'worst attempted jail-break ever'

May 10, 2010

By Heidi Blake
The Telegraph [UK]

A man who tried to break into prison to free an inmate while dressed as the cartoon character Snoopy is being held under the Mental Health Act.

Prison wardens were baffled when they were confronted by the character from the Peanuts cartoon trying to break down a staff door while apparently waving a gun.

The man and an accomplice, who were attempting to free a relative from HMP Isle of Wight, went on to hurl concrete missiles at prison officers' cars.

A prison source told The Sun: "It's not every day you see a giant cartoon dog go on the rampage after trying to break into a prison. They weren't exactly inconspicuous but they were taken seriously because they appeared to have a gun.

"They caused a real commotion and it was only later they were found to be armed with a water pistol."

It emerged after the pair were arrested that they had attempted to break into the wrong prison. They had staged the attempted jail-break at the Isle of Wight's Albany site, while the relative they were looking for was locked up in the nearby Cramp Hill unit.

The source added: "This has got to rank as one of the worst attempted jail breaks ever."

A spokesman for Hampshire Police said two men, aged 43 and 21, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and held under the Mental Health Act after the incident on May 1.

It is not clear which of the two men was dressed as Snoopy.

Larry Simons and his statue

Lucy gets her turn at statue 'paint-off'

'Peanuts on Parade' project resurrected as artists gather this month to paint Charlie Brown's pal

May 9, 2010

By Dan Taylor
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Recognized worldwide as the crabbiest fussbudget on the planet, she dispenses cranky psychiatric advice at a sidewalk stand for a nickel.

And every fall, she promises to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick but she always pulls it away at the last moment. She says the experience will build up Charlie's character.

She's really just an ink drawing on paper, but Lucy van Pelt, from Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip, is a major celebrity, instantly recognizable and arguably immortal. Even though Schulz died in 2000, Lucy and her pals live on in daily reprints.

Lucy will become a three-dimensional presence on the streets of Santa Rosa this summer in the form of 30 four-foot-tall, polyurethane statues, each decorated by local artists. The "paint-off" will be held May 20-23 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the statues will appear around town after that.

"We picked Lucy because everybody wanted Lucy," said Craig Schulz, the late cartoonist's son. "I got a lot of feedback about that."

From 2005 through 2007, the Schulz family and the City of Santa Rosa placed more than 200 statues of Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Snoopy at sites all over Santa Rosa through a collaborative project called "Peanuts on Parade."

At the end of each summer, the statues were auctioned off to raise money for art scholarships and for permanent bronze "Peanuts" character statues, now at Santa Rosa's Finley Center and the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

Most of the lavishly decorated polyurethane "Peanuts" statues, while privately owned, still remain visible to the public all over town.

Schulz said his family and the city decided to bring the Lucy statues this year as an "encore" to the original three-year run because there was enough money for one more summer, on a slightly smaller scale.

There is also enough to pay for a third permanent bronze "Peanuts" sculpture, Schulz said.

This year, there will be no auctions. Half of the 30 statues will be sold to private sponsors for $3,500 apiece. The city will retain control of the remaining half of the statues and will place them permanently at public sites.

"We wanted to have some of the statues, so they could be permanently on display in Santa Rosa," said Pat Fruiht, marketing and outreach coordinator for the City of Santa Rosa.

One of the sponsors from the first three years of "Peanuts on Parade" is prominent Santa Rosa architect Larry Simons. He's not taking part this year, because he already has a Lucy statue.

When the program ostensibly ended three years ago, he also bought Linus and Lucy statues from TivoliToo, the company that manufactured the figures both for Santa Rosa and for an earlier, similar program in St. Paul, Minn., Charles Schulz's childhood hometown.

The cartoonist moved his family to Sonoma County in 1958, settling first in Sebastopol and later Santa Rosa, where he died in 2000 after writing and drawing the comic strip for nearly 50 years.

Simons had his whole collection of five statues bronzed for display on Stony Point Road near his architectural firm's offices.

"The Schulz family is a big part of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County history," Simons said. "This program is a great way to recognize a great man."

'Peanuts' composer Vince Guaraldi performs at Vallejo's Empress concert [sic]

May 7, 2010

By Rich Freedman
The Vallejo Times-Herald

[Editor's note: This article is riddled with errors -- starting with the howler in the headline -- so take some of the following "facts" with a grain of salt.]

The late Vince Guaraldi, noted for his Peanuts tunes, is saluted Thursday at the Empress Theatre by the USAF Band.

Vince Guaraldi's music -- much like the "Peanuts" characters associated with it -- has lived forever, though the man behind two of the most recognizable songs in America died 34 years ago.

Little did the San Francisco native realize his fame would still garner an avalanche of attention all this time after his fatal heart attack in 1976 at age 47, thanks mostly to the marketing of Charlie Brown, the lovable loser, who helped turn "Linus and Lucy," "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" into gold.

It's also helped that two noted contemporary musicians, David Benoit and George Winston, have helped perpetuate Guaraldi's keyboard wizardry to icon status.

"Vince, obviously, was a genius for the music he made," said David Guaraldi, the singer-songwriter's son.

David Guaraldi, 54, was only 20 when his dad was found dead in Menlo Park inn following a gig, the same day he finished recording the soundtrack for "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown."

"And now, 35 years later, people are still interested in him," Guaraldi said proudly, noting that his dad created more than 100 songs, including "Little David," about his own boy.

David Guaraldi, a former Marin County resident for 32 years living in north Las Vegas, visits Vallejo on Thursday as The Commanders of the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West deliver a free concert featuring the music of Vince Guaraldi.

One of Guaraldi's 1962 recordings, "Navy Swings," helped promote joining the service. It was a year later when "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" achieved some success before "Peanuts" producer Lee Mendelson heard it on the radio.

And one of the most popular "Peanuts" tunes was born, followed by "Linus and Lucy."

The entire "Peanuts" compilation barely scratched the surface of what Guaraldi produced in his short life, his son said.

"There's nine albums worth of stuff nobody ever heard," David said. "A lot of it is live club stuff, stuff in the studio when he was trying to figure out while he's trying to make an album."

Right after Guaraldi's death, "my mom went in and found cases of the masters of his music," David said.

It was Winston, the man who helped launch Windham Hill Records, who perpetuated Guaraldi's gift.

"He loved Vince so much, he wanted to sound like him," David said. "So he listened to his music for inspiration."

No matter how many times Winston or Benoit play Guaraldi's songs, it'll never be exactly like the legend, his son said.

"Nobody can play 'Cast Your Fate to the Wind' or 'Linus and Lucy' like Vince," he said. "There are people who can do it, but not the way he did. There's a sound he (Guaraldi) makes where it's the only way you'll hear that sound."

During those early years, Guaraldi played intermission when stand-up Lenny Bruce took his breaks. Even as Guaraldi's popularity rose, the paychecks weren't astronomical, his son said.

"He hardly got paid anything for the music," David said. "Maybe $25,000 a year."

Guaraldi didn't have the endorsement opportunities and commercials that began a decade or so after his death.

"He didn't know what money was," his son said. "He didn't make a lot of it, though he had enough to own a beautiful house in Mill Valley back in the 1970s. He was happy. The main thing was, my father wanted to be left alone. I saw the process of making this music through my high school years and watched how he did it."

Looking back, "I'd say 85 percent of what he did was about kids. Dad loved kids," David said.

Much more, apparently, than he loved fame. At least, he didn't pursue it.

"He was the kind of guy who would say, 'Come out to my house and we'll rehearse.' And he just didn't tour," David said. "As far as 'Linus and Lucy' was concerned, to him, it was just a song that he played so many different ways. When he played it, you could figure out what mood he was in."

Wonderland swaps Scooby Doo for Snoopy

April 30, 2010

By Patty Winsa
The Toronto Star

Don't expect to see Scooby Doo or Dora at the opening of Canada's Wonderland on Sunday.

From now on, one of North America's busiest theme parks will be fronted by a 60-year-old canine.

Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang have replaced the colourful cinematic characters that once decorated the park's Hanna-Barbera Land and Nickleodeon Centre for children 6 and younger.

The newly themed area, called Snoopy Planet, features three new rides and a live Snoopy Rocks ice show. All traces of that other dog are gone.

Owner Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which bought the theme park from Paramount in 2006, decided last year to import the comic strip characters from their U.S. parks, where they were a "tested brand" in attractions such as Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and Great America in Santa Clara, Calif.

The company spent between $5 million and $10 million on redecorating, starting right after the park closed its doors for the season last October.

"We had the Peanuts brand at some of our parks in the United States with great success," said Dave Phillips, Wonderland's vice-president of marketing and sales. "It doesn't have the popularity that some of the other television brands did, but the children loved it."

It was also time to change brands, said Phillips. Nickleodeon Central, which launched in 2003, was 7 years old. "Every year we always look for ways to stay relevant with teens and families," he said.

