Back in the early 60s, a seven-year-old kid named Peter Robbins (real name: Louis G. Nanasi) was cast to be the voice of Charlie Brown for what would be a series of classic TV specials. That’s him we hear at age nine and ten in The Great Pumpkin and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Classics, right?
But as he got older, things started going wrong for Peter. His acting gigs ended in 1972. He was diagnosed as bipolar and ended up with a five-year prison sentence for making criminal threats to the property manager of the place where he lived. He also sent out letters offering to US$50,000 to anyone who would have a local sheriff killed.
Back in 2019, he gave an interview to a San Diego TV station: “I would recommend to anybody that has bipolar disorder to take it seriously because your life can turn around in the span of a month like it did to me. I came out of prison and I’m a better person for it. I’m much more humble and grateful and thankful that I lived through the experience.”
Now we hear that Peter Robbins is dead at the age of 65. The Daily Beasts reports that his family says that the cause of death was suicide.
I find myself profoundly affected by this. Given all we’ve known and loved about the Charlie Brown character–the eternal optimistic who kept going and kept coming back no matter what happened to him–it seems inconceivable that the person who gave him voice has died in such a tragic way.