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|The Roving Eye|
by Anthony Haden-Guest
|It was Christo and Jeanne-Claude who took me to meet the late Charles Schulz. The year was 1975 and the Christos were working on their Running Fence project in Sonoma County, Northern California. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, had a home in the county capital, Santa Rosa. We had coffee in Snoopy mugs and wiped our lips on Charlie Brown and Lucy napkins.
This was a pre-branding period, by the way. It was just that Schulz was unabashedly fond of his creations.
He clearly liked the Christos a lot too. This surprised me somewhat because cartoonists and illustrators seldom have much time for the avant-garde. Indeed -- with exceptions like Saul Steinberg -- even sophisticated cartoonists seem to find the art world good for little except target practice. It is to the point that one mordant anti-modernist, Evelyn Waugh, originally harbored notions of being a professional illustrator and that another, Tom Wolfe, has published a book of caricatures.
Charles "Sparky" Schulz felt otherwise. The Christos met him when they hired a local attorney, Edwin Anderson, who also happened to be the cartoonist's attorney. Schulz, already an American icon, sat in the front row at one of the acrimonious public meetings that preceded the making of Running Fence, and took the floor to say he was baffled by the opposition to the project. The friendship endured.
A few years later Schulz memorialized it in Peanuts. "He did that in 1978," Jeanne-Claude says. "We were making Wrapped Walkways in Kansas City, Missouri. In the first panel of the cartoon, Snoopy says, "I remember when Christo hung the Valley Curtain in Colorado." In the second square he says, "I loved the Running Fence in California and the Wrapped Walkways in Kansas City" and in the third square he gets up and starts walking. "I wonder what he will do next?" The final panel shows little Snoopy with a very astonished and sad face -- his dog-house is completely wrapped up."
"He gave us the original drawing. But we donated it to the Kansas City Museum. Just two years ago Schulz came and had dinner with us in our home in New York. We had dinner three nights ago, in California, in the home of Edwin and Jean Anderson. We arrived the day after Sparky had died."
"It was a very warm encounter. There were all his friends," Christo added. "We loved him."
Snoopy's kennel has been wrapped for good.
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ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST is a writer, reporter and cartoonist. He is currently at work on Famous: Some Journeys through Celebrity Worlds (William Morrow).