A company president usually doesn't show up for an interview wearing a Snoopy T-shirt, but for Craig Schulz, it seems appropriate.
Schulz, the son of "Peanuts" comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz, is president and CEO of Creative Associates, the Santa Rosa company that helps manage the licensing and use of Charlie Brown and the gang.
"I want to keep the integrity of the comic strip alive. I want to keep my dad's legacy alive, and keep it on track," Craig explained.
At its height, the "Peanuts" strip ran in as many as 2,800 newspapers, and even almost 10 years after the cartoonist's death, reprints still run in 1,800 papers, including The Press Democrat.
While the elder Schulz did all the writing and drawing of the strip himself for nearly 50 years, Craig believes he had his own influence on "Peanuts."
"I think Dad lived vicariously through a lot of the things his kids did," he said. "If you look at the comic strip, you'll see that when Snoopy surfs, it's from when I was surfing in L.A. When Snoopy's a helicopter pilot, it's from when I was flying helicopters. When he's riding a motorcycle, it's from my moto-cross career."
Craig, 57, is the cartoonist's middle child of five, and the only one who still lives in Sonoma County, where Charles Schulz lived and worked from 1958 until his death in 2000.
Tall, angular and outwardly shy, like his father, Craig Schulz may be less visible in the community than his stepmother, Charles Schulz's second wife, Jeannie, who maintains an active role in the Schulz Museum and other projects.
But those who know Schulz say he has accomplished a lot in his own quiet way.
"Craig is definitely a very shy individual, but very straightforward, and maybe even a bit more of a Charlie Brown than his father was, in some respects," said Janet Condron, former mayor of Santa Rosa.
Five years ago, Condron and Craig Schulz brought the "Peanuts on Parade" public art concept to Santa Rosa from St. Paul, Minn., the cartoonist's original hometown.
Since then, some 250 polyurethane statues of "Peanuts" characters, colorfully decorated by local artists, have been displayed all over Santa Rosa, attracting locals and tourists alike. The latest entries, 30 statues of crabby Lucy van Pelt, went up this summer.
Auctions of previous years' statues financed the installation of three permanent bronze statues of "Peanuts" characters — Charlie and Linus at the Charles M. Schulz/Sonoma County Airport, Lucy at Finley Center, and a new figure of Marcie to be placed at Courthouse Square.
"When you're working with a celebrity, you don't know how it's going to go, but Craig made himself available and went out of his way to see that things were done," Condron said.
Schulz hasn't actively sought celebrity status, even when the opportunity arose.
When author David Michaelis' controversial book, "Schulz & Peanuts: A Biography," came out in 2007, several of Charles Schulz's grown children spoke out against the writer's portrayal of the cartoonist as an insecure, distant and sometimes depressed man, who had an extramarital affair near the end of his first marriage. Craig's older brother, Monte, and his younger sisters, Amy and Jill, criticized the book in public, but Craig stayed out of the debate.
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