But are a bunch of loveable kids and a dog, watched periodically on TV specials that are as old and visually scratchy as a record album, still relevant?

This week, the rights to the Peanuts characters were sold for $175 million by United Features Syndicate Inc. and E.W. Scripps to Iconix and the Schulz family.

"I think that expenditure is proof that business people, at least, feel that the characters, including Snoopy, are still popular," said Sheridan College animation professor Mark Mayerson.

The Peanuts brand has more than 1,200 licensing agreements with companies that include Universal Studios, CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co., according to a story by Bloomberg on the sale of the rights.

"Snoopy is a creature of his own fantasies. He is a World War One Flying Ace. He is Joe Cool," said Nancy Beiman, who teaches animation alongside Mayerson at Sheridan. "The fact that he never succeeds at any of his tasks does not stop him from continuing his imaginary escapades," she wrote in an email.

Beiman animated Snoopy and his brother Spike for a 1987 television special called It's The Girl In The Red Truck, Charlie Brown and 1988's feature film Snoopy the Musical.

But even before then, Beiman was a fan. She wrote to comic strip creator Charles Schulz when she was 7, and got a written reply on Snoopy stationery. Years later, she was able to thank Schulz personally when they attended the same cartoonists' party.

Beiman, who grew up in the United States, said a generation of American children were inspired to own and love beagles as a direct result of reading Peanuts.

"I was one of them," said Beiman. "I doubt if anyone ever bought a Great Dane pup because of Scooby Doo."

Peanuts tribute -- 'Dreaming' unveiled in Long Beach

Sculptor celebrates the work of Charles Schulz

March 27, 2010

By Tom Hennessy
The Contra Costa Times [California]

On July 10, 1981, Stan Pawlowski was invited to One Snoopy Place, Santa Rosa.

The address, as you might guess, was the studio and headquarters complex of the world's best-known cartoonist, Charles Schulz. A mutual acquaintance, who was a Peanuts licensee, had decided it was time for the creator of "Peanuts" to meet Pawlowski, a sculptor from Long Beach.

"I had been making products for several cartoon character companies and had been asked to bring along some of my artwork for Schulz to see," Pawlowski recalls.

"I will never forget when Charles Schulz first walked into the conference room. After we were introduced, he said he liked the samples I had shown him."

So inspired was Pawlowski, that on returning to Long Beach, he created sculptures of five Peanuts characters, each three inches tall and cast in sterling silver. Within a month, he was back in Santa Rosa, showing them to Schultz, who was known to his friends as "Sparky."

"He looked at the sculptures and said, `Now this is the type of quality I want to see being done using my characters."'

And that, the sculptor says, "was the start of a wonderful friendship."

Although Schulz is gone, this routine of approval continues to this day. Pawlowski's sculptures are subject to approval by a group called Creative Associates and by United Features Syndicate.

On the day of their first meeting, Schulz invited Pawlowski to lunch. "We walked over to the Warm Puppy, the restaurant located inside his ice arena. As we walked, I said I was a sculptor, but not a very good businessman.

"I never projected an analysis of what it may cost to create an item in advance. I would just create a sculpture ... no matter how it would affect the final cost. He liked my attitude about this, and told me that was how it should be."

Partners and pals

As the Schulz-Pawlowski partnership grew, so did the friendship. Three or four days a year, the Long Beach sculptor would drive to Santa Rosa, often bringing his latest works for the senior partner's approval.

Schulz reciprocated. In time he would call Pawlowski, sometimes just to chat, sometimes to cheer up the sculptor after a personal setback, such as break-up with a girlfriend.

They would talk about a variety of things, even religion. "I'm a Catholic," says Pawlowski. "I believed life might exist everywhere, even on other planets. Sparky was inclined to believe God created the universe and that man was unique and existed only on Earth.

"He would invite me to events, Pawlowski recalls. These included the Christmas shows held in Schulz's Santa Rosa ice rink. "He would give me the number one table at the show and would take time to come sit with my guests and me during the performances. I have shared so many great memories with him."

One such memory dates back to 1994 and the 45th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip.

Schulz invited Pawlowski to join a group traveling to St. Paul, Minn., where Sparky had grown up in an apartment above his father's barber shop. When the apartment's modern-day tenant asked Schulz to leave a souvenir of his visit, the cartoonist found he had no pen. Pawlowski provided one. Schulz used it to memorialize a wall with a perfect likeness of Snoopy.

When Schulz was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Pawlowski was there to share the moment.

In all the time they shared business ventures and personal philosophies, Pawlowski never knew Schulz to have an angry moment. "I was always amazed how calm he was even under adverse circumstances."

Time for dreaming

On Feb. 13, 2000, the phone rang at Pawlowski's Long Beach home. The caller was Jeannie Schulz, the cartoonist's wife. Sparky had died during the night. "She didn't want me to wake up and be shocked on learning the news from television. Although I knew he was ill, I thought he would still pull through for quite a bit longer as I had been up to see him the week before.

"I was devastated. I was so upset that when someone from People magazine called to talk to me about our friendship, I couldn't say anything, not even what a great guy he was."

Schulz, 77, had died of colon cancer.

Four years after the cartoonist's death, Pawlowski began working on an idea he had harbored for years; a larger version of one of those sterling silver, charm-sized sculptures he had given Schulz when they met in 1981. Fourteen inches tall, a veritable colossus when measured against Pawlowski's smaller works, it depicts Snoopy at rest under a maple tree. Above the dog, ensconced in the tree is Snoopy's bird sidekick, Woodstock. Pawlowski calls the sculpture "Dreaming."

Pawlowski, who keeps a meticulous log of his work hours, began the sculpture in 2004. Working off-and-on, he invested 640 sculpting hours in the limited-edition work.

He unveiled "Dreaming" Saturday night in a private showing at his Broadway studio. Just as Schulz had his following, Pawlowski has acquired a coterie of fans. Some find his works a bit steep for their budgets; they are sometimes priced in the thousands.

"Dreaming" is a veritable wonder in miniature, and, says the sculptor, involved "a lot more work than any sculpture I have done before." He has dedicated it to Sparky and to "my number one fan, my sister Debbie, who lived in Minnesota and who died while I was sculpting the original wax."

The sculpture is now being poured into bronze at a local foundry.

Fans who attended the unveiling and looked closely at work unveiling could see that each tree leaf was sculpted separately and were able to discern such features as growth rings on the tree and on the twigs in Woodstock's nest. Two such fans are Jack and Lynda Bell, of Reno. They save their money just to buy Pawlowski sculptures. Jack is such a world-class Peanuts devotee that friends call him Snoopy.

The 640 hours Pawlowski spent creating the "Dreaming" sculpture represent more time than he has given to any previous work, including the giant Peanuts characters in Santa Rosa's Depot Park.

To a degree, creating the sculpture was a race against time - and the debilitating ravages of arthritis. Pawlowski is 57, and the arthritis, plus other complications, affect his hands. "Dreaming," in fact, may well be his last limited-edition work.

Schulz may well be looking down, thinking that happiness is not just a warm puppy. It is also a sculpture by Pawlowski.

Pianist George Winston plays the Katharine Hepburn Center

March 4, 2010

By Rick Koster
The Day Publishing Company [New London, Connecticut]

Pianist George Winston not only defined but also added critical dignity to the oft-maligned musical style called New Age. Albums such as "Autumn," "December" and "Winter Into Spring" established Winston as a composer and musician eerily great at capturing the evocative images and moods of respective seasons - and even a lot of snobs like them.

In fact, over time, these recordings have become ritual soundtracks for millions of fans who can't wait to turn the calendar page and queue up the appropriate Winstonian offering.

Would any of these fans believe, then, that Winston cites the Doors, New Orleans R&B pianists James Booker and Professor Longhair, and Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" album as hugely influential in his life?

"There are artists whose work has just been hugely important to me, and I'm still amazed at their music and technique," says Winston, calling from the road on a tour that brings him Saturday to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook.

Now, the prolific Winston has no problem with inspiration. He's recorded several albums, most of which emphasize original material.

At the same time, as a labor of discipline and homage, Winston has undertaken the Olympian task of teaching himself the complete works of the Doors and Professor Longhair - along with all the compositions and recordings by a third artist who is arguably his biggest inspiration: Vince Guaraldi.

Winston's latest CD, "Love Will Come," is his second release of interpretations of material by Guaraldi, the pianist indelibly familiar for scoring all the "Charlie Brown" television specials.

"I vividly remember December 9, 1965," Winston says. "It was the first broadcast of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' I heard 'Linus and Lucy' and was just mesmerized."

Already a music fiend, Winston was in a neighborhood record shop for his regular visit the next day, and the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was displayed by the counter.

"I looked at it, and that's when I realized the music was written and played by Vince Guaraldi," he says.

