Snooping around a dog cartoonist

Bill Mann Mann Overboard
Posted 6/12/24

A PBS documentary called him the wealthiest American artist ever. It wasn’t Walt Disney.

 The answer: Cartoonist Charles Schulz. And I used to occasionally play golf with …

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Snooping around a dog cartoonist


A PBS documentary called him the wealthiest American artist ever. It wasn’t Walt Disney.

 The answer: Cartoonist Charles Schulz. And I used to occasionally play golf with “Sparky,” as friends called him. 

The “Peanuts” creator, the guy who created Snoopy, Lucy,  and good ol’ Charlie Brown for the daily comics, was a multimillionaire. (Snoopy wasn’t a dog. He was more like a cash cow). 

Now, Schulz didn’t seek me out as a golf partner. That would be my regular golfing pal, a San Francisco radio personality named Bill Moen. Schulz was a big fan of Moen, my usual witty, Shakespeare-quoting links companion. 

Moen and I used to regularly play at Fountaingrove Country Club, located in Schulz’ Sonoma County base of Santa Rosa, about 45 miles north of San Francisco. 

Schulz was a founding member of Fountaingrove, and you always knew when he was there by his WOODSTOCK license plate. 

The soft-spoken cartoonist would occasionally ask Moen if he could join us, and we always agreed. 

Today, if you drive around Santa Rosa, Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Woodstock, etc., are ubiquitous. Schulz was beloved in Santa Rosa for his philanthropy as well as his hugely popular strip. His outsized cartoon characters are on seemingly every other block in Santa Rosa.

One day, shortly after I moved to Santa Rosa, it was 100 degrees. I hate heat and wanted air conditioning so I drove to Schulz’ skating arena, Snoopy’s Home Ice. The rink is a replica of Schulz’ boyhood arena in St. Paul, Minn.

To my astonishment, I spotted an unlikely sight skating by … former New York Ranger great Walt Tkaczuk. Having once covered the National Hockey League far away, up in Montreal, this was an incongruous, totally unexpected sight. 

It turned out that Tkaczuk had flown to Santa Rosa — landing at Charles Schulz Airport — to play in the famed cartoonist’s World Seniors hockey tournament. (No checking allowed for these older players). Schulz paid to have senior skaters flown in from all over North America. 

The 8,000-square-foot Charles Schulz Museum was later built near the skating rink, and the coffee shop is called — aww— the Warm Puppy. 

Down the street is One Snoopy Place — the studio where Schulz penned his hugely popular daily strip.

Schulz was a lean, unprepossessing guy, low key and friendly. He did not look the least bit athletic. But he had a beautiful, fluid golf swing. 

One day while we were playing, I asked the modest, friendly and famous cartoonist where he got his sweet golf swing. The answer was startling, if not totally surprising:  

“King Hassan of Morocco flew his jet over a few times to take me to Rabat so I could take lessons from his pro.” Good grief! There were  “Peanuts” fans all over the world, including royalty. 

Schulz died in 2000, age 77. I’d also gotten to know his good-natured manager, Mark Cohen, who passed away shortly before his famous client. When I visited Cohen in the hospital, he said Schulz had just him a surprising gift: A children’s book by avant garde Hungarian illustrator Istvan Banyai.  It was far more daring and imaginative than “Peanuts.”

Schulz was such a nice guy that this opinionated critic never told him I rarely read “Peanuts.”  But I sometimes do now, just to remember its amiable creator and that fine golf swing. 

More Cartoon Characters: Daily cartoonists refer to each other as “strippers.” And for some reason, possibly because of Schulz’ presence, Santa Rosa seems to have attracted several well-known strippers. 

Arguably the best strip today is the clever “Pearls Before Swine,” drawn by Santa Rosa stripper Stefan Pastis. Another popular strip, “Non Sequitur,” is drawn by Ralph Wiley, who was my colleague at the Santa Rosa daily. And Dale Messick, another Santa Rosan, was the first syndicated woman stripper with her “Brenda Starr, Reporter” strip. 

Another Famous Cartoonist Name: Down at the Oakland Tribune, I shared my office with … Lou Grant. NOT the Ed Asner by that name in the sitcom. Lou Grant was our editorial cartoonist at the Tribune. CBS-TV paid Lou to use his name for the series. 

Avid newspaper cartoon consumer Bill Mann is also