People still go nuts over Charlie Brown

By Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad


Charlie is the diminutive of the name Charles. In the US, it is a derisive black nickname for whites. In the lexicon of the American Vietnamese war, the Vietcong became Victor Charlie.

My first “acquaintance” with “Charlie” was a Charlie Chaplin comedy.

The actor, recognisable universally by his toothbrush moustache, bowler hat and walking cane and a particular gait with out-turned feet, appeared in movies for several decades.

Then came Tunku “Charlie” Abdullah Tuanku Abdul Rahman of Negri Sembilan, a former Umno Member of Parliament for Rawang, a ladies’ man, bon vivant extraordinaire, multi millionaire and chairman of the Melewar Group of companies.

Tunku Abdullah, I was told, acquired the name “Charlie” in reference to the famous pianist Charlie Kunz when he was a pupil at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) in the 30s.

Tunku “Charlie” is a pianist of sorts.

He was made a Tan Sri by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong last June for public service.

“Charlie” lives and dances (and marries) well. His young wife (his sixth) is expecting.

I last saw him in August at a private dinner given in my honour by a mutual friend.

“Charlie”, as usual, was gracious; his politics is always “quiet politics”.

That may be so, but it has its good points.

Peanuts, the comic strip featuring the lovable born loser Charlie Brown in the zigzag shirt (sometimes in orange and sometimes in yellow) was my next acquaintance.

He was followed by Nik “Charlie” Jaafar.

This “Charlie” is a well known courtier to two generations of royals in Kelantan. I was introduced to him by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, in the early 60s, I think.

Nik “Charlie” is a Kelantan Datuk who is a good singer and would always perform at royal command performances.

Perhaps few readers realise that Charlie Brown, his wacky beagle Snoopy and their unique group of neighbourhood pals turned 50 years old on Oct 2.

Well, my dear Charlie Brown, you are an old man.

Good grief! That’s middle age.

According to the Associated Press report in the Daily News, New York, (Sunday, Oct 3), the Peanuts comic strip appears in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, Malaysia being one of them.

The Peanuts franchise generates US$1 billion (RM3.8 billion) in sales each year.

Last Sunday, while having English tea with my wife, Fauzah, and listening to a violinist playing classical songs in the tea room of the Plaza Hotel in South Central Park, I saw three women – if appearance does not deceive they are in their early 30s – wearing Charlie Brown tops, chatting happily while eating finger sandwiches and scones.

The creator of the comic strip, Charles Schulz, who is now 76, and lives in Santa Rosa in California, says that when he dies, Peanuts will die with him because as he himself admits: “… sometimes having to use one hand to steady the other has taken a slight toll”.

Schulz’s lines are a little less firm, yet he has given no thought to hiring an assistant.

When Schulz departs, the Charlie Brown cult will grow.

It has now grown to the point that the International Museum of Cartoon Art has opened an exhibit chronicling the first five decades of Peanuts and the work of Schulz.

Schulz has drawn 18,000 strips over the past half a century, sharing with us all the trials and tribulations of Charlie Brown and the gang in the pumpkin patch and on the pitcher’s mound and with the kite-eating tree and the Red Baron.

The Daily News says a lady, Freddi Margolin, who lives in Long Island, New York, and known as “the Snoopy lady” has 20,000 Peanuts items in her collection.

The vast majority of the items on display at the museum came from that collection.

Most people agree that of all the characters in the gang, the personality of Charlie Brown has probably remained the most lovable and constant over the years, always wearing that trademark zigzag shirt.

What makes Charlie Brown lovable? I know no other born loser who never gives up and I know not a few born losers.

In any event, Charlie Brown is so endearingly lovable because we all kind of see ourselves in him!

I will be, like many other fans, devastated when Charlie Brown passes to join the Almighty

The story so far is that he will be around for a while yet to make us smile and laugh.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here