PEEPSapalooza! 4

Woo & hoo! Another year skids by, and time for DFHC’s 4th annual Peeps Rainbow Roundup. We’ll look at the present state of their poultry offerings, and add a little more to the history of Peeps. I might mention that the past 3 editions, plus last year’s preview, have much information and many pictures not repeated here, so you might want to check them out…PEEPSapalooza! (2011)Son of PEEPSapaloooza! (2012)pEEps prEEview (2013)… and PEEPSapaloopza! III (2013)… onward then into the Candy Coop…

I find it frustrating that many companies act as if the way they’re doing things today is the way they’ve always done things. Just Born, maker of marshmallow Peeps, for example…last year they touted a 60th anniversary, 1953-2013. 60th anniversary of what exactly? Of their purchase of the Rodda Candy Company, which had been making marshmallow Peeps for some time before that. True, the original Rodda Peeps had wings…Just Born snipped them off to streamline production. But Peeps were older than 60 years, obviously. 1 OK, Rodda Peeps versus Just Born Peeps…trouble is, for years after that purchase, Just Born still marketed them under the Rodda brand, as seen above. When did they switch? Dunno yet, altho it was still Rodda in 1977, as seen in this page from a candy jobber catalog, below. 2Thinking back to a childhood of 40, 50, 60 years ago, if “Just Born” doesn’t ring any bells, at least not Peeps-wise…good, it shouldn’t! Thus a bit more of the history of Peeps has been unravelled. See what I come up with by next year! If there is a next year

…because for me, Peeps are fast approaching a saturation mark, a tipping point, a “jump the shark” moment…where the sheer number of variations is so great that it just isn’t fun any more. For me, this has happened with Oreos, Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Cheerios, Kool-Aid, several other iconic products. There are simply so many varieties that come and go…regular additions to their line, seasonal versions, and “limited editions”…that I just don’t give a flying fox. And I’m only talking about Peeps chicks…there are many other marshmallow shapes around at various times of year. But for now, I can still summon up the will to wrangle them chicks…so here’s what’s what…and because things are getting so complicated, I will divide them into 3 categories: Regular, Dipped, and Flavored Peeps.

REGULAR PEEPS…Well, they call them “original” on their website…not on the packaging…yet. And can “classic” be far behind? The basic 6 are back for Easter 2014…unchanged since Orange was added for Easter 2009, after debuting at Hallowe’en 2003…see below, under 4th of July. Honestly, I’d say they’ve got the Pascal Pastel Pallet pretty much saturated…and the shelf-space needed is extensive…probably maxed out by now. Below left are your Pink, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Lavender, and Green. 3 On the right, the 2 extinct colors…White, which along with Yellow and Pink was an original color going back to the 1950s, and was still available as of 2003…and Red, a Target Stores exclusive from about 2006-2009. There had been hints that Red might have been available earlier…again, see 4th of JULY, below. Notice that these 2 have returned in the form of the Christmas Peeps Pops…albeit en brochette. There’s also Purple, a mini-Peeps color that along with Orange and Green were available for Hallowe’en 2012…I have no evidence that they returned in 2013, and they are no longer listed on Just Born’s website.

DIPPED PEEPS…No new varieties have been added over the past year, and one has gone away…Caramel. Could the bloom be off the base-dipped-in-chocolate rose? Always seemed to me to be gilding the lily…Peeps are marshmallows, first, last, and always. 4 FLAVORED PEEPS…When Party Cake Peeps were brought out early in 2013, it was a first for Just Born in 2 ways. Never before had they tried to market a Peeps variety that would be available year-round. They haven’t shown up in stores where I live, except at a 5“dollar” store…is that an ominous sign? Still, they are currently included in the long list of products on their website.

Also, they are not the first flavored Peeps…except for Easter Yellow and Hallowe’en Orange, all of the Dipped Peeps were flavored. But Party Cake was the first non-dipped flavored variety. I haven’t tried one, so I still wonder exactly what “flavor” is cake flavor…well, among the Christmas dippeds, what’s Sugar Cookie flavor? Cookie dough? So is cake flavor baked cookie dough? At any rate, the time seemed to be right…altho there have long been products with colored jimmies (as we used to call them, growing up in the Boston area)…Sprinkled Chips Ahoy! and ubiquitous canned frosting kits come to mind…the difference now is the identification with birthday cakes or party cakes. Mind you, Party Cake Peeps don’t have real sprinkles, just little colored flecks that approximate them…but close enough. 6 And who’s on the bandwagon? Oreos, Pop-tarts, Jell-o topping, various brands of ice cream (with sprinkles in it, not on it)…and I expect more…a fad’s a fad, nez pah? But it certainly looks like flavored, non-dipped Peeps is the direction of further expansion. Last spring, it was Sweet Lemonade and Bubble Gum…the latter an odd choice, as they found it necessary in their advertising to point out that it was bubble gum flavor…these Peeps were’t gum you could chew! And this Easter, we have Sour Watermelon and Blue Raspberry…now there’s one of my pet peeves. Actual raspberries come in red, black, purple, yellow, and white. Why blue, which has become a confectionary standard over the past several decades…where’ s Pink Blueberry? 7 Now those 4 are said on the website to be Wal-Mart exclusives…available nowhere else. Also this year, 3 more Target exclusives…Strawberry Creme, Orange Creme, and Vanilla Creme…altho the Vanilla was also available early last year, part of the 60th Anniversary hoop-dee-do…and notice sometimes they’re pictured as being more “colorful” than at other times. Personally, I don’t like this particular marketing gimmick…a couple autumns ago, I was all primed to sample Pumpkin Spice Pop-Tarts…but guess what, no Target stores where I live…d’oh! And it’s interesting to notice while advertising touts this exclusivity, the packaging itself does not mention any particular store chain, leading me to speculate that these could easily “escape” to other venues.