Thus was born a musical love affair with Guaraldi, whose work inspired Winston to seek out other varied but always stunning piano talents. While his own songwriting muse relies on such influences as nature and, yes, the seasons, his love of the piano and its possibilities keep him exploring the work of his heroes.

Winston remembers meeting Guaraldi in 1971, shortly before the latter's death, and was able to play a few shows with him.

"He was so kind and encouraging," Winston says. "It makes you appreciate not just talent but the willingness of someone like that to share."

Winston ties in a charitable program as part of the Old Saybrook performance.

"We're asking folks to please join us in support of the Shoreline Soup Kitchen by bringing a donation of canned food to the show," he says.

Charles Schulz's legend still alive on Holmen rink

February 25, 2010

By Jo Anne Killeen
The Onalaska-Holmen Courier-Life [Wisconsin]

One of the original Zamboni's belonging to cartoonist Charles Schulz is in operation at Holmen's Deerwood Park. Paul Kenny and others with the Tornado Youth Hockey organization purchased one of the original Zamboni's used to clear ice at Schulz's Redwood Empire Ice Arena in California.

"We know it was purchased by Schulz in 1969," Kenny said. "Then it was in St. Paul on Lake Phalen. From what I've read, it went to a dealership in October 1995, and we purchased it from them. We just got it up and running. We had one or two things to fix and make it safe.

"Safe practices and open skate would not be possible without the quality ice that a Zamboni machine maintains," Kenny added. "Our vision for the future is to see the rink covered. Even with a Zamboni, we are at the mercy of the weather. This would bring some consistency to scheduling rink time."

Kenny hopes the lighted rink and the sleigh-riding hill will become a great place for "all the community to come together to enjoy skating."

The rink is now used for a few Tornado Youth Hockey practices as well as pond hockey, or unstructured time for youth.

Schulz did not have this particular Zamboni adorned with Peanuts characters as he had painted on later Zamboni's on his California rink. Kenny said the organization is looking at painting the Zamboni with Peanuts' characters, but there is no cash available for a paint job, and copyright issues could be a factor.

But Kenny and the organization are very happy with how it is helping their goal of growing ice hockey participants and providing skatable ice in Holmen.

A number of individuals, businesses and organizations in Holmen and Onalaska have built a grass-roots effort to enhance ice skating in Holmen and have contributed labor, parts and their time.

"We still have a way to go before we could consider the Zamboni truly reliable, but at the very least it runs now and is making ice, knock on wood." Kenny said.

Chad Pitman, according to Kenny, is the real mechanic under the hood of the Zamboni. "I get the parts, but he has the real mechanical skills," Kenny said. United Auto Parts out of Onalaska and First Products out of La Crosse, are some of the businesses that have supplied parts.

The community has pitched in as well. The Parks and Recreation department provides a heated shelter. The Holmen American Legion stores the Zamboni during the summer. The Holmen fire department comes and floods the arena and the town plows snow off the ice.

"The town," according to Kenny, "is usually pretty gracious about clearing the snow from the ice, but of course it is secondary to roads and sidewalks."

Ice is available up to 11 p.m. when the park closes.

The Little Red-Haired Girl

Museum opens doors to redheads

February 14, 2010

By Nathan Halverson
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Redheads got a little extra love on Valentine's Day at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.

All redheads were admitted free to the museum Sunday, thanks to its annual tradition of paying homage to Charlie Brown's unrequited love for a little red-haired girl.

"The redhead is the special girl today," said Amie Gatterdam, who enjoyed free admission on Sunday.

Gatterdam, who lives in Freestone, attended with her boyfriend Clinton Collins, a longtime fan of the cartoon.

"My mother always called me Charlie Brown," Collins said.

This year's red-head attendance set a record, said Jeff Hollis, youth program coordinator for the museum. About 40 red heads attended.

Susanne Nelson, from Stockton, was watching her daughter play in a hockey tournament at the nearby ice rink when she discovered her red hair was good for free admission.

"Most of the things associated with redheads aren't necessarily great," she said. "So this is a nice perk."

Hollis said it's always a fun seeing the extra red heads on Valentine's Day.

"It's us showing appreciation for all the little red-head girls," he said. "And the not so little red-head girls."

Charlie Brown's infatuation was modeled after Schulz's own crush on a redhead he knew from Minneapolis. In the cartoon, the little red-hair girl only made one appearance in the strip. It only showed her silhouette. Schulz wanted to leave her exact appearance to the imagination of readers, according to the museum.

Sunday also marked the 10-year anniversary since the last original Peanuts comic strip ran, Hollis said. Schulz died on Feb. 12, 2000, two days prior to the last strip.

On Feb. 27, everyone gets free admission -- not just redheads. Local dance instructor Emily McAuliff, who was Schulz's dance instructor, will lead two free dance classes at the museum at 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Natchez Cans

Canned food drive raises 16,000 cans

February 1, 2010

By Democrat Staff Writers
The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ -- The Natchez Food Pantry ran out of food Thursday morning; but by 3:30 p.m. that day nearly 7,000 cans filled the pantry's shelves.

The just-in-time delivery Thursday was only one of half a dozen made last week by the staff of The Natchez Democrat, employees from the Adams County Correctional Facility and Cathedral School students.

In total, the community-wide We CAN do it! food drive sponsored by The Democrat raised 16,080 cans.

Seventeen local teams collected non-perishable food items, and 15 teams participated in the structure-building portion of the competition.

The largest single collection of cans came from Cathedral School's students, who raised 6,636 cans.

Other top teams included West Primary with 2,675, Frazier Primary with 1,534 and Copiah-Lincoln Community College with 1,001.

Cans were distributed evenly between the Natchez pantry and Feed the Hungry in Vidalia.

Feed the Hungry Director Linda Bonnette said she had never received such a large donation at once.

But the competition isn't over yet, and all community members are encouraged to participate in the next phase, to benefit the Natchez Stewpot.

Photos of each can structure are featured on pages 6, 7 and 8 of today's A section and in an online gallery.

Community members can cast a 50 cent vote for their favorite structure by visiting The Democrat's front office anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday of this week.

No votes will be accepted after 5 p.m. Friday.

Schools, offices and other groups can collect money at their site and send one person to The Democrat's North Canal Street office if they would like.

"Feel free to stuff the ballot box," Democrat Managing Editor Julie Cooper said.

"Vote as many times as you like, bribe people to vote and vote for more than one entry. The sole purpose of this contest is to raise money for the Stewpot and have a little fun."

Structures fall into one of three categories -- schools, churches/civic groups or businesses. A winner for each category will be chosen.

Winners will be announced in Profile 2010, Common Bonds: Our Essential Elements on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Concord's Charlie Brown tree garners nearly $3 million in publicity

January 28, 2010

By Paul Thissen
The Contra Costa Times [California]

CONCORD -- When they decorated a scraggly, brown tree for the holidays, city leaders knew they were sending a message. They did not expect to get nearly $3 million in free publicity out of it.

Almost 19 million people saw the tree in Todos Santos Plaza on the news. The footage ran on local TV stations from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tampa, Fla., according to a report prepared by News Direct, a company that sells DVDs of previously broadcast news clips. Cable channels from CNN to Fox News also picked up the story.

Concord Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister, who did a number of television interviews by the tree, said the publicity was great. And as she said in December, she hopes the tree sends a message to Concord residents about the city's financial struggles, stemming in large part from state budget cuts.

"It ran for three weeks here, there and everywhere. Very wonderful," she said. "That's an outstanding bang for the buck."

The point of choosing a live holiday tree instead of buying one was to save a little money -- about $23,000. City officials dubbed it a "Charlie Brown Tree."

The name stuck. Amid some of the worst economic conditions in the United States since the Great Depression, the tree caught on. At least 378 TV and radio news stories across the country mentioned Concord's tree, according to News Direct. Concord got that report for free when it ordered copies of a few of the local newscasts about the tree, said Leslye Asera, Concord's community relations manager. The report also included estimates of the number of viewers and the cost of buying the equivalent airtime.

A few stations got their facts wrong. KVIA in El Paso, Texas, erroneously declared that the city was reusing its tree from last year. Fortunately, that aired at 5 a.m., when a 30-second ad in El Paso would cost $10, according to the report.

And everyone had a different take on the Concord tree's lopsided limbs and brown needles. The newscaster on Fox News suggested a can of spray paint could help. A Las Vegas TV station declared that "it may just be the saddest tree in the nation."

"As Charlie Brown would say, 'Good grief!' " the newscaster said.

KYTV in Springfield, Mo., had a different viewpoint.

"I think it sends a good message ... I think it looks good," the newscaster said just before telling viewers about sunshine in the Ozarks.

Snoopy Exhibit Takes Center Stage In USGA Museum

January 28, 2010

By David Shefter, USGA

Far Hills, New Jersey -- From now until late June, the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J., is presenting a special exhibit honoring some of Charles M. Schulz's best golf works. "Snoopy On The Links," which will appear in the temporary exhibition gallery that is situated between the Ben Hogan Room and the reception area, features eight original drawings and nine comic reprints by Schulz.

