Good Grief! For two years Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was sending secret love letters to a woman 23 years his junior, Tracey Claudius -- and he was married at the time!
And we thought Charlie Brown was just a bland, wishy-washy kid. Come to think of it, I always thought there was a dark undertone to the Peanuts gang comics. Maybe I was picking up on something? Fans have already started combing the strip for hints and references to the affair -- and they're finding some gems.
The love letters themselves are about what you'd expect, though they kind of make me squirm. There's just something weird about using cute cartoon characters to express BURNING PASSION, know what I mean? They're filled with drawings of Snoopy kissing Lucy, Charlie Brown looking lovelorn, and one drawing of Schulz himself sighing next to a phone booth. One letter reads just, "Tracey, Tracey, Tracey. (SIGH)". Another letter sounds stalkerish: "Why, oh why, are you staying with someone who has an 'unpublished' phone number as I can't talk to you?" Hrm. On the other hand, he has lovely handwriting.
It does look like Schulz sometimes lived out parts of his affair through his comics. In real life his wife caught on to his long-distance phone calls to Tracey. (Poor woman, how awful.) Soon after, Schulz penned a comic where Charlie Brown scolds Snoopy, telling him he's not allowed "to see that girl beagle" and to "stop making those long-distance phone calls." What?!?
Schulz's first marriage ended in 1972, about a year after he'd stopped sending Claudius the letters. Apparently she broke it off because she didn't want a scandal to hurt his image. But there's a comic strip where Lucy taunts Charlie Brown with divorce papers -- just like how she usually would taunt Charlie with the football. Was that really Charles working out his longing to leave his wife for Tracey?
The Washington Post has found several more possible references to Schulz's infatuation with Claudius in past Peanuts strips. In retrospect they're kind of shocking. You kind of have to wonder if his wife was reading the strip and how she felt! Anyway, it seems Charles was the kind of guy who was always in and out of love. He remarried, to a completely different woman, in 1973. Wow, who knew Charles Schulz was a Casanova! My whole image of him is completely shattered. Think Charles ever called Tracey "my beautiful baboo"? Where's Lucy's five-cent psychiatry booth when we need it?
Are you surprised that Charles Schulz was writing love letters to another woman?
Image via A. M. Kuchling/Flickr