Which of these Flavored Peeps will survive, and what new concoctions are lurking just around the corner, remains to be seen. But there is one more mystery area we must investigate…

…and that’s 4th of July Peeps…Based on Just Born’s current website, the Bubble Gum and Sweet Lemonade Peeps are being positioned as summer fare. Add that to Valentine’s Day, Easter, Hallowe’en, and Christmas, and you’ve pretty much got the holidays covered. St. Patrick’s Day perhaps? Beyond green jelly beans and mint M&M’s, nobody’s doing much with that. The lone possibility remaining would be the 4th of July…and we do see some red, white, and blue products out from year to year, but not many, compared to the other holidays. 8 In 2003, Just Born took a stab at it in honor of the 50th Anniversary (not of Peeps themselves, but of them acquiring Peeps!) with both chicks and star-shapes. I saw the stars, but not the chicks, advertised again in 2004, and then gone. In fact, of the 3 special editions on the left, only Orange survived…not the “scariest” color in the paintbox, seems to me…and notice Red for Xmas, pre-dating Target. As you can see bottom right, they tried to get patriotic again in 2013, this time vanilla flavored…but these are not now included on the website.

And there you have it, caught up to date. Yeah, I’m still hoping for Licorice Peeps in Black, but I’m not holding my breath…

wicked ballsy

9 Come Independence Day, just 2 ½ months hence, will star-spangled Peeps be available again? As I said, they aren’t currently included on the Just Born website’s annual calendar, but does the right hand really know what the left hand is doing? And the fact is, they are apparently available now…they’re on a website called The Official Peeps Store, website Along with nearly every imaginable Peeps tie-in product…I suppose it’s a sign of the times that there’s no Peeps frisbee. The candle above gets me…so what’s the smell of a burning Peep?

Then there’s the enormous party pack…60 Peeps, all colors, for about $17…notice the presumably unintentional homophobic dig: It’s not a party without the chicks! Ouch! Ever since Peeps have become an institution, a cultural phenomenon, we’ve had all kinds of non-edible versions…salt-shakers anyone?…altho don’t tell me there isn’t a kid somewhere who won’t try to chow down on these cute plushies.  As for Santa’s Helper…you don’t have to tell me…not Easter, no Peeps connection…can’t be helped…  😉 😉


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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I Love Lucy…in Color!

lucy 0

Color me Lucy!

(1)  There were 180 half-hour episodes of “I Love Lucy”…none were filmed in color. Desi Arnaz had expressed interest in filming the one-hour shows in color…there would eventually be 13 of them, collectively known as “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”… originally aired as the “Ford Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show” and “Westinghouse Deslilu Playhouse Presents The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show.”  This was never done, as the cost would have been prohibitive…at least twice the normal budget per episode.

(2)  As its commitment to the future of color broadcasting, CBS announced in a press release dated August 19, 1954 that 42 episodes of their various shows would “color-cast” by the end of the year…and 29 more in the Spring of 1955. The Dec. 6, 1954 episode of “I Love Lucy” was mentioned, altho not by name. This would have been the episode entitled “Ricky’s Contract”…but of the 38 color shows during the 1954 calendar year, totaling 50 hours, “I Love Lucy” was not among them…it was dropped from the list for whatever reason.

lucy 1

(3)  Lucille Ball died on April 26, 1989. CBS decided it would be a fitting tribute to show the “lost” Christmas episode on Monday, Dec. 18. It was shown entirely in black and white. This show originally aired Christmas Eve, 1956, and had never been included in the syndication package…altho as you can see from the TV Guide article that week, it wasn’t completely lost…bits of it having been broadcast in 1981 and after Lucy’s death.


lucy 3

(4)  It was shown again in 1990…this time partially colorized. The episode takes place on Christmas Eve, but only about half of it was newly filmed, the rest being flash-backs to other episodes…and only the Christmas “wraparound” parts were colorized…you can see them here. This hybrid version has long been available on video cassette and DVD. At least one other episode was colorized and shown at fan conventions…”Hollywood at Last” with William Holden…the one where Lucy lights her fake nose on fire. There are rumors of others…track them down at your leisure.


(5)  The version airing Dec. 20, 2013 is not the 1990 version…it is newly colorized, and here is a still from that show (right) compared to a screen capture from 1990 (left).