Schulz is best known for creating the popular "Peanuts" comic strip that appeared in thousands of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad. By the time he retired in 1999 (Schulz passed away one year later due to complications from colon cancer), Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the "Peanuts" gang had been printed in 21 different languages in 75 countries.

Many of the "Peanuts" storylines centered around sports, from Charlie Brown famously missing the football held by Lucy, to baseball, to golf. Golf was a passion deep-rooted with Schulz from his youth in St. Paul, Minn., where he caddied at Highland Park Golf Course and later participated on the Central High golf team. Later in life, he was a frequent participant at the AT&T National Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula. One year after his death, Schulz's Santa Rosa, Calif., property was turned into the Mayacama Golf Club, site of the 2010 USGA Men's State Team Championship this September.

"The things I like to do the best are drawing cartoons and hitting golf balls," said Schulz in 1967.

Of his many "Peanuts" golf vignettes, one included Snoopy as the World Famous Golf Pro.

Schulz's boyhood idol was Hall-of-Famer Sam Snead. In a 1963 "Peanuts" strip, Lucy consoles Charlie Brown over his favorite baseball player going hitless by saying, "Every year for 25 years my dad has been rooting for Sam Snead to win the National Open."

Upon seeing the strip, Snead sent Schulz a picture of himself with his scorecard displaying a 59 shot at the Greensboro Open mounted at the bottom. It also came with a note that said: "I thought you might like to have this. You can hang it out in the outhouse to keep the rats away."

Schulz admitted that most of his early golf themes featured what he called "trite humor," but he did have strong knowledge of the game. "I would never draw someone on his hands and putting like he was hitting a pool cue. You can tell by my strip that I know the game."

For many years, the USGA used Snoopy in special publications, specifically to help people better understand the Handicap System or the Rules of Golf. As stated in a May 2000 obituary in Golf Journal: "It would be impossible to know how many millions could relate to the on-course failures of [Schulz's] characters; it's also impossible to estimate how many of those same people learned Equitable Stroke Control at the paws of a beagle."

During his career Schulz used his "Peanuts" characters in several books, including "Snoopy's Grand Slam" (1972); "An Educated Slice: Starring Snoopy as the World Famous Golfer" (1990); "Peanuts at Work and Play; A Good Caddie is Hard to Find" (1996) and "It's Par For The Course, Charlie Brown" (2005).

Children's activities are planned with the exhibit, including the chance for parents to read two Schulz golf-themed books to their kids: "A Good Caddie is Hard to Find" and "It's Par For the Course, Charlie Brown."

Both books will also be sold in the gift shop as well as the Snoopy Tee Time Golf Set that features a towel, ball and tees.

The exhibit is being displayed concurrently with "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars With NASA" that is running Jan. 27-April 18 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, N.J. Any individual paying full admission to either museum will receive a half-off coupon to visit the other exhibit.

"Snoopy Soars With NASA" examines the history of Apollo 10 and the "Peanuts" characters' role in that flight and in the NASA Manned Flight Awareness safety program. Schulz's involvement with NASA actually started in 1968 when he was approached to use Snoopy as its safety mascot. The Silver Snoopy Award program proved to be a huge success with the astronauts and NASA employees, and the beagle continues to be used today.

Additional information on the USGA's Snoopy exhibit can be obtained by visiting or by contacting Kim Gianetti at (908) 234-2300, ext. 1245 or via e-mail at The USGA Museum is open daily except Mondays and major holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

George Winston: 'Always something beyond'

January 21, 2010

By Paul Freeman
The San Jose Mercury News [California]

Santa Cruz-based pianist George Winston says he doesn't have it all together yet.

But it must be noted he has accomplished a great deal. The Grammy winner's numerous solo albums have earned widespread praise. His concerts generate food for those in need.

When he plays his sold-out "winter show" at Montalvo tonight, Sacred Heart Community Service will benefit. "We always work with a local food bank," Winston told The Daily News. "Every show, we ask people to bring cans of food, if they can. And the food bank gets proceeds from the CDs sold."

He looks forward to playing the area. One of his most important inspirations was Vince Guaraldi, whom Winston has described as "part of the heart and soul of San Francisco." He paid tribute with the acclaimed 1996 album, "Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi." On Feb. 2, Winston will release, "Love Will Come -- The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2."

"Vince grew up in the Bay Area, lived there most of his life. Wherever one is on the planet influences what they do. Cajun music sounds like central Louisiana. To me, Vince's music is his part of the world, just like Professor Longhair sounds like New Orleans. It sounds like the region, like the terrain. Music comes out of the ground, like the trees.

"There's been a lot of great music, a lot of great traditions coming out of San Francisco, and Vince took from it all and gave from it all."

Guaraldi made mainstream jazz albums. He had a Latin side, as well. But most people know him for his "Peanuts" TV soundtracks. "They were really a genre unto themselves," Winston said. "Vince and Charles Schultz -- that was a perfect team."

Winston puts his own stamp on Guaraldi's compositions. "I have much more of a rhythm and blues temperament. Vince had a jazz temperament."

Three composers have fascinated Winston over the years -- Guaraldi, The Doors and Professor Longhair. "The thing that have in common is that they're all from the North American region of the world. And the blues element would be a part of any musician who comes from this part of the world. All three of them have their own different take on the blues. I don't play many pure blues tunes, but everything I play has that ingredient in it."

Winston grew up in Montana and later Mississippi and Florida. At 12, the instrumental music on the radio enthralled him.

As a teen, in 1967, The Doors' music, particularly Ray Manzarek's keyboard work, inspired Winston to learn to play the organ. He joined rock bands.

When he discovered Fat's Waller's vintage recordings, Winston turned his focus to piano, emphasizing R&B.

"I was just on fire with it. There was just no choice. For me, music is just how I express how I feel about the seasons and the topographies. Somebody else might do it with photo journals. Sound is my language."

Gradually, Winston developed his own melodic folk piano technique. "I think everybody in every field finds their own style, their own spectrum. Everybody's always evolving. Miles Davis, John Coltrane had different eras in their work. The Doors had, like, six different eras. Change is constant. It's the most natural thing in the universe. And the universe is expanding."

In the mid-1970s, Winston leaned to play harmonica and Appalachian and Hawaiian slack key guitar.

"I felt I needed something other than the piano on certain tunes, to say what I wanted to say."

Of learning a variety of instruments, Winston said, "They've all been long, hard climbs. I'm just now sort of getting it. But I'm in 10 years I'll be saying, 'I'm just now getting it.' There's always another step."

At age 60, Winston looks forward to taking his playing to new levels.

"I had this thought when I was 30, that I'd basically have it together when I was 60. I've got it about 50 percent together, maybe. I know who I am and who I'm not.

"I may get closer and closer to having it together, but I'll never arrive. When you think you've arrived, there's always something beyond."

Walker Sisson

Prescott man's 'Peanuts' collection has been a lifetime in the making

December 23, 2009

By Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier [Prescott, Arizona]

It's hard to believe Walker Sisson when he tells you he has 25,000 "Peanuts" collectibles - until he shows you the inside of his new shed.

He and his fiancee Karen Terry had to build the shed next to their Prescott residence just to house all of his collection when they merged their homes. It's larger than the store-bought size, and boxes are stacked to the ceiling.

Christmas-related "Peanuts" characters fill the house. It was Karen's idea to find all the "Peanuts" items with a holiday theme and display them, instead of keeping most of them in boxes.

They found that Walker has enough Christmas-themed "Peanuts" ornaments to cover four Christmas trees comfortably. Karen bought a rotating artificial tree for the living room display.

Outdoors, they have set up three large Snoopy inflatables, lined up Snoopy characters on the porch railings and set up Snoopy flags on the roofline.

In case that's not a hint, Snoopy, by far, is Walker's favorite "Peanuts" character.

"Snoopy's a dog of the world," he explained, citing how Snoopy imitates everything from a World War I flying ace to a wilderness scout. "He's socially acceptable to every gender and every environment."

Walker moved around a lot as a child, living with relatives and then becoming homeless when his father was ill. He and his six siblings ended up in foster homes.

His foster mother introduced him to Snoopy at about the age of 10, and that's when he started collecting them.

He understands now that he was looking for something that wouldn't go away.

His childhood eventually improved, as his family reunited and moved to Prescott in 1969.

He started collecting more and more Peanuts items, and his friends and family bought him more, too.

"Just one thing led to another," he said.

Walker and Karen both attended Prescott High School but were four years apart and didn't know each other. They met a couple of years ago through an online dating site and Walker later moved back to Prescott.

"After I met him, I just fell in love with him and Snoopy," Karen said. "I knew it was a package deal."

