Charlie Brown and I have some similar acquaintances. The first, and foremost, is a voice actress named Debbie Mueller. Debbie was a background artist (formerly called an “extra”) during the time I first started working in the entertainment business. We met on location at San Francisco International Airport during the filming of “What’s Up, Doc” (1972). She was playing a stewardess, and I a Marine. Between filming, there was plenty of time for extras to visit, and as we sat in the TWA lounge area we struck up an instant friendship. Incidentally, this was also where I met and became friends with Johnny Weissmuller Jr., the son of the legendary #JohnnyWeissmuller of MGM #Tarzan fame. Debbie was an attractive, strawberry blonde, and easy to talk with. We also were both graduates of #LowellHighSchool. Debbie was a student in our drama department.
Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan
Debbie was an attractive, strawberry blonde, and extremely easy to talk with. However, what helped us really connect, was when I found she was a graduate of #LowellHighSchool – I had graduated from there as well, only slightly later. The Lowell auditorium (now called the Carol Channing Auditorium) had a picture of Debbie in the sound booth, and I viewed it often.
Working on the set of “What’s Up, Doc.”
Now, here’s the “Peanuts” connection: Debbie eventually married a man named #LeeMendelson – sound familiar? He was an executive producer on the Charlie Brown tv shows. Debbie also did some voices for those productions. She was a teacher in one, and (typecasting?), a stewardess for another (“Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown”). The last time I saw Debbie was with her husband Lee at St. Brendan’s Church in the West Portal District of San Francisco. A very lovely couple.
Another connection with “Peanuts” was the actress, Pamelyn Ferdin, who guested in one of our episodes on “The Streets of San Francisco.” She voiced Lucy Van Pelt in many of the Charlie Brown specials.
Lucy Van Pelt
Vince Guaraldi was the music composer for the Charlie Brown specials. His jazz piano pieces have become almost as famous as Charlie Brown himself. When he died, #DavidBenoit took over the mantle. An accomplished jazz pianist and composer himself, and a friend of my wife, Susan. They grew up together on the strand in Hermosa Beach, CA. She learned of his dreams of becoming a famous musician long before the world knew of him. He was even jealous because my wife’s family household had a grand piano, and his family’s hadn’t.
Lastly, after my mother died, my wife and I took my dad to see the Charles (Sparky) Schulz museum in Santa Rosa. It was our way of keeping all of us busy after the loss. Besides taking a detour to see the train station filmed in #AlfredHitchcock’s, “Shadow of a Doubt,” we spent a greater part of the day in this fabulous museum dedicated to the life and work of cartoonist Charles Schulz. Here we saw a mock-up of his office, and the actual drawing board he used to create the “Peanuts” strip. However, it was seeing the booth where he ate breakfast every morning at the nearby ice rink that left you with the spirit of the man. He was a true American icon.
Charles (Sparky) Schulz
So, hopefully, at the end of this, you have a clearer picture of my “Peanuts” connection. It seems like yesterday when many of these friendships were formed and places visited. However, I believe what Charlie Brown has to say about it, encapsulates it better: “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “What can I do to keep my life from going by so fast?” Then a voice comes to me that says, “Try slowing down at the corners.”
Tony Piazza is a Central Coast mystery writer, film historian, presenter, and skilled storyteller well-known for his passion for writing and movies. An author of four mystery novels, and the memoir, “Bullitt Points,” which is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the classic Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt.” He is also a contributing author to two anthologies and has done many interviews for television, radio, and the print and electronic media. Piazza worked regularly on many Hollywood movies and television shows filmed in San Francisco during the 1970’s, including “Magnum Force,” “Towering Inferno,” and “The Streets of San Francisco.” He now blogs regularly about his Hollywood experiences at authortonypiazza.com. Piazza is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and SLO NightWriters. His latest Tom Logan detective mystery, “Murder Will Out,” has just been released. Find it on Amazon website.