(6)  But here’s the kicker…a color “home movie” taken by an audience member does exist…of the 1951 episode “The Audition”…you can see parts of it here, interspaced with black and white footage from the actual episode…fascinating, no?

lucy 6

(7)  So when you heard about these new color episodes…and you thought to yourself hey wait a minute…you were right…you must have been paying attention.  Have a Lucy Christmas…and a very Ricky New Year!

lucy 7

And just as an afterthought…isn’t it interesting what a major part Lucy’s hair color played in the show…yet the audience watching at home never saw it…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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What a Boner, Charlie Brown!

jokerThat’s “boner” in the old sense of the word…a mistake, an error, a flub…geez you blockheads, get a grip! See?… the Joker knows what we’re talking about. Now has there ever been a TV show or movie that didn’t have its little screw-ups, in continuity or otherwise? Yeah, probably, but what fun would that be? You’d miss a Viking wearing a wrist-watch, or a truck rumbling by in the background of a prehistoric tableau. One of my favorites is “Sudden Impact,” where in some scenes Dirty Harry’s bulldog is a male, in others it’s a female…honestly…watch for it next time.

And yes, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is no exception. If you watch attentively, you’ll see all sorts of funky stuff…but 2 sequences are especially messy. The first is Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth.


Seeing she has a customer, the first thing Lucy does is brush the snow off the counter (1)…then she reaches over to turn the white sign around from OUT to REAL IN (2). The next shot is a close-up of the writing on the booth (3)…I suspect that if CBS had gotten its way and aired the show with a laugh-track, here’s where a chuckle would have been inserted…can you imagine? But notice that the word DOCTOR has moved…it was between THE and IS…now it’s above REAL IN. Back to a full shot of the booth, and the writing has changed back to the way it was before (4)…and it stays that way….unless we get a side view (5), in which case REAL IN has changed to just IN, and the white sign has again changed its position.

You never noticed that before? Makes sense…once you read it at the beginning of the sequence, you ignore it the rest of the way…you’re paying attention to the dialogue and the action…to the story, not the scenery. Which is pretty much why these types of bloopers happen in the first place…hardly anyone notices and there’s no real need to correct them.

Likewise, the final scene, with the spiffed up tree and the chorus of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is loaded with goofs…it’s actuality quite astonishing when you run thru them.

nice tree

Here the kids have just decorated Charlie Brown’s tree and are admiring it…Lucy says “Charlie Brown is a blockhead, but he did get a nice tree.” As her line is ending, the scene shifts dramatically…notice that except for the twins 3 and 4 in the purple dresses on the left, every character is suddenly in a different position! Not to mention Lucy’s red hat has disappeared…and Pigpen has popped up out of nowhere…true, he had walked outside with them, but he wasn’t in the tree-trimming scene.

pigpen headNext, the kids start singing their loo-loo-loo version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”…we see them all in a full shot, then a medium close-up starting at the left and moving across to the right. And when we get to the kids on the right side, and just as they take a breath, something flashes on Pigpens face. A single screen capture reveals what’s happened…Shermy and Patty should be behind Linus and Pigpen, but for one split second, they’re not!

This is a technical glitch, as opposed to inconsistent continuity, and it has been corrected in some of the newer DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Will it show up on the broadcast this year? I’m guessing not, but watch for it…as the scene has panned all the way to the right, just as the kids take their breath, focus on Pigpen’s head…and yes, you’ll notice that their “breath” is just them smiling…another detail you don’t notice unless you’re watching for it.

blue yellow

Now Charlie Brown comes over and sees the tree…they stop singing. Watch these 2 boys, 5 on the left in a blue jacket, and Shermy on the right in a yellow jacket (1). It’s a little hard to tell the color of 5’s coat, because Sally’s yellow hair is in the way, but below her hair, you can see the coat is blue. (2). There’s a medium shot close-up of the tree (3)…forget that the front row of kids has magically disappeared…5 is still blue and Shermy is still yellow. Then we pull back to a full shot and the kids shout “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” And Shermy’s yellow coat has now turned blue (4).

5 shermy

Or has it? As you can see above, comparing the hairstyles, which isn’t easy since the sky has turned from dark blue to nearly black, that isn’t Shermy any more…it’s 5…and from here on out, there are 2 5’s, one on each side. How this happened is anybody’s guess…likely these scenes were made by different people at different times…and when put back to back, they don’t match up. And notice how the position of the tree has moved between (1) and (4)…see?

Now here’s something interesting…in the 2000 book “A Charlie Brown Christmas — The Making of a Tradition,” animator Bill Melendez says this…[boldface mine]

“When we saw the finished show…it had so many warts and bumps and lumps and things. A year later we fixed up a few things.  But we never completely recreated the show. The inconsistencies and little problems seem to make it even more endearing to a lot of people and Sparky never wanted to change it.”

You might naturally ask, what did they fix? Not Pigpen’s disappearing head…that  was still in there on older DVDs. Without watching a tape of the initial broadcast, who can say? But here’s one possibility…

snoopy sings

An old copy of the show’s finale used to exist on the net. The link to it has been taken down due to copyright concerns…guess I was lucky to get the screen captures when I did! As the kids are singing, Snoopy “sings” too (left, black & white)…and his mouth is always drawn open. Today, his mouth is just a line…it’s closed (right, color). No doubt this change was made because Snoopy doesn’t talk. Well, sure…except that in watching this older version, I just assumed he’s howling, not singing the words. Still, that they felt worth changing…


Finally, I’d like to end with a pet peeve…it’s a retcon, which stands for retroactive continuity…when the past is unilaterally changed. You see the image on the right everywhere these days…I first noticed it in 2002 on a 23kt gold-edged collector plate. “Who can forget the wonderful moment when…”  reads the ad copy. And that’s the problem, we certainly do remember, and we know that Franklin, Peppermint Patty, Marcy, and Woodstock simply weren’t there…they couldn’t have been…in 1965 Schulz hadn’t invented any of them yet!

