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HEADLINE: SNOOPY, PUSHING 50, REMAINS THE TOP DOG
BYLINE: By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services
In October 1950, Charlie Brown explained about his quirky friend, "He's just a dog." Snoopy looked utterly shocked and totally disgusted, asking, "What does he mean JUST!" He's a dog and he's proud.
Arguably, no canine character has been as enduring as Charles Schulz's bossy beagle. He's outlasted crazes over canines from Rin Tin Tin to Benji.
"Snoopy has shown what the average man has always known: Dogs are very wise," says Roger Caras, president of the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals. "Dogs are willing to share their wisdom if people are wise enough to pay attention. Snoopy is a philosophical genius."
Schulz based Snoopy on a small, spunky black-and-white dog he had as a kid, named Spike. That dog was virtually uncontrollable. Spike's favorite game was to wait until neighborhood kids slipped in the snow, then snatch the stocking caps from their heads.
Snoopy's snout continues to reach 350 million readers daily. That's not to mention appearances in more than a dozen books, including top billing in Good Ol' Snoopy and Snoopy: Not Your Average Dog. He's co-starred in too many TV specials to count, including the perennial A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now he's Broadway-bound, opening in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown at the Longacre Theatre in mid-February.
Meanwhile, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang are on the road, barking at theaters around the East and Midwest.
Schulz has said that some cartoon characters are created, others take on a life of their own. With that in mind, and with assistance of "interpreter" and actor Roger Bart (he plays Snoopy in the touring stage show), I had a chance to interview the entertainment legend.
STEVE DALE: You're going on 49. That's pretty impressive, especially in dog years. What's your secret?
SNOOPY: Prunes keep me going, and digging up old bones. But I like dog food, too. I believe I'm better looking today than I've ever been.
STEVE: People magazine recently featured the Sexiest Men Alive. Why were you left out?
SNOOPY: Now, there's an intelligent question. Of course, it was their oversight. But I'll make them pay. I'll show them. I'll pose for Dog World magazine.
STEVE: Would you consider posing for a centerfold?
SNOOPY: Why not? I'm naked all the time. Maybe I'll go a little crazy and take off my collar. Think about it. No one has ever seen my neckline.
STEVE: What's the best dog breed to own?
SNOOPY: Own? No one should own a dog. You should be honored to share your life with a dog.
STEVE: How about Charlie Brown?
SNOOPY: That round-headed kid isn't bad; he feeds me. If it's cold out, I sleep under his covers. I'm a faithful friend. He's my faithful friend. Beagles are the best dogs to share your life. Beagles are fun. Beagles have imagination. I must say I've done more for beagles than all 101 of those Dalmatians. Dalmatians are overrated.
STEVE: You're so talented, you sing and you dance.
SNOOPY: Yes. Woodstock and I opened a school to teach swing dancing - that's the new thing. But we had to close the school. Woodstock's agent also advised against his appearing in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. So Woodstock packed his nest and left to take his act to Vaudeville.
STEVE: You've been in so many TV specials, and now you're appearing in the legitimate theater. Wouldn't you like to work on the big screen and make a major motion picture?
SNOOPY: My brother Spike is working on a deal - and I'll have you know I'm capable without those Peanuts characters. I can hold my own. Martin Scorcese wanted me for a script he called Raging Dog. But I wasn't crazy about gaining all that weight, even if he gave me lots of biscuits. I'm still an athlete, you know.
STEVE: I realize. You're one of the only ice-skating dogs, and aside from ice hockey, you've played tennis and golf.
SNOOPY: Don't forget baseball. I was disappointed about the Cubs. I rooted for them; they were the underdog.
STEVE: So, tell me about Charles Schulz.
GRAPHIC: Charts (2); (1) Doggy dates
Snoopy's life and times
Here are important years to remember in Snoopy history; trivia you can discuss
with your dog around the water bowl:
1950: Snoopy debuts in the Peanuts comic strip.
1952: Snoopy says what's on his mind for the first time. Snoopy does his first
1953: Snoopy gets a doghouse.
1956: Snoopy discovers ice-skating.
1957: Snoopy joins Charlie Brown's baseball team.
1958: Snoopy disguises himself as a vulture.
1965: Snoopy co-stars in the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, which wins
an Emmy Award.
1965: Snoopy begins writing a novel with the words, "It was a dark and stormy
1970: Snoopy recruits Woodstock as a friend and a secretary.
1971: Snoopy shares the cover of Newsweek with the rest of the Peanuts gang.
1975: Snoopy's brother Spike arrives for his first visit.
1989: Snoopy's other brother Olaf wins the Ugly Dog Contest.
1990: "Snoopy in Fashion" opens at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
1992: An art exhibit, "Il Mondo di Snoopy," debuts in Rome.
(2) Digging up dirt
Here's the real dirt on Snoopy (he barks brief replies to personal questions):
Who's your favorite person?: Charlie Brown -- but don't tell anyone.
What's your favorite smell?: Pigpen.
Favorite TV show?: Scooby-Doo.
Who do your admire most?: Lassie.
Favorite cat?: No such thing, please.
What's your hobby?: Napping.
Have your ever had fleas?: This interview is over.
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