Peanuts Creator's Daughter Defends Him

Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang have given joy to generations of Americans.

But a new biography depicts Peanuts creator Charles Schulz as a driven, unhappy, and rather cold man, distant even from his wives and children.

The Schulz family is outraged, calling parts of "Schulz and Peanuts," by David Michaelis, false and inaccurate.

In an exclusive interview with The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday, a Schulz daughter, Amy Schulz Johnson, took issue with much of how her father is portrayed.

She told Smith that one of her brothers, and her stepmother, had heard about Michaelis, a well-known author and, "We trusted him, and invited him into our homes, and shared a lot of what we felt (were) sacred things with him, things that we feel and things that we had in our home. And it's very upsetting now."

The "whole thing (book)" is wrong, Schulz Johnson asserted, "and the reason it's wrong is because he puts negative twists on everything, and he psychoanalyzes my dad and every relative, and my mom, and paints a picture of our family ... like we had this terrible family and our life wasn't very good, and ... dad was cold and distant. And it was totally opposite of how we all grew up."

The book says Schulz wasn't affectionate, never put his arm around his kids, never said, "I love you."

Schulz said that wasn't the father she knew: "I didn't even know had a job. ... All he did was pay attention to his five kids and played baseball with my brothers and hang out with my little sister and I. And when we'd go to visit him in his studio, he worked where we lived, we'd go and visit him, he'd put his pen down or sit and talk to us or play ball with the boys or hang out with all our friends. I honestly didn't know he had a job most of our childhood. I thought he was just our dad. He was very loving.

"We feel very betrayed and very deceived (by Michaelis). And I think the biggest thing, as I've thought about this, is the book itself is horrible and wrong, but what's more upsetting is that there's still a wonderful story about a wonderful man that is completely untold now. And I think that's a shame, that we waited seven years to hear a story told and it's untold."

The book's publisher, Harper Collins, issued a statement saying in part, " 'Schulz and Peanuts' is a masterful poetry of a complicated and beloved American genius. Monty Schulz was given an opportunity to correct factual inaccuracies and declined to do so."

"The reason" her brother spurned the chance to correct those factual inaccuracies, Schulz Johnson told Smith, is "because these are just factual details, but they're not personal. And, yes, we could help David correct the factual errors, and then he would leave the whole negative twist to the book, and then be able to say, 'Well, they corrected the book,' when, in fact, he wasn't willing to correct the feeling that came across in the book. That would be impossible."

Could it be, Smith asked, that Schulz Johnson, "as most children do, idealize our parents, sometimes the way we idealize our childhoods, is it possible you idealize your own childhood and your own life with your father, and maybe can't see him for who this author has identified him to be?"

"Well, no," Schulz Johnson replied. "I mean -- in fairness to us, first of all, it's not true that all children idealize their fathers. I find it hard to find a friend that actually wasn't scared of their father. Their father either abused them verbally, physically, or they were scared of them. I was one of the few people that had a father that I was totally, you know, crazy about and looked up to. And another thing is, that's irrelevant, because the good part of him is still not being told, so that really doesn't matter.

"My mother and my father, and I want to stress that, both, created a wonderful family life for all of five us children and for all of our friends that got to come to our house all the time."