And comparing to the image on the left, we see that the twins, 5, Violet, Frieda, Shermy, and Patty have all been “erased from the photo”…altho not for nothing, at least Lucy got her red hat back!


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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Charlie Brown’s Stocking Stuffers

There used to be something called the Museum of Television and Radio…it is now The Paley Center for Media, with locations in New York City and Beverly Hills. Among their over 150,000 archived programs is a copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” exactly as it was broadcast for the first time on Thursday, Dec. 9 1965, on CBS at 7:30…preempting “The Munsters.”  It was sponsored solely by Coca Cola, and as was the custom in those days, Coke was credited at both the beginning and the end of the show.

At the beginning, when the skating Snoopy catches Linus and Charlie Brown in Linus’ blanket, Charlie Brown goes flying to the right and hits a tree. Today, we never see where Linus goes…but originally he flew off to the left, hitting the sign shown below. Also today, at the end of the show, the children’s singing of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” begins to echo and fades out before they finish. Originally, the on-screen credit below was seen and the song continued to its very end. Both of these sequences can be seen on YouTube.


When did they disappear from the broadcast version? Nobody seems to know…so here’s my 5¢ worth, please. I have collected TV Guides for every week the show has been on, starting with 1965 until TV Guide stopped being TV Guide in 2005. For each year from 1965 thru 1970 there was an advertisement on the page listing the show, and the only sponsor mentioned was Coca Cola. For 1971 and 1972, the issues I have do not have an ad. Then they start up again, but now Coke is co-sponsoring with McDonalds (1973), Kellogg’s (1974), Peter Paul (1975), then Dolly Madison in 1976 and for several years thereafter. That’s all I know…altho I can tell you that YouTube also has an ending credit from 1969…it’s for Coca Cola only, this time spoken by an announcer instead of an on-screen message…and again, the song goes to the very end.

tv glide

Speaking of TV Guide, above is the very first listing along with it’s Coke ad. Now many local TV Week-type magazines featured the gang on the cover…as you can see, TV Guide went with Juliet Prowse in a footie…no complaints from me. But this first airing of the show was considered a pretty big deal, and TV Guide did commission Charles Schulz to draw a special cartoon  for the occasion, on pages 10-11.

page 10

Two things are interesting about this strip…first, the background colors are done with a watercolor wash as opposed to solid newsprint colors. And second, at the top of the second page, we see Snoopy “saying” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Presumably this should be a thought balloon, not a dialogue balloon. It is said that over the entire run of the “Peanuts” newspaper strip, only once does Snoopy talk instead of think. My humble judgement is that these are both oversights…for all his perspicacity, he’s still a dog, right?

Now some of the scenes on the show originally appeared in newspaper strips…I’ve been able to track down some…and one of the more interesting is this one…from Sunday, June 4 1961.


This strip was a Classic Peanuts in 2008…and altho you can’t tell the original day it ran (there are other ways of finding that out!), you can at least tell the year…all these reprints have the original copyright notice, as I’ve shown above. As you can see, the phobia episode was in the summertime, and Linus was the patient, not Charlie Brown. Otherwise, all is pretty much as the TV show would portray it 4 years later. Notice that fear of cats is spelled correctly, ailurophobia…altho on the show, Lucy says ain-uh-ro-phasia…changing the L to and N, and the malady itself from a fear (phobia) to a speech disorder (phasia). Today, it’s just another of the show’s endearing boo-boos.

Speaking of the newspaper strip, the entire cast of characters as it existed in 1965 appears in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”…and all have speaking parts except for one boy and the twin girls, altho they certainly help dance up a storm. Some may assume these are nameless extras but that’s wrong…they have names and were introduced 2 years previously…


For several months, the “number gags” continued…like how the teacher keeps mispronouncing their last name, saying “95472” when the accent should be on the 4. This BTW was the zip code of Sebastopol CA, north of San Francisco, where Schulz and family were living at the time…and is the most compelling bit of evidence of where the Peanuts gang actually lives…playing the Fan Logic Game, which you need not, but why not, sez me. But in closing, I’m going to tell you something you may not want to believe…

…and that is that every time you see a Peanuts character drawn, it may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz…and that makes sense, because besides the daily comic strip, there were over the years hundreds if not thousands of tie-ins of all kinds…toys, games, books, comic books, advertisements, special strips for magazines and other uses, etc. You see, up until the mid-1950s, Schulz’ “day job” was at a company called Art Instruction Schools, in Santa Rose CA, a stone’s throw north of Sebastopol. At least 3 of his colleagues there, Dale Hale, Jim Sasseville, and Tony Pocrnich pinch-hit for Sparky at various times, altho the party line has always been that the daily strip was never the work of anyone except Schulz.

But taking the long-running series of Peanuts comic books as an example, the current thinking is that Schulz probably drew the cover for every one of them…probably…but the contents, when it was original and not newspaper reprints, was drawn by others…the only exception being the first issue, which Schulz claimed he did draw himself.


