By STEVE OUELLETTE, You Had To Ask
---- — If you’re at all like me, you don’t always read this column, and when you do, it’s not until after you’re finished with the nearby Sunday comics section.
There, even 13 years after the death of Charles Schulz, you can still be amused and charmed by the antics of Charlie Brown and friends.
For my entire life, the “Peanuts” gang has been around, and seemingly part of the family. Not a year goes by without an obligatory viewing of the Christmas and Halloween specials, and one of these days I will talk my family into an authentic Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Dinner.
“Peanuts,” however, first appeared in newspapers more than 60 years ago. In that time, a few characters aged a few years, but no one ever got past 8 years old. I, for one, have always wondered what happened when all those characters — now senior citizens — grew up.
Fortunately, the memoirs of Rerun, the youngest van Pelt child — “Living in the Shadow of the Blanket” — are soon to be released, and he has allowed me to print some of the revelations for curious fans.
Schroeder, the piano-playing wunderkind, dropped out of Juilliard to play keyboards for Creedence Clearwater Revival. He struggled with substance abuse — and once punched out both the Captain and Tennille in a bar fight — but he has a plaque at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Linus van Pelt has led an eclectic but successful life. He attended Stanford and briefly dated Condoleezza Rice, though they broke up over political differences. Inventing microwave popcorn made him a wealthy man, but he dropped from society, spending nearly a decade as a Buddhist monk, meditating in a sincere pumpkin patch at the foot of Mt. Makalu. He returned to his millions in 1997 and lives in peaceful retirement in Boca Raton.
Linus stopped carrying the blanket in ninth grade, though he still keeps it in a box under his bed.
Snoopy, the world’s most popular dog, didn’t make it to the 21st century. Come on, he’s a dog; that would be like 470 in dog years. He died at age 16, struck by a newspaper delivery truck while chasing the Red Baron. To save Charlie Brown’s feelings, his never-seen parents told him that they had sent Snoopy to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for the fresh air.
Lucy van Pelt, the sometimes abrasive older sister of Linus, went to college to get a psychology degree. She joined a sorority, developed a drinking problem and dropped out of school. She stalked the Creedence Clearwater Revival keyboard player for about three years, but straightened out her life and became the host of a radio talk show “The Doctor is In,” though she is still not a real doctor.
The devilishly cute yellow bird Woodstock perished tragically … at the teeth of his longtime best friend, Snoopy, who Charlie Brown had absentmindedly forgotten to feed for three days in a row. Tasted just like chicken.
Tomboyish Peppermint Patty blossomed when she got to college and was third runner-up at the Miss America pageant, though she dropped the Peppermint from her name, feeling it made her sound like an exotic dancer. She married and divorced a well-known member of the New York Yankees.
Hygienically challenged Pig-Pen was never able to hold a steady job or find true love because of his personal grooming problems. He began smoking at age 10 — that cloud wasn’t always dust — and died of lung cancer in his early 40s.
Sally Brown, Charlie’s precocious sister, quickly lost her adolescent crush on Linus. She married the always underutilized Franklin right after high school, at the time a scandalous interracial marriage. Franklin was later elected to three terms in Congress, while Sally inherited her dad’s barbershop and turned it into an upscale salon with her partner Frieda, the girl with the naturally curly hair.
The comic strip’s most famous and endearing character, Charlie Brown, has led a not-unexpectedly topsy-turvy life. He never did excel at baseball, his true love, but he became an All-State placekicker. He earned a college football scholarship and, briefly, national notoriety when his potential game-winning field was blown wide by a sudden gust of wind at the 1973 Cotton Bowl.
Charlie underwent strand-by-strand hair replacement and years of psychiatric counseling, due to feelings of inadequacy. He divorced his abusive red-headed first wife, who frequently referred to him as “loser” and “blockhead.”
He spent 30 years working in a cubicle — inspiring the comic strip “Dilbert” — but his personal life took a turn for the better when he reconnected with childhood friend Marcie, a professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College. They were married in their 30s and had three children — Shermy, Violet and Spike.
Together they’re living happily ever after, though Mr. Brown still gives out rocks to any children who trick-or-treat at his house.
Email Steve Ouellette: firstname.lastname@example.org