Their wedding at Goldwater Lake next May will include a 2-foot-tall Snoopy and Belle bride and groom, and they're thinking of staying at Camp Snoopy in Southern California for their honeymoon.

Karen has embraced Walker's love for Snoopy, and Walker has embraced the idea of sharing his love of Snoopy with Karen's nine grandchildren - "under close supervision," Walker adds.

Karen said her grandchildren get a big kick out of seeing Snoopy everywhere when they visit Karen and Walker. Her niece, Kelly Campbell, even created a YouTube video about Walker's collection.

Right now, alongside the aforementioned Christmas items, their home features shelves covered with "Peanuts" music boxes and coin banks. The kitchen includes "Peanuts" potholders next to a Snoopy-shaped waffle iron and a newly baked Snoopy-shaped cake.

Walker even found Snoopy on galoshes, water skis, fishing poles and tackle boxes.

Among his oddest items are unauthorized knockoffs that the Charles Schultz family isn't likely to authorize in the future, such as cigarette lighters and shot glasses featuring a pregnant Lucy.

When they want to match their house during the holidays, they dress up in Snoopy earrings, hats and T-shirts.

Walker honestly cannot name his favorite Snoopy item. Among his most prized are his Danbury Collection items such as the "Peanuts" gang sledding down a hill.

And he cannot stop looking for more Snoopys at thrift stores and garage sales every weekend, although he's afraid to search the Internet sites such as eBay.

How does he know whether he already has something before he buys it?

"I just know," he answers.

Walker and Karen now are working on a website at, and they'd love to put all of Walker's collection on display in a museum someday.

"That's our dream," Karen said.

New Web site wishes Ludwig a happy birthday, 'Peanuts'-style

December 16, 2009

By Richard Scheinin
The San Jose Mercury News [California]

Beethoven's 239th birthday is being celebrated online, and "Peanuts" is hosting the party.

We're talking comic strips: Cartoonist Charles Schulz was a Beethoven freak. And beginning today -- most experts agree the composer was born Dec. 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany -- a new Web site unites Schulz and Beethoven, the comics and the cosmic.

It's the digital version of the popular museum exhibition "Schulz's Beethoven, Schroeder's Muse," created by the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, where Schulz resided.

To get started, go to, and click on the icon for the new digital exhibition. The first thing you will see: the beaming face of little Schroeder, Charlie Brown's Beethoven-obsessed pal.

"Hi! Come on in. ... Happy Beethoven's Birthday!" shouts Schroeder to guests arriving for his party in honor of the composer. But by the end of the 1964 strip, one of the annual ones celebrating the titan's birthday, Schroeder is crestfallen. His guests don't know the "Ode to Joy," the finale to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, putting the kibosh on his plans for a singalong.

Now we can all sing along: The Web site links to a YouTube video of 29-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, world's hottest conductor, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the "Ode to Joy."

This new Website "takes 'Peanuts' way beyond the daily comic strip," says Jean Schulz, the cartoonist's widow, who lives in Santa Rosa.

"When they first put 'Peanuts' on television and then when they did a stage play -- each time it was both an amazement and a confirmation" to Schulz, who died in 2000 and would have been "dumbfounded," by the new Web site and its global reach, says Jean Schulz.

Beethoven's music "touched his soul," she says, remembering Santa Rosa Symphony performances they attended, where her husband sat transfixed -- only occasionally reaching into his pocket for pad and pencil to jot down an idea for a strip.

In about 300 of the 17,897 strips drawn by Schulz from 1950 to 2000, Beethoven is the subject. In about 60 of them, Schroeder sits at his toy piano and plays Beethoven's sonatas: the "Moonlight," the "Pathetique and numerous others. Schulz copied out excerpts, note for note. Now the Web site links Schroder's "performances" to YouTube videos and audio files of real performances.

And most anyone who hears the beauty of the music will commiserate with Schroeder, who is often driven nuts by his friend Lucy van Pelt, who just doesn't get her friend's obsession with the composer. "You don't care anything about Beethoven!" he screams at poor Lucy in a 1974 strip. "You never have! You don't care that he suffered! You don't care that his stomach hurt and that he couldn't hear!"

And just in case you didn't know about Beethoven's stomach pain and myriad other ailments, they are listed on the Web site: his gout, his nosebleeds, his violent fevers, his gastric disorders, his finger abscesses, depression, hearing loss and more.

"We're trying to bring the strips to life, giving their back stories," says William Meredith, a lifelong "Peanuts" fan who runs the Beethoven Center at San Jose State and co-curated the original, (nondigital) exhibition with Jane O'Cain of the Schulz museum. It debuted in Santa Rosa last year and had a run earlier this year at the Beethoven Center.

Now Meredith -- the sleuth who deciphered which sonatas were played by Schroeder in the various cartoon strips -- has put the site together with O'Cain and graphic designer Tom Fairbanks.

It's deep with archival materials, much of it scholarly, much of it pure fun, charting the development of prototype strips for "Peanuts," for instance, or theorizing how Lucy, to Schroeder's consternation, came to confuse Beethoven with George Washington.

Beethoven, Meredith thinks, would have enjoyed the site and forgiven Lucy.

"He didn't like people who took him too seriously," Meredith says. "So, as infuriating as Lucy can be, he would have laughed at her impudence and irreverence. He had a great sense of humor, loved puns, loved teasing children -- including the daughter of a friend who poured a pitcher of cold water over his head, and he just laughed and laughed."

Polly and Stanley resisted idea of cashing in on the hidden treasure they found in their little house

December 13, 2009

By Bill Vogrin
The Colorado Springs Gazette [Colorado]

Polly Travnicek gave away her winning lottery ticket. And she feels richer for it.

Actually, it wasn't a lottery ticket. Travnicek, 82, gave away the north wall of her Bonnyville home, which, on the inside, held a cartoon mural painted in 1951 by a young and unknown artist: Charles M. Schulz.

At the time, Schulz was struggling to sell his Peanuts comic strip to newspapers, while living in the new subdivision on Colorado Springs' northern edge.

Schulz painted the mural to decorate the nursery where his daughter, Meredith, slept. Before the family moved back to Minnesota after just a year here, Meredith was joined by brother Monte and another child was on the way. Unfortunately, his comic strip's popularity wasn't growing as fast as his family.

The mural included his famous characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and it became legendary in the neighborhood. Especially because it only existed in their memories. The mural had been painted over.

When Polly and her husband, Stanley, bought the two-bedroom house in 1979, neighbors told her of the mural. By then, Peanuts and Schulz were world-famous. Using her expertise as a painter, Polly went to work stripping away four layers of paint from the wall until finally, she reached the brown oil paint Schulz used.

It took her months of work, painstakingly rubbing the 8-by-12 foot wall with cotton balls and paint remover.

She had no idea what she was looking for and recalls being excited when a tiger emerged. Then she found an early character Patty. And finally, Charlie Brown in his trademark zig-zag shirt, jumping over a candle.

"I was so happy," she said. "For weeks, I'd rub and say ‘Where is Charlie Brown? Where is Charlie Brown? I know he's here somewhere.' And, finally, there he was."

The mural was so coveted by Schulz's family that they paid to have the entire wall removed in September, 2001 and shipped to California where it is on permanent display in the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, near San Francisco.

But they didn't have to pay for the wall. Polly and Stanley didn't want a dime.

"We donated it to the museum," she said.

They donated it! As in, giving it away for free. They didn't put it on eBay or craigslist. No hyped auction at Sotheby's Art Auction House. No 15 minutes of fame and fortune.

Good grief!

"So many people said: 'You could have sold that for millions,'" Travnicek said with a shrug. "But I feel good about it the way it is."

It enriched her life in other ways. She welcomed hundreds of people into her home for tours after word of the mural spread.

And, due to her generosity, she continues to enjoy a close relationship with the Schulz family. She regularly corresponds with Schulz's widow, Jean, and his children. She still reads Peanuts every morning in The Gazette. And the room where the mural was is a mini shrine to Schulz with books, photos, scrap books and other memorabilia.

And the wall, it is a centerpiece of the museum in Sonoma County.

"It's right where it belongs," Travnicek said. "And I feel so blessed."

A Charlie Brown Christmas Gift

Book celebrates 60 years of Charles Schulz's icons

December 12, 2009

By Carma Wadley
The Deseret News

In October 1950, a funny little boy, with not much hair and fewer social skills, stepped onto the comics pages.

Nearly 60 years later, that boy, Charlie Brown; his dog, Snoopy; and his friends (and sometime enemies) Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty and others have become firmly entrenched as cultural icons.

Even after Charles Schulz stopped drawing his "Peanuts" comic strip (he died in 2000), reruns of the strip still appear in 2,200 newspapers (including the Sunday Deseret News) in 75 countries and 25 languages.

It is especially popular in Japan.