Another example is the hardcover children’s book version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” published to coincide with the TV show and the soundtrack LP, late in 1965. We know that Dale Hale drew that, and thus we might forgive him for not knowing exactly how the twins 3 and 4 should have looked…as you can see above, they are blondes! But hold on…don’t be so quick to blame Dale…because in this 1964 strip


…drawn by Schulz himself, right?…he has made the girls fair, forgetting that they were originally dark. Oops and double-oops…anyhow, hope you’ve enjoyed these “A Charlie Brown Christmas” stocking stuffers!



Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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The Peanutsiest!: The Music of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

This is an update of an article entitled “Play It Again, Charlie Brown”
…which I wrote for the December 2007 issue of
Fourth Coast Entertainment.

If you’re like me, you enjoy watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” each year when it’s on TV. Of course with tapes and now DVDs, anytime can be Charlie Brown Christmastime…altho watching it the old-fashioned broadcast TV way is kind of a tradition, no? But as you’re enjoying it, you’re probably paying more attention to the dialogue and action than you are the music. Then there’s the soundtrack LP…or CD today…grooving on all those familiar Vince Guaraldi Trio tunes without the pictures to distract you.

But all this leads to a disconnect: did you realize that there is a lot of music on the show that isn’t on the LP? And the LP contains some songs you don’t hear, not even for a second, on the TV show? This article will compare the two…

The soundtrack LP was released in early December, 1965 to coincide with the first airing of the show, which was on CBS at 7:30pm, Thursday, Dec. 9, 1965. The album was on Fantasy Records, a jazz label, stereo 85019 (blue label) and mono 5019 (maroon label). Most new LPs were listed in Billboard Magazine when they were announced…more prominent records got a review…but “A Charlie Brown Christmas” got just a listing, nothing more, in the Dec. 4 issue. The TV show was enormously successful, ranking 2nd that week only to “Bonanza” in the Nielsen ratings…Red Skelton came in third.


Above, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” thru the years…A is the original release…it’s the only one with pictures of Charles Schulz, Vince Guaraldi, producer Lee Mendelson, and animator Bill Melendez on the back cover. B is the re-issue from 1971, stereo only, renumbered 8431. C is the LP version that accompanied the CD release in the late 1980s…why they needed to redraw the illustration, with a different Xmas tree and Snoopy facing the other way, is beyond me. And D is the very interesting re-mastered 2006 CD, returning to the original artwork…more on that later.

The original LP contained 11 tracks, 3 of which do not appear anywhere on the show…did you ever notice while watching that you never hear “What Child Is This?,” “The Christmas Song,” or “My Little Drum”? No great mystery…they were recorded to flesh out the LP…and even so, it clocks in at a shade under 35 minutes. “My Little Drum” is a re-recording of “Minino Pequero Da Batena,” from Vince’s “From All Sides” album released in early 1965 with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete. When the CD came out in 1986, a 12th bonus track was added, “Greensleeves,” which is just another version of “What Child Is This?”

Of the 8 soundtrack cuts that do appear on the show, 3 are standards: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “O Tannenbaum,” and Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” BTW, “für” is the German word for “for”…did you always imagine it had something to do with Elise’s fur-lined bonnet or muff? Yeah, me too. Of the remaining 5 tracks, 4 were written and recorded specifically for the show: “Christmastime Is Here” (vocal and instrumental versions), “Skating,” and my personal favorite “Christmas Is Coming”…which is heard on the show for a grand total of 17 seconds!

But “Lucy and Linus” was another story entirely. In fact, it’s possible you had it in your record collection long before “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was ever even contemplated. It all goes back to 1963, when Lee Mendelson produced a TV documentary entitled “A Man Named Willie Mays.” It got good reviews…Charles Schulz saw it and liked it…and for his next project, Mendelson thought to profile another ballplayer, this time “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”…not to be confused with the theatrical movie of the same name which came out in 1969. Much of this documentary featured live action interviews with Charles Schulz, but it also had several minutes of Peanuts animation.

For that, Mendelson went to Hollywood animator Bill Melendez, who had brought the Peanuts characters to life for a series of Ford Falcon commercials beginning in the fall of 1959…as well as opening scenes for one season of “The Ford Show Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.” And for music, they hired San Francisco jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, on the strength of his hit instrumental “Cast your Fate to the Wind.” Guaraldi set right to work, writing and recording 9 pieces, including the jaunty “Linus and Lucy.” What happened next was kind of unusual…no sponsor could be found for the half-hour documentary, and it was never broadcast…altho parts of it were re-used for the 60-minute “Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz” TV documentary in 1969. The original 30-minute special is today available  on DVD from the Charles Schulz Museum on-line.

boy named CB

But altho this documentary never aired as intended, it was considered a pretty big deal…even profiled in a local Bay Area magazine. And Guaraldi’s label, Fantasy Records, wasn’t about to let the music go to waste, and went ahead with issuing a “soundtrack” LP for a TV show that nobody ever saw. It came out in early 1965, getting a nice write-up in Billboard, altho curiously, they think it’s from a “movie.”


