Flowers pour in for Peanuts Creator

Monday, November 22nd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Flowers and letters flowed into the studio of Charles M. Schulz Monday after the creator of "Peanuts" characters of Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown was diagnosed with colon cancer. Doctors found the cancer last week, when the cartoonist underwent emergency surgery to clear a blocked abdominal artery.

Schulz, who will turn 77 Friday, remained in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The hospital refused to release his condition. Doctors expect that chemotherapy will be effective, said Schulz's secretary, Edna Poehner, adding that Schulz had been walking around. "His spirits are good, and that's what it takes." She said 20 bouquets of flowers and more than 100 cards and letters have arrived at his studio in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

In New York, staffers at United Media, which syndicates Schulz's comic strip, signed a 4-foot get-well card decorated with members of the "Peanuts" gang and sent it to California, spokeswoman Diane Iselin said. "They think he's going to approach this as he does everything else he does. He plays ice hockey. He golfs. He's an athletic man. We see him as a robust individual who works every day," she said.

Schulz had already completed daily comic strips through the end of the year and Sunday strips through Feb. 14. If those run out before he is back on the job, the syndicate will substitute strips from the last five years.

"Peanuts" appears in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries in 21 languages, and Schulz draws, colors and letters every panel himself. His contract forbids anyone else from drawing it, and the new strips will end when he dies. He never talks about retiring, Iselin said. "He talks about drawing the strip every day. That's what he does."

In 49 years of drawing the strip, he has taken only one hiatus, for five weeks two years ago to celebrate his 75th birthday. "It's my life," Schulz once said. And more than 355 million people share it, drawn to Charlie Brown, the long-suffering, round-headed boy who never pitches a no-hitter or wins the love of the little red-haired girl. "I think we all identify with Charlie Brown because life is always a struggle, we're always trying to do better, because he always tries again. He never gives up," said Lee Mendelson, producer of "Peanuts" TV shows and movies.