Holiday specials made for TV, such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," are still regularly aired and often achieve No. 1 ratings.

Hallmark has sold more than 2 billion "Peanuts" greeting cards; more that 350 million copies of books are in print. Everything from stuffed animals to breath mints sport the images.

And now, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the strip, Andrews & McMeel has created "Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years," which contains more than 500 pages of classic strips, the story of "Peanuts" in Schulz's own words, a look at how the strip evolved over the years and often reflected the social milieu of the times.

"We decided this should be a pure glimpse of Schulz and his work," said Paige Braddock, creative director at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., who was involved with putting the anniversary edition together, and who worked with "Sparky," as he was known, for several years. "So, we decided not to have other people interpret the work, but to use only quotes from him."

He was truly a special person, she said in a telephone interview. "He had been a hero of mine, and you always worry when you actually meet your heroes that they won't be what you expect. But he was everything he should be. He was playful, always young at heart."

Braddock gives a lot of lectures on Charlie Brown, and people always want to know why his characters are so popular. "The best I can come up with is that they have intangible qualities that the average person responds to. Charlie Brown seemed real to us. Schulz's brilliance is shown in the fact that he created a sparse environment, so you could project your own context, so that you, as a fan, bring something to it."

We could all relate to Charlie trying to kick a football as Lucy pulls it away time and again, Braddock said. We could all relate to Charlie's being intimidated by the Little Red-Haired Girl, to Linus' need for a security blanket, to Lucy hanging over Schroeder's piano or giving psychiatric advice.

"There's just an honesty to the writing," Braddock said, "and you can't fake that."

Schulz always said there was a lot of his own life in the strip. "If you read the strip, you would know me."

He was born in Minneapolis in 1922. His nickname came when he was only two days old. An uncle started calling him "Sparky" after the horse, Spark Plug, in the "Barney Google" comic strip. So, there was something fitting in his growing up to create his own strip.

"The first indication that I had any drawing talent was in kindergarten," he said. "I drew a picture and the teacher said to me, 'Someday, Charles, you're going to be an artist.' Looking back, I see that the best thing my parents did for me was to simply not get in my way. That's sound advice for a parent trying to encourage an artistic child. If you can provide him or her with pen, paper, colors, a table and a place to work, you've done it all."

Schulz always knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He put his ambitions on hold while he served a stint as a machine-gun squad leader during World War II, but after his return to civilian life, he began to submit cartoons to his local newspaper. Between 1947 and 1950, he drew a weekly panel for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, covering various topics, and he shopped his idea for a continuing strip.

After a lot of rejections, "Peanuts" debuted in seven newspapers on Oct. 2, 1950. Schulz continued with a daily and Sunday strip until December 1999. He died on Feb. 12, 2000, just hours before the final Sunday strip appeared in newspapers.

"His overriding goal was not to falter," Braddock said. "He knew that so few people get to do what he did. And looking back, it is so interesting to see one person doing the same thing for so long, to see how it changed, to see how he kept it fresh."

This anniversary edition gives a good look at that, she said. "You really get a better understanding of "Schulz in relation to his artwork."

He was one-of-a-kind, she said. "He came along at the perfect moment in time and history. He ended different than he started, but there was always a comfort in the narrative repetition, and humor in the struggles of life."

If "Peanuts" chronicles defeat, Schulz always said, "It is probably because defeat is a lot funnier than victory." But even Charlie Brown could hit the occasional home run. Schulz himself hit one out of the ballpark.

CELEBRATING PEANUTS: 60 Years, Charles M. Schulz, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 544 pages, $75

'Linus & Lucy' live: Area musicians to play Guaraldi music

December 10, 2009

By Lawrence F. Specker
The Mobile Press-Register [Alabama]

John Milham knows how to stuff a stocking.

The drummer, long a part of the Mobile music scene as a member of Kung Fu Mama, Vibration Configuration and other groups, got the idea last Christmas season to present a concert based on the 1965 Vince Guaraldi album, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Next weekend, at a series of shows in Laurel, Miss., Fairhope and Mobile, he will do just that. To the potential delight of listeners, his small idea has grown substantially along the way.

To the appealing core concept, he added a mix of top-shelf regional players.

Taking the lead on Guaraldi's compositions will be keyboardist Chris Spies, a Baldwin County native active in the New Orleans scene. Spies is widely known for his skills as an organist, but this will be a rare public turn at piano.

"I think he jumps at the chance to play a real piano. I think that may have been part of the appeal for him," Milham said. "Chris is even going to do the 'Fuer Elise' that Schroeder plays, the little snippet of it."

Tommy Sciple, a highly regarded New Orleans player, will handle the bass. Baldwin County-based saxophonist Rebecca Barry will join in as well.

There'll be a few voices raised in song, too: Most of the shows will feature the Mississippi Boychoir.

"I knew that the original recording had been done with a boy choir," Milham said, so once he discovered the group, he was eager to bring it on board.

As he opened discussions with the Hattiesburg-based Boychoir's director, Margaret Thomas, he was surprised by an unexpected connection: She asked if he knew her daughter, Molly Thomas, a musician who had played in Mobile for years before moving to Nashville.

"I thought, 'Oh, no way, this is crazy,'" Milham said. The two had played together in at least one group, Cold Water Flat, and have stayed in touch ever since.

Having Molly Thomas vouch for him didn't hurt, he said.

Organizers initially planned one show in Laurel, Miss., where Milham now lives. But plans gradually expanded to include a weekend's worth of music. The schedule:

Dec. 18 -- 7 p.m., University of South Alabama Baldwin County Campus Performance Center, 111 St. James Ave. in Fairhope. This show will not feature the Boychoir, but Milham, Sciple, Spies and Barry will perform the Guaraldi album in its entirety, plus a set of Christmas classics. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, with children 5 and under admitted free if they sit in an adult's lap. Only 135 seats are available. USA students admitted free with ID. Tickets available at Dr. Music, Page & Palette and The Coffee Loft. Donations for the Bay Area Food Bank accepted.

Dec. 19 -- 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., Laurel Little Theater. The Mississippi Boychoir will perform a set of Christmas material, and join in on the Charlie Brown set. Tickets are available at Signatures Coffee House, Lee's Coffee and Tea, Gallagher Chiropractic, and Southern Antique Mall. Donations accepted for The Good Samaritan Soup Kitchen.

Dec. 20 -- 2 p.m., Westminster Village in Spanish Fort. The Mississippi Boychoir will participate in an abbreviated show primarily for the benefit of the retirement community. No public tickets will be sold.

Dec. 20 -- 6 p.m., Lois Delaney Auditorium, Murphy High School, Mobile.

Full show featuring a set of Christmas music performed by the jazz quartet, a set by the Mississippi Boychoir, and a full rendition of Guaraldi's album. Advance tickets are $10, available at the OK Bicycle Shop and both Mobile locations of The Mellow Mushroom. Admission will be $15 at the door, free for children 5 and under. Canned goods accepted on behalf of Bay Area Food Bank.

Milham said the shows also will benefit from the production talents of Will Isherwood and Dustin Rudzinski. Their contributions should help hold little ones' attention, he said.

"There's going to be a whole visual component," Milham said. "Then they're going to have a light show on top of that."

Millham said he's booked shows for bands in the past, but producing these concerts has been a major step up. "It's been a lot of work, it really has," he said.

But he's not the first to be inspired by Guaraldi's album. Over the past 44 years, it has turned out to be one of those rare popular compositions that captivates serious professionals as well.

Shawn Haney, writing for reference site, credits Guaraldi with "elegant, enticing arrangements that reflect the spirit and mood of (Charles) Schulz's work and introduce contemporary jazz to youngsters with grace, charm, and creativity."

The album subtly introduces listeners to a range of musical genres from swing to cool jazz, Haney writes, employing techniques such as "tantalizing meter changes, brilliant percussion, and dashing, humorous piano lines."

"The whole album to me ... it's almost like a dream when you listen to it," said Milham. "You can really hear a lot of stuff going on."

On a more down-to-earth note, he said, he wanted to do something to give something back to his four-year-old son to make up for all the time he'd spent away from home.

"I wanted to put on a show that catered to kids and families," Milham said. "I wanted to show him how you can bring music to life."

Avalon concert combines two classics: Charlie Brown and jazz

December 10, 2009

By Michelle Oxley [Maryland]

EASTON -- Anyone having trouble getting into the holiday spirit needs only attend one of two Avalon Theatre performances Sunday with the Eric Byrd Trio as they recreate Vince Guaraldi's legendary music from "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Performances will immediately follow 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. screenings of the Charles Schultz classic.

Vocalist/pianist Eric Byrd said the band usually plays holiday music around the Christmas season, usually working in a song or two from Guaraldi's collection. The idea for the recreation came after a holiday show in early 2000 at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster, Md., where the band threaded three or four of these songs in a row, not thinking anything of it, he said.