The original pressing E is seen above, front and back. F is the more common re-issue from the 1970s, while G is the LP version that accompanied the CD release in the late 1980s. But for their initial effort, they really went all out…inserted in the gatefold cover were no less than a dozen 8×10 Peanuts drawings…those are illustrated on the back…”suitable for framing” as they always say. What’s really ironic is that this music was ultimately used only sparingly on the 30-minute documentary…some cuts not at all…and “Linus and Lucy” for only 37 seconds, but without it’s trademark opening vamp…it certainly wasn’t yet the theme song it would become.

Now let’s suppose you’re watching the show for the 123rd time, and your mind is starting to wander away from the spoken words, which you naturally know by heart. You might notice some music in the background that you never heard on the soundtrack LP, and 3 of these pieces are…you guessed it…from the “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” LP, along with “Linus and Lucy.”


Heard most often is “Charlie Brown Theme”…in listening for it, I think of  the Woody Woodpecker Song, as its 2-note downward riff resembles the tail end of that bird’s famous laugh. It has the third most “screen time” on the special, behind “Christmastime is Here” and “O Tannenbaum.” You will hear it when Charlie Brown is giving directions for the school play, when Lucy passes out parts, and during the “Christmas Queen” scene. When Frieda and Pigpen discuss their roles, we hear “Frieda (With the Naturally Curly Hair)”…altho not the main theme, but about 40 seconds from the improvisational middle of the cut. And wouldn’t you know, altho written for “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” “Frieda” is not used in it…and they spell her name wrong to boot! Finally, when Sally is paired up with Linus, it’s 15 seconds of “Happiness Is.”

So when accounting for all the music heard on the TV show, the above diagram is almost there…we are still missing 3 tunes.

There is the jazzy combo number heard while Snoopy is decorating his dog house. When “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was being made, this piece was called “Air Music”…in its entirety, it finally became available on the “Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits” CD in 1998…only now called “Surfin’ Snoopy.” That’s because this cut is used extensively on the second special, “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars” in June of 1966, and during the first scene when it’s heard, that’s what Snoopy is doing…surfing.

Schroeder’s 3 versions of “Jingle Bells” have yet to surface on any commercial LP or CD. Then we have the snappy music Snoopy dances to on Schroeder’s piano. This was truly the mystery tune…it sounded like one of the breaks from “Linus and Lucy” but didn’t match either of those. The solution came in 2006…purely by accident, as chance would have it.

That was when Fantasy Records released a re-mastered version of the soundtrack…D above. Along with the 11 original tracks, plus the “Greensleeves” bonus from 1986, there were 4 more bonus cuts…and a very glaring mistake: the version of “Linus and Lucy” was not the standard one we’d been accustomed to all these years, heard on both “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” LPs, but a different alternate take. And sure enough, Snoopy’s mystery piano dance music is the 2nd break in this alternate version of “Linus and Lucy”!

Interestingly enough, the first break in this version is also different from that in the common version, and it’s this alternative first break, not the common one, that’s heard on the TV show during the first use of “Linus and Lucy”…the longest scene (46 seconds) of the kids dancing on stage. Fantasy was embarrassed by this error, promised the mistake would be corrected, and purchasers could exchange the “wrong” version of the CD for the “right” one. Maybe some did, but not true Guaraldi and Peanuts aficionados…this was a marvelous and completely unexpected find…solid gold worth holding onto.


So here we have the most complete source of the music you hear on the TV show. For the casual listener, it’s pretty much the end of the story. But if you’re hardcore…then the story is only just beginning. The actual bits of music used on the TV show are in the business called “cues,” and they are seldom a complete piece, but just small segments, or parts taken from longer segments…and sometimes disparate parts edited together. It is common knowledge among Peanuts cognoscenti that these cues were different recordings than those used for the LP…recorded at different times, at various studios, with Vince enlisting different sidemen on bass and drums.

Thus, if you wanted an LP version of the exact music heard on the show, what’s available would be reduced considerably, as seen here…


Altho the snippets of “Frieda” and “Happiness Is” used on the show are brief, they are definitely taken from what’s found on the LP “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” As to “Charlie Brown Theme”…I am so far undecided. From the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” LP, only “Für Elise” and “Hark the Herald Angles Sing” are the same as what’s heard on the show…and maybe “Skating”…again, the jury’s out, the jury being my poor old geezer ear-bones…when I’ve got it figured out, you’ll see it here first! Good grief!


4/19/2016 UPDATE…Thanx to help from MK (see comments) I have determined that the TV show indeed uses the LP/CD version of “Skating”…albeit sped up by about 3.5%. Also, the 4 “Charlie Brown Theme” cues used on the show are taken from the “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” LP recording, sped up by about 6%. Text and charts will have to be changed…but outstanding development sez me!

BTW…you might wonder about this change of speed stuff. I am comparing the LP/CD versions (in this case, CD) with the TV show versions from an Australian DVD. MK tells me, and my investigation has confirmed it, that some foreign DVDs (the PAL format) are sped up compared to American DVDs, video cassettes, or something taped directly off the TV. Sure enough, once the DVD music was slowed down, it matched the LP/CD, which would be the version originally used on the show…get it?

1985 20th

Hey, look what Sparky’s got…a screen capture from the special “It’s Your 20th Television Anniversary, Charlie Brown”…broadcast May 14 1985…OK, 7 months early but who’s counting?


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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What’s REALLY In That Pumpkin Pie?

