Really Good Grief: The Wonderfully Tragic Life of Charles Schulz

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There are plenty of terrific articles online that explore Charles Schulz's wonderful life. They talk of how many awards he won (from Emmys to Congressional Gold Medals), and how he donated great amounts of money to charity (everything from building local skating rinks to to heading up the fundraising for a national D-Day memorial). They explore how wealthy his strip made him (in 1989 Forbes estimated that he was making $32 million a year), and they inevitably touch on his religious views (he considered himself a "secular human" and taught Sunday School). In fact, generally they talk about how full and rich his life was.

This article deals with none of that. Instead we're concentrating on Charles Schulz's wonderfully miserable life. And specifically, after suffering a very bad day, 8 things that only seem to make him more endearing to me!

1. He had a lot of bad hair days

one.jpg When Charles Schulz was a kid, he always got his hair snipped at his father's barbershop. And though the haircuts were free, anecdotage reports that they came with plenty of grief: Like whenever a "real customer" walked in, Schulz was made to get up and wander around with an embarrassing half hair-cut. At least, until the customer left.

2. He came "this close" a lot

That wasn't the only rain cloud hovering over little Charlie's existence. As a child, he was once super-excited to be in line at a movie theater because they promised candy bars to the first 100 kids to buy tickets. Of course, Schulz happened to be the 101st.

3. He disliked high school (especially the yearbook)

schulz-lilfolks.jpg As a 136-pounder lugging a 6 foot frame, Schulz's physical awkwardness didn't help his high school career. He was quoted in the Star Tribune saying "I don't know which was worse - the Army or Central High School." The worst blow, however, came right before graduation when his art teacher persuaded him to draw some scenes for the school's annual. "I was delighted and waited anxiously the last couple days of school until the yearbook came out - with none of my cartoons."

More stories, and your chance to win t-shirts... all after the break!

4. He didn't think he could draw

Despite teaching at the Art Instruction Schools, and earning heaps of accolades through out his career, Charles Schulz wished he could do fine art and be Andrew Wyeth. In fact, at 75, he was quoted as saying "My goal in life is to meet Andrew Wyeth."

5. His dog was nuts

link.spike.schulz.jpg The inspiration for Snoopy was the Schulz's insane black and white pup, Spike. The "hunting dog" scoured for pins, tacks and razor blades and was generally uncontrollable. In fact, Spike would often race away from the house anytime a door was cracked open, and it was only his love for going on car rides that brought him back. Any time Spike made an escape, Charles would have to run and start honking his father's car horn repeatedly to lure the dog back.

6. He hated the name "Peanuts"

Originally, Schulz's comics were titled Li'l Folks. According to Wikipedia, much to Schulz's dismay, his cartoon syndicate changed the strip's name to avoid confusion with Li'l Abner and another comic called Little Folks. Judging from a 1987 interview, Schulz still hadn't forgiven them. "It's totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity — and I think my humor has dignity".

7. He never got over The Little Red-Haired Girl

320px-ItsYourFirstKiss.jpg While his wife Jeannie was certainly a fire-cracker (at 50, she started taking trapeze lessons!), and her comments often made the strip (like calling Schulz her "Sweet Baboo"), it was the cartoonist's first love that inspired Charlie Brown's love interest. The Little Red-Haired Girl character was based on Donna Johnson, the first girl Schulz proposed to (and was rejected by). Naturally, he had a tough time getting over the experience. "You never do get over your first love," Schulz said. "More than having your cartoons rejected or three-putting the 18th green, the whole of you is rejected when a woman says: `You're not worth it.'" While he never won the red-head's heart, fans of the "I just like you as a friend" rejection line should know that it actually worked for the pair. The two managed to stay friends years after the proposal debacle.

8. And apparently all that misery was good for him

WindowClingPeanutsFootball.jpg As a man who claimed "You can't create humor out of happiness," it's no surprise that Schulz once wrote, "I'm astonished at the number of people who write to me saying, 'Why can't you create happy stories for us? Why does Charlie Brown always have to lose? Why can't you let him kick the football?' Well, there is nothing funny about the person who gets to kick the football." Oh, you're a good man Charlie Schulz.

>>UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Feel free to keep sharing stories if you'd like, though. And congratulations to Mrs. DJS, Natasha and Kathy A. for making us laugh (and feel better about our day). Good luck, and good grief!

Previously on mental_floss:

15 Reasons Mr. Rogers Was The Best Neighbor Ever
Where Ten Legendary Cartoons Got Their Names
15 Award-Winning Facts About The Nobel Prize
Seven Curses That Seem To Be Doing Their Jobs
Ten Epic Halloween Costumes

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October 2, 2007 - 11:11pm
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