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BEVIS HILLIER

Dog Days : Snoopies, and Other Peanuts Memorabilia, Are This Girl's Best Friend

April 19, 1987|BEVIS HILLIER

Andrea Podley is a Snoopy groupie. She has hundreds of dolls and other artifacts modeled on Charles M. Schulz's cartoon beagle--and hundreds more based on the other characters from the Peanuts comic strip. She owns piggy banks that are doggy banks; clockwork toys of Snoopy as the Red Baron; mugs, and porcelain bells and Japanese sushi sets decorated with Snoopies.

In 1975, Podley (then married to electronics technician Philip Reich) got turned on to Snoopiana when she threw a birthday party for herself in Santa Monica. "I thought it would be really cute if I bought Snoopy souvenirs to give everybody," she recalls. "But, selfishly, I kept everything. I decided the souvenirs were too cute to part with, so I gave my guests something else." She began collecting Snoopies in a haphazard way. After her divorce in 1980, she started dating Phillip Podley, who is in charge of the film library at CBS / MTM Studios, Studio City. He noticed a Snoopy poster on one of her walls. She told him about her Snoopy hoard, which by then amounted to more than 40 items, stored in a trunk. "Do you think I'm childish?" she asked.

"Oh no, you're a collector."

At Christmas, 1981, Phillip Podley brought a Christmas tree to Andrea's house. "He kept bringing over wrapped packages," she remembers. "I didn't know what to think. But we spent Christmas Day at my place and I opened all the gifts, and every one of them was Snoopy." Two months later Phillip proposed marriage and asked whether Andrea wanted a diamond engagement ring. "I said no, because to me that would be redundant; I'm not into jewelry that much. So he bought me Snoopy dolls instead. He said: 'I figured this would make you happier'--and it did." Snoopies, as they say, are a girl's best friend.

Born in West Los Angeles, Andrea Podley (then Wolosin) grew up with The Times' Peanuts strip. Its appeal to her was that "it showed that childhood isn't what it's cracked up to be, and that it's all right if you don't have the greatest childhood--you are still OK. Snoopy himself is all the things we want to be. He's not afraid, he has no inhibitions. You kind of gather some strength from that." As a child, Andrea was "overly sensitive" and suffered from asthma. "Then the strip comes along and I realize: Hey! I'm glad that I'm overly sensitive."

When Andrea became a serious collector, she set herself to learn as much as she could about Schulz and his engaging creations. She learned that a character resembling Charlie Brown first appeared in 1947 in a feature called Li'l Folks in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minn. In October, 1950, the Li'l Folks characters were transferred to the Peanuts strip when United Feature Syndicate Inc. became Schulz's national distributors. Schroeder, the character who loves Beethoven, was introduced in 1951. In January, 1952, the abrasive, crabby Lucy made her debut. The Snoopy book, "Happiness Is a Warm Puppy," topped the best-seller list in 1962-63, selling more than 1,500,000 copies.

In 1969 the Peanuts gang was involved in what will probably be remembered as the most historic moment of the century: the Apollo 10 crew named their command module Charlie Brown and their lunar module Snoopy.

Schulz and United Feature Syndicate have kept firm control over licenses to make products based on Snoopy and the other characters. Eastman Kodak Co. issued the first licensed item, an illustrated booklet of 1954-56 on how to use its Brownie camera. In 1958 Hungerford Plastics Co. made large rubber dolls of some of the characters, which are among the "stars" of Andrea's collection. So are musical boxes by Anri Inc., now worth about $150. One especially rare item is Schroeder's piano with a bust of Beethoven on top. "People often have kept the Schroeder figure and thrown the piano away," Andrea says.

On a vacation in 1983, the Podleys drove to Santa Rosa, where they briefly met Schulz at his office (at 1 Snoopy Place). "When we came home from the visit," Andrea recalls, "we were thumbing through magazines for collectors. Phillip said, 'Oh look, somebody's doing a Peanuts newsletter.' I said, 'Oh, shoot, I wanted to do that.' Phillip said, 'Well, just look at the ad.' And it was my name. He had treated me to the ad." The advertisement drew 70 replies, and Andrea decided to start a Peanuts Collectors' Club newsletter.

At first, United Feature Syndicate was hesitant about giving the newsletter its blessing. But when the first issue landed on the desk of George Pipal, vice president of the company, in August, 1983, he wrote to Andrea: "I tell you--it's eerie to realize there's someone out there who knows more about many aspects of Peanuts than you do yourself, after having spent a lifetime in the business."

In 1985, the members of the Peanuts Collectors' Club held a convention in Santa Rosa. "We were all kind of scared to meet each other, because I think we wonder if all our oars are in the water. We wonder about the next guy: We know we are all right. The public has a tendency to think of a doll collector as someone who has never grown up. Well, I don't want to grow up. That part of the child in you keeps you young."

For information on the Snoopy Collectors' Club, write to: Andrea Podley, P.O. Box 94, North Hollywood 91603.

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