So what’s in your pumpkin pie? Somebody at your Thanksgiving gathering this year may be in an argumentative mood and emphatically announce that it really isn’t pumpkins. My aim is to arm you with the facts, so you may confront this nudnik…and see if they, in turn, can handle the truth!

Chances are good, whether your pie is scratch made at home or bought in a store, that what’s in your pie comes from Libby’s, which is these days owned by Nestlé. Libby’s market dominance in pumpkin purée stands somewhere between 85 and 90%. So…just look at the label, right?


Notice that the “mix” is simply the pumpkin purée with added spices and sugar. The only other brand names I can find are these…


One-Pie is the traditional New England favorite, still distributed out of Maine, but today canned in Illinois. And while I personally haven’t jumped on the organic bandwagon, I appreciate the fact that Farmers Market spells out just which spices it uses.

And that’s it…right on the label…pumpkin, plain as day. One-Pie’s “prepared pumpkin” just means it’s cooked and puréed, but so are the others. Ah, but that wasn’t the real point of the argument, because the botanical rule is: All pumpkin is squash, but not all squash is pumpkin. A pumpkin is basically a squash that looks like a pumpkin should look. Thus we find on the net this myth-busting visual…


The claim will be that what’s on the left, butternut squash, is what’s in the can…not what’s on the right, a Jack-o-Lantern style pumpkin. Truth or crap? Let’s get ready to bust the myth-busters!

But before we can do that, a quick refresher course on taxonomy. Genus and species…arbitrary concepts to some extent, but the basic difference is in reproduction…within a species, all individuals can successfully mate…within a genus, only some can. Horses and donkeys are the same genus but different species…their mating can result in a mule…but not completely successfully, as the mule is infertile.

On the other hand, wolves and domestic dogs are the same species…yet their morphological differences make it convenient for them to be placed in difference subspecies…Canus lupus lupus for wolves and Canus lupus familiaris for dogs. And it gets even more complicated, because despite the differences between say Great Danes and Chihuahuas, they are considered the same subspecies, whereas there are different subspecies of wolves, altho they all more closely resemble each other than dogs do…Canus lupus lycaon, Canus lupus rufus, Canus lupus arabs, etc.

Now…virtually all types of squash fall into 2 species…Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata. And while it is generally true to say a pumpkin is C. pepo and a butternut squash is C. moschata, there is much more to the story. Here are some of the major varieties or subspecies of Pepo…as you can see, they are quite variedand only one “qualifies” as a pumpkin…what will often be called a carving or face pumpkin…


And here are the 2 main forms of Moschata…


There’s our good old butternut squash…and something else that not only looks like a pumpkin, but is commonly called a pumpkin, the Cheese Pumpkin…so named because of the yellow/tan color of its outer skin…but its inner flesh can be anywhere from pale yellow to the rich orange we expect in a pumpkin pie.  And now we’re almost there…


…because what Libby’s packs in its cans is what it calls the Dickinson Select Field Pumpkin. It owns the proprietary rights to this variety, having purchased it from the Dickinson family of Illinois in 1929…it’s said they brought it originally from Kentucky sometime in the 1800s. And it’s a type of Cheese Pumpkin, thus a Cucuribita moschata, cousin to the butternut squash. Should the Dickenson then be considered a butternut squash? Not really, but botanically it is more closely related to one than it is to Cucurbita pepo pepo.

Bear in mind, the folks at Libby’s aren’t fools…the Dickinson has much more flesh per fruit than our Hallowe’en pumpkins, it’s less watery, and with a smoother, sweeter taste. And even if your pie wasn’t made from Libby’s, it’s sure to have something very similar to the Dickinson…otherwise, the consumer would notice: Hey, this isn’t pumpkin!

Now it’s true that you can buy something called a “pie pumpkin”…also called Sugar Pumpkin or Sugar Pie Pumpkin. This is a smaller, meatier cultivar of Cucurbita pepo pepo…it has its fans, obviously, but from what I gather, its main appeal is that you’re making a pie from something that looks like a pumpkin. In fact, many leading experts say that this is one of those rare cases where canned is much better than fresh. Perhaps your cook disagrees, and that’s fine.

But there’s your answer: unless it’s “artisan,” your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie was made from some variety of Cheese Pumpkin, which is a close relative of the butternut squash, and less closely related to the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin you carved a month before. But then again, it was definitely not made from anything that you’d identify as a butternut squash, with its long fat neck. So now…dig in!


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About 11-22-1963

Since the summer of 2007, I have written a monthly column called “Stolf’s Oldies” for a publication in Upstate NY,  Fourth Coast Entertainment...this article appeared in the November 2013 issue.

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One purely mathematical fact that may not have occurred to you is that any American alive today, who was alive then, is now 50 years old or older, and that’s about 27% of the population. Here are some other things you may have forgotten, or have never known.

(1) A Black Friday…As sad a day as it was for the nation as a whole, can you imagine the pall it cast over people who were celebrating their birthdays on November 22? These included John Nance Garner, Vice President for 2 terms under FDR…Kennedy had telephoned to congratulate him on his 95th about an hour before the fatal shots were fired. Others were Charles de Gaulle 73, Hoagy Carmichael 64, Rodney Dangerfield 42, actress Geraldine Page 39, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn 31, Monty Python member Terry Gilliam 23, and Billie Jean Moffitt, later King, 20. Also future baseball players Greg Luzinski and Lyman Bostock both 13, Little Steven Van Zandt 13, Jamie Lee Curtis 5, and Mariel Hemingway 2.

