From Peanuts To Millions

By Gene Arceri

When Jay Augustin, the general manager of PBS in San Francisco, offered to drive me to Santa Rosa for my December 10, 1976, interview with Charles Schulz, he said he would bring his camera to memorialize the moment with the creative genius.  Also, I wanted to inquire about a years-earlier strip of his, May12, 1972.  I was then writing a book (Macmillan Publishers) about the actress Susan Hayward who had died a year before on March 14, 1975.  I had to find out what inspired him to do this piece.  In his studio, we sat down to talk.  Here is what he said: “I did a Sunday page (May12, 1972) which was the result of something that happened to me, oh, maybe close to 30 years ago.  I spent a wonderful Saturday with a little gal from Indianapolis and we went on a picnic down in southern Minnesota to a nice spot, and we went swimming, and had just one of those rare days that happens in life now and then, and on our way home we decided to stop in and see a movie neither one of us had seen.  It was called My Foolish Heart and it had Susan Hayward in it.

“Well, I always remembered it, that day.  The song from the movie itself became very famous and for years afterward whenever I would hear that song, My Foolish Heart, tears would come to my eyes because I would recall that glorious day.  But somehow my memory began to backfire on me and I had replaced Susan Hayward with Anne Baxter.  And also, whenever I would see Anne Baxter in a movie or on television I would often think of that glorious Saturday.

“One day, several years ago, I was down in Los Angeles and I was telling a friend about this and the friend said: ‘Yes, I saw that movie on TV but it wasn’t Anne Baxter it was Susan Hayward.’  It was a terrible blow to discover that your memory can really play tricks on you like that.  I put this in a Sunday page (read by millions) and of course I couldn’t deal with any of the kids (the Peanuts gang) themselves but I’ve done quite a few now where Charlie Brown talks about the memories that his father has, and he noticed one day, he was remarking, that his father eats in the kitchen alone at night, quite often eating cold cereal and looking at his High School Annual and I think that says a lot to all of us about memories.

“So, anyway, I made a Sunday page out of that and it was quite successful.  I always hoped I could meet Anne Baxter or Susan Hayward and tell them about it.”

I mentioned this story while videotaping a special for E! Entertainment in Hollywood (first aired on January 17, 2000), but I didn’t use Charles Schulz’s mismatched memory strip in the Susan Hayward book.  My one regret is that the roll of film Jay used that day with Mr. Schulz and me together in his studio, at his drawing board, was lost by the “photographer”.

Gene Arceri has gained world attention as a writer, critic, award winning PBS reviewer and publicist. A native New Yorker, Gene resides in San Francisco and spends considerable time in London. Among his best selling books are: ‘Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life. Her Loves. Her Future’, Susan Hayward’s ‘RED’ and ‘Charlie of Nob Hill’. {San Francisco’s most famous cat}

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