Charles M. Schulz
I haven't read the David Michaelis biography of Charles Schulz yet, but I did get the chance to watch the PBS American Masters episode last night. Anybody else?
I met Sparky several times at cartooning functions, but had only one visit of any substance with him. Though he did his best to circulate among cartoonists like one of the gang, his presence in the room always sent people abuzz and he was usually surrounded by groupies. Trying to have a meaningful conversation with him under those circumstances was pointless. Though cartoonists I've known are nearly all approachable and humble, him included, Sparky was anointed our king, a role he probably couldn't have declined if he'd wanted to.
In the spring of 1998 I made a special trip to Santa Rosa just to visit with him. I didn't know that within a year he would be diagnosed with cancer. He was fit and vital and showed few signs of aging. We met at the Warm Puppy Cafe in the ice arena and later walked through a gallery of his work and spent an hour or so at his studio a few blocks away. He couldn't have been more generous with his time.
At the same time, I didn't meet the presbyterian minister I expected. Sparky showed flashes of impatience, competitiveness and judgmentalism that hadn't been part of his generous legend. The warmest part of our visit was in his studio as we talked about our dads, his a barber, mine a signpainter.
My visit was entirely satisfying and cordial. I sensed at the time, though, a man who had been thrust into a far more public role than he'd have ever wanted for himself. When anecdotes note his flashes of surliness toward autograph seekers or his panic attacks when cajoled into public speaking, I can only think how well he generally performed for a shy man who preferred his own inner life to the public stage that insisted on casting him as a sage, teacher, therapist, minister and healer.