(2)  Birth…Was anybody famous born that exact day? The only one I know of is Hugh Millen, quarterback for the Rams, Falcon, Pats, and Broncos from 1987-1995. On TV, John Fitzgerald Byers, one of the 3 geeks on the series “The Lone Gunmen,” a spinoff of “The X Files,” was born that day. His parents were going to name him Bertram.

(3) …and Death…Two illustrious authors, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died on 11-22-1963. It should not be forgotten that Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit was also killed that day by Lee Harvey Oswald….in fact that was the crime he was originally arrested for. And in the Boston area, a story that would have made front page news was shunted to the back…3 nuns, siblings no less, died along with their chauffeur when their car plunged into a reservoir. They were returning from their mother’s 88th birthday party.

(4)  Suffer the Children…And in a cruel twist of fate, John-John’s 4th birthday was Monday Nov. 25, the day of Kennedy’s funeral…and Caroline, her father called her “Buttons,” turned 6 just 2 days later, on Wednesday Nov. 27.

(5)  To Kickoff or Not To…There was a great deal of controversy over NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s decision not to cancel the slate of 7 Sunday football games…the AFL moved its 3 games (Boston and Buffalo were not scheduled) to the end of the season. Rozelle’s reasoning was: “It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy’s game. He thrived on competition.” Interestingly enough, and perhaps because no NFL games were televised, attendance figures were unaffected, so the fans did vote with their feet.

(6)  “Man, poor Vaughn Meader”…It was reported that comic Lenny Bruce went on with his nightclub act that evening, and that was his first “joke.” Poor taste perhaps, but he was right. Vaughn Meader was the Kennedy voice impersonator who had released a comedy album called “The First Family” late in 1962. It sold 1.2 million copies the first week and eventually almost 8 million, hitting #1 in Billboard magazine. Legend has it the LP was pulled from the shelves in the wake of the assassination, but that seems unlikely. It was already off the charts as of November 15, 1963 after 48 weeks in the Top 150…and the mildly successful follow-up “The First Family Vol. 2” had exited back in September after only 17 weeks. If anything was pulled, it was Meader’s Christmas 45 “St. Nick Visits the White House,” but even that was on a different label, telling me the gimmick had pretty much run its course.

Ironically, he was scheduled to appear live on the “Ed Sullivan Show” that Sunday night, but all regular programming was replaced with news coverage. Subsequent bookings for the Grammy Awards and other shows were also cancelled. He eventually drifted into music, performing with a bluegrass group as Abbott Meader, his actual first name…Vaughn was his middle name.

(7) The Beatles on Hold…If you were home sick from school that Friday, and your mom let you watch TV, you might have seen the “The CBS Morning News with Mike Wallace” that aired at 10AM. And you would have seen a 4-minute report from England about the Beatles, featuring them performing “She Loves You” live, altho CBS overdubbed their studio recording. London bureau chief Alexander Kendrick didn’t think much of them, big surprise…and Walter Cronkite was scheduled to repeat the report that evening, which of course didn’t happen. This was not the first glimpse America had of the Fab 4…that was on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report” on Monday of that week, and on ABC news Tuesday.

Would a CBS Evening News appearance that Friday have ignited Beatlemania several months sooner? A re-edited version of the report did air on Dec. 10. Cronkite thought the group was “tawdry-looking…with their crazy singing” but he needed something to pull the audience out of its malaise. And boy did this work! Capital had to move up the release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from mid-January to the day after Christmas…although Ed Sullivan had already signed the boys to their 3 consecutive February 1964 appearances on Oct 31, so that was set…that’s why the networks were bothering to report on the Beatles in the first place. The issue of “Newsweek” on the stands at the time also had a story about them. But still…what if, what if…?

(8)  Anybody Out There?…In 2012, a photographer working on a JFK tribute project reportedly obtained a list from of 79 people born in Dallas on 11-22-1963…among them were John Kennedy Clifton, John Fitzgerald Rodriguez, and Jackie Ken Harris, plus 3 more Johns, a Johnny, and another Jackie.

(9)  Dick and Joan?…Just an odd coincidence? Richard Nixon was in Dallas on 11-22-1963. His law firm of Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, & Alexander represented Pepsi Cola, and he was in Texas to speak at a bottlers convention Thursday. He always claimed he left Dallas Friday morning, and arrived at Idlewild Airport in New York City about half an hour after Kennedy died. But at least one then current Pepsi executive, general council Harvey Russel, claimed Nixon was at a Friday afternoon board meeting in Dallas that broke up after they heard the news, and he flew out soon thereafter. Oddly enough, actress Joan Crawford was also on the Pepsi board and in town. She was a good friend of Kennedy’s and they chatted briefly Friday morning…she said she joked with him that she had more security than he did, because of all the jewelry she had in her hotel room.

(10)  Bob Dylan…Tuesday, November 26 was the day everything was supposed to go “back to normal.” And after a weekend without hockey, St. Lawrence University students were in the mood to listen to a folksinger at the University Center Auditorium that evening. There’s even a page in the Class of 1964 yearbook with photos of the concert…they called him “Bobby Dylan.” 50 years ago…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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