Carroll County Art Council's Executive Director Sandy Oxx noticed. She approached Byrd to do a complete Charlie Brown Christmas program, with the idea of playing the DVD first and following without intermission into the live jazz performance.

Since the movie was widely available, as were performances by the trio, Byrd was skeptical about the idea's public acceptance, but Oxx was eager to give it a chance.

"She booked the shows. They sold out and every show has been sold out ever since then," Byrd said. "We've been doing several shows a year. The (Carroll Arts Center) holds 263 people and every show has sold 263 seats. It just took off."

Byrd said the performance has become an annual tradition for many, comments being "beyond superlatory," with some patrons attending every Westminster performance to date. Also, he sees the show as a means of filling the void of traditional holiday family programming, which Byrd feels is harder to find these days than it once was.

Guaraldi died in 1976 at the age of 47. Byrd said he had just finished recording music for another "Charlie Brown" television show when he had a massive heart attack.

"He died before he really got an understanding of just how far reaching his music and his playing and that music ... how much that really meant to people," Byrd said.

The Eric Byrd Trio has its own recording of the soundtrack available, and Byrd asserts the musicians properly acquired all the rights of recording Guaraldi's music "because I think that's important, to give back to the composer the respect of using his music."

The two recording are similar in spirit and group cohesion, Byrd said, but different in propulsiveness and energy.

"I'm sure that the Vince Guaraldi Trio went into the studio under the assumption that this music was going to serve as the soundtrack to the cartoon. I'm sure they didn't think that it was necessarily music that was going to stand alone like it eventually did," he said. "They probably went into it thinking they had to play truncated, smaller versions of what they would normally do because it was going to accompany a visual. We didn't really do that."

Byrd said his trio still maintains songs three or four minutes long to make it digestible and not too extended for those unfamiliar with jazz.

The Easton shows will showcase vocal performances by the Chesapeake Youth Chorale at the earlier show, and later, singing by Moton Chorus from Easton Elementary School.

Byrd said there is room for improvisation during the live performance with the three musicians who have played together for 10 years. In fact, he said, this is preferable to having the songs fully planned in advance.

"When you get in the moment, you don't know exactly how it's going to go," he said.

He likens this to the magic of why the Guaraldi's music endures. He said it is easy to hear at once the trio's spontaneity, and conversely, how tight they were as a group.

"You can just hear ... how the bass player and the drummer yield to when Vince wants to take the music to a certain place or a certain emotional center, they all go with him," Byrd said. "I'm sure they didn't work all of that stuff out before they walked into the studio ... I'm sure they probably just wrote down some sketches, wrote down the charts, figured out what they want to do and they probably just played. And what you heard at that moment was probably just what they played at that moment," he said.

Shannon Door Pub to host celebration for Valley's friend

First Annual Jerry Downs Memorial Christmas Tree Trimming Party

December 3, 2009

by Rachael Brown
The Meredith News [Meredith, New Hampshire]

The story begins about 30 years ago when Downs, who vacationed in North Conway met the Mulkern family of Shannon Door fame. Nora Mulkern was 10 years old when she met Downs, who became a fast friend of the Mulkerns. Mulkern remembers back to when she was young and says that Downs used to take her Christmas shopping in Portland.

"This probably made me the shopper I am today," says Mulkern. He would also let her choose her favorite restaurant, which was McDonalds or Bonanza at the time, and then take her back to what she refers to as his famous Snoopy apartment to wrap presents.

"He taught me the right way to wrap presents without wasting any paper," she adds. He also gave Mulkern her first Snoopy.

To say that Jerry Downs was an avid Snoopy collector is an understatement. The character created by the cartoonist Charles Schulz held much fascination for Downs and he shared his love of Snoopy with Valley children in a big way. Mulkern's own eight-year-old daughter, Emily Bean, has 25 Snoopys from Jerry Downs.

Both Nora and sister Kathleen describe the "famous" Snoopy apartment. "He had a massive Snoopy collection; his whole apartment was Snoopy," says Nora. Kathleen explains that his sofa was covered with the Snoopys he collected. "He went crazy with Snoopys. He had a Snoopy phone, Snoopy sheets, Snoopy shower curtain, he wrapped everything in blue Snoopy wrapping paper and even had a roll of Snoopy toilet paper. When we were cleaning out his apartment, I found 55 unworn Snoopy tee shirts," says Kathleen .

Downs loved to share his passion for Snoopy and Christmas with others. "Traditionally, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, Jerry would host a Christmas tree decorating party at his apartment for friends and kids of all ages. Jerry loved Christmas," says Nora. She adds that each child would decorate the tree with Snoopy ornaments and that Downs had probably collected 1,000 ornaments over the years.

Every year, Downs would travel to buy his ornaments. "Jerry would shop every Hallmark store between Manchester and Portland to pick up Snoopy ornaments; he'd clean them [stores] out!" says Kathleen.

And there was candy, lots of candy -- candy and Snoopys everywhere. "It was better than trick or treat; it was a candy fest," says Nora. "The kids loved him and would hug his big belly," she adds.

Some of the children who attended those parties remember them -- and Jerry -- very well. Kathleen Mulkern's son Liam said he would always look to get the stool on the porch so he could reach higher to decorate the tree. His brother, Finn, says, "The candy." Liam's twin sister Mae says, "Jerry is a big marshmallow!" Cousin Emily Bean says of Jerry Downs, "He was just nice."

And nice he was, not only to the children of the Valley, but to the many businesses he helped with their books -- the Shannon Door, Attitash, the former Berlin City Bank, to name a few, and to the many organizations he supported, including Children Unlimited and he was a communicant of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. Mulkern says his faith was strong and on the day he passed away he was ushering a friend's funeral at the Jackson Community Church. "He was charitable in so many different ways to so many different people; he helped so many people and children," says Kathleen.

Downs was particularly fond of the theatre and a great supporter of the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, serving on its board and volunteering many, many hours. It was also his love of theatre that he shared with children.

Downs encouraged local children to participate in children's theatre, often times letting them know of auditions, taking them to the auditions, and it wasn't unusual to see Downs sitting by the theatre on the Friday morning. "He was always sitting on Friday mornings [at theatre] to greet his kids," says Nora. Downs would buy blocks of tickets and donate them to Children Unlimited Learning Center.

And he took children to theatre out of town, too. The Mulkerns remember trips to Boston to see the Nutcracker Ballet. Each year Downs would take a group of children to see the performance, Nora said. "He was even a member of the Boston Ballet, so he could get the best tickets in the house." He paid a lot of money for the tickets, she adds.

To keep Jerry Downs's Christmas tree decorating party alive, and to honor and remember Jerry Downs, the Shannon Door is having a celebration on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m.

"Come have a pizza, have a pint and have a treat -- we will have bowls of candy too!" says Nora. The live tree which Erik Chandler displayed at Downs's wake will be up and available for all children and adults to decorate. The tree will be later planted on the Shannon Door property to help Downs's memory live on.

"Jerry's family has been kind enough to lend us some ornaments to help decorate the tree," says Nora. She invites everyone to attend and to donate a Snoopy ornament. There will be raffle tickets for gift certificates, haircuts and massages. The donations will benefit the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, where Downs volunteered so much.

Mulkern shared what Linda Pinkham, director of the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, had to say about Jerry Downs: "If Charles Schulz let Charlie Brown grow up, he would have been Jerry Downs."

Jazz Pianist Happy to Work for Peanuts

November 28, 2009

NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday

In addition to writing the music for many Peanuts animated specials, Vince Guaraldi was an accomplished pianist.

About this time of year, the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas is heard on radios and in shopping malls across the country.

Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi scored what is now considered a modern classic -- and also a lot more music that deserves attention, too. A new CD compilation, The Definitive Vince Guarald, brings some of it together.

Host Scott Simon spoke with writer Doug Ramsey, who penned the liner notes for the new collection. As Ramsey tells it, Guaraldi got the Charlie Brown gig because filmmaker Lee Mendelson was looking to make a documentary about Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. One day, Mendelson was traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and heard Guaraldi's minor hit "Cast Your Fate To The Wind."

"Well, as jazz hits go, it was a smash," Ramsey says. "But in the overall pop scene, it made its mark."

So Mendelson contacted Ralph J. Gleason, a jazz critic in San Francisco, who put him in touch with Guaraldi. It was the beginning of a long partnership that resulted in commissions for many animated Peanuts specials.

In the mid-'50s -- before Charlie Brown -- Guaraldi was the young pianist in vibraphonist Cal Tjader's band, a group that played both straight-ahead and Latin jazz.

"I first heard him at with Tjader in a club in Seattle," Ramsey says. "And I remember distinctly what happened that night. Vince was a very intense piano player -- he completely committed himself to his solos. He was playing an upward series of arpeggios, and played himself right off the end of the piano bench on to the floor, got up as if nothing had happened, and went back to work, finished the piece. And later, I talked to Tjader about that, and he said, 'Yea, he's done that before.' "

Ramsey says Guaraldi was an important player in the San Francisco scene of his time, with Tjader and later leading his own groups. Though he's remembered largely for his compositions, he was also an accomplished performer.

"Well, he had the knack, in both instances, of melody," Ramsey says. "He was a thoroughly grounded pianist harmonically, but he wrote terrific melodies -- both when he was putting them on paper, and when he was making them up in his improvisations."

His style also earned him a nickname.

"He was known as Dr. Funk, because he played with such an earthy feeling."

Ramsey talked about Guaraldi's temper, his early death at age 47 and his unfailing positivity on and off stage.

"He wanted, in a very profound way, to be a success, and to be remembered for the happy quality of his music," Ramsey says. "And I think he succeeded."

Comic Strip "Peanuts" Comes Home For The Holidays

November 27, 2009

By Michael Glitz
The Huffington Post []

Peanuts, arguably the most popular and influential comic strip of all time, continues to flourish -- especially during the holidays. From Halloween through Christmas, Peanuts TV specials pepper the airwaves and are watched endlessly on DVD. The music of Vince Guaraldi is a constant on the radio. Peanuts-related merchandise like calendars, t-shirts, mugs and toys fill the stores. And of course classic editions of the strip continue to appear in newspapers worldwide. So it's only fitting that the late Charles Schulz would have celebrated his 87th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.

The best way to celebrate Schulz and his work is the ongoing series being published byFantagraphics. The latest volume -- The Complete Peanuts, 1973-1974 ($28.99; Fantagraphics) -- is a lovingly produced volume that includes every strip from those two years in a handsome hardcover book designed by Seth.

Like earlier editions, it's a thrill to read the strip chronologically and in one fell swoop. You get a far better sense of Schulz's creative zig-zagging as he suddenly and unexpectedly finds himself at the tip of a pop culture juggernaut. At this stage in the Seventies, Peanuts has become a phenomenon and will soon turn into an institution, with all the resting on laurels that implies. It's a bit of a shock to realize Schulz isn't even halfway through his run, which went from 1950 to early 2000, a remarkable 49 years in all. Yes, after 23 years, Schulz had made every artistic breakthrough that was in him and the rest was consolidation and the relaxation that comes with success. But the Seventies are the salad days, with the soft decline of the 80s and 90s (inevitable and not without their rewards) still ahead.

Schulz still has some bite, such as the brilliant story arc in which Charlie Brown wears a sack over his head to summer camp because he's got an embarrassing discoloration on his head. To his astonishment, Charlie Brown discovers that when no one knows his identity he is suddenly popular. Sports of course remain a constant, with football and baseball and ice skating all mined for laughs. But tennis -- which boomed in popularity in the Seventies thanks to Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and many more -- seems the defining sport of this period.

As always, Fantagraphics pairs each volume with a celebrity introduction and in this case it's perfect: Schulz's long-time friend and tennis legend Billie Jean King. (Her birthday, by the way, is on November 22, just four days before Schulz.)

King won a remarkable 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles titles and has been an ardent supporter of women's rights both in sports and society at large. So it's touching to read that while she was traveling the globe King found comfort in discovering Peanuts in the local newspapers and a special thrill when Sparky -- as Schulz was known to his friends and loved ones -- mentioned her by name. She writes:

From time to time, Sparky included me in Peanuts. A particular favorite of mine had Peppermint Patty telling Marcie, "Has anyone ever told you that when you're mad, you look just like Billie Jean King?" Trust me: my friends had a heyday with that one.
Sparky referenced me several times in Peanuts and it was his way of letting me know that we needed to talk or just catch up with one another. He rarely phoned me, but when he wanted to check in, he dropped a reference in Peanuts because we both knew I would read it every day I could. So I would call him and we would talk and then -- you know what? -- life was better.

They originally bonded over their mutual support of Title IX, the groundbreaking law that has changed the face of our society. But that was just the start of the friendship between King and Sparky.

While it may have been our mutual support of Title IX and our shared enjoyment of tennis that initially brought us together, it was a common love for life that kept us close through the years. Sparky taught me to be truthful and through his comic strip he shared his real life experiences with each of us on a daily basis.

Sparky was Charlie Brown. He was not a real talkative man, but was definitely a very deep thinker. It was when he put a pen in his hand and went to work on a Peanuts comic strip he became insightful and poetic, and truly exposed himself to the world.

In their work together and the careers they forged, both Schulz and King made an impact on society that still reverberates today. Billie Jean King's work is ongoing. Schulz's legacy is Peanuts and it's being presented beautifully in the ongoing series by Fantagraphics. And their impact on each other is captured nicely in King's warm words. It's a fitting tribute to a fellow legend.

Sherman woman celebrates Peanuts Christmas

November 27, 2009

By Jerrie Whiteley
The Herald-Democrat (Sherman, Texas)

"Happiness," Charles Schulz wrote, "is a warm puppy." For Sherman resident Reah Shaw, happiness is a particular white puppy with long black ears and a knack for spreading Christmas cheer.

Litters of Snoopy replicas, along with all of the Peanuts gang, fill Shaw's front yard and home as she gets ready to celebrate another beagle Christmas.

"This year is the 60th anniversary," Shaw said of the comic strip that turned an obscure cartoonist into the man who drew America's favorite comic strip.

"Mr. Schulz's birthday would have been Thursday and I wanted the display up by then," Shaw said of the decorating she started well before Thanksgiving.

The Whitesboro Elementary School reading teacher talks of the world famous comic in reverent tones one usually associates with mentors or grand parents.

"I just loved his outlook on life and his sense of humor," Shaw said when asked why she likes Mr. Schulz's famous beagle. She likes the man behind the dog, Shaw said because, "Mr. Schulz was a very religious man." She offered as proof of that faith the fact that when Schulz' characters quoted scripture he made sure the words were true to the text by which he tried to live his life.

Some estimates found on the Internet showed that roughly 10 percent of the 18,000 strips Mr. Schulz wrote for his beloved group of youngsters involved religion in some way. Linus, the piano playing brother of Charlies Brown's nemesis, Lucy, often quoted scripture.

In 1989, a chance encounter with Mr. Schulz's wife, led Shaw's daughters to the opportunity to make her Peanuts dreams come true and introduce her to the man responsible for the little pup she so dearly loves.

"My son-in-law sold his wife a Porsche and my daughter got his address off the registration papers," Shaw said admitting it might not have been the most circumspect act on her daughter's part, but it was certainly an act of love.

"I can't think of a better way for (her daughters) to say 'I love you Mom' than to have me meet Mr. Schulz."

After all, her children had grown up with Shaw's Snoopy obsession.

"When I was in college my then husband got me my first (Snoopy) book, "Happiness is a Warm Puppy" and that was just the opening of a can of worms," Shaw said.

That can turned into crates, 20 of them in fact, that are needed to store all of her Snoopy Christmas artifacts. Those include some prized items including a throw with Snoopy and five stockings, each of which features the names of one of her grandchildren, and an electronic figurine that features Charlie Brown reading the Christmas story from the Bible.

"It just brings tears to my eyes," Shaw said of the ornament that is one of the thousands which fill her home during the holidays. They fill three trees and lots of other surfaces. One whole tree, she said, is reserved for plastic ornaments and stuffed items in Peanuts shapes.

"That one is for my grandchildren," she said noting that the youngest members of her family are allowed to move those items around at will.

They are not, it is likely, allowed to move the ornament Mr. Schulz gave her personally or the drawing of Snoopy and Woodstock he made for her while she watched.

She said the world famous cartoonist was so impressed with her love of all things Snoopy that he took book "right off his own bookshelf and gave them to me."

Shaw uses books filled with Snoopy and his friends to teach reading especially on the anniversary of Mr. Schulz's birth. When that day falls on a school day, she said, she allows her students to watch a Peanuts video, read a book and then compare and contrast the two. However, celebratory assignments are not the only way Shaw's craze for the beagle makes its way into her classroom. Her students are so aware of her collection that some of them have, over the years, added to it.

Shaw cheerily admitted that some of her students parents might get a little overwhelmed because her student just can't resist buying her Peanuts items when they find them.

She understands, though, because she has the same problem.

Items in the form of her beloved Snoopy and his pals have made their way into her collection during her many travels whether they be to Houston or Paris, France.

"I have a (Snoopy) Bobbie from England," she said picking out just one of her travel buys. She also has a poster of Snoopy in French that she put up in a bathroom at her school in Whitesboro.

She also has a Snoopy dressed as famed detective Sherlock Holmes.

"I can spot a dog with black ears anywhere," Shaw said and then laughed a little at her own obsession.

The entire collection, she said, has never been appraised for a financial value but that doesn't matter. The items, especially those she received from Mr. Schulz, her children and students, are priceless to her.

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