He lived in a tepee, which he bundled on top of his ancient yellow bus, nicknamed "The Yellow Submarine." Sometimes the bus ran and sometimes it didn't.
This isn't a story of a man totally unconnected to conventional politics. He did enter the race for the Salt Lake City Commission in 1971, but lost. He had the same result when he ran for the Berkeley, Calif., city commission in 1966. According to Theodore Rozak's 1969 book, "The Making of a Counter Culture," Artman was blown out of the water when he blithely confessed to possessing LSD, which he stashed in a necklace.
He mellowed through the years, shifting somewhat from his claims about being a "communicant with space beings" and the "Grand Poo of the Temple of the Rainbow Path."
Ironically, although he died of a disease often associated with dirty drug needles, his mother says he got it through his attempts to help young people stay off drugs.
"Utah was his death," Louise Artman of Aurora, Colo., told the Deseret News. "When he worked in that drug rehab center in Salt Lake City he contracted hepatitis; that's what killed him."
Her husband is a retired Methodist minister and Army chaplain. Asked what they think of their son's unusual way of life, she said, "Well, it wasn't our style, but he seemed happy that way."
Growing up in Iowa, "he was very good in music. He played oboe and clarinet and saxophone and piano and organ. And he came home from one state music contest with more `one' ratings than anyone else in the school had."
Never wore shoes
"In the 1970s, when the Forest Service was doing its tri-canyons master plan, he walked with his black cape on, barefoot, into a public hearing, and spoke very eloquently in favor of preservation of the canyons, and of preservation of the Salt Lake City lifestyle," said author Alexis Kelner.
"An hour later I was driving home in this blizzard, and he passed me on his bicycle - still barefooted, with his cape fluttering in the wind. I felt sad. I was concerned about his feet; frostbite."
"He went through the mountains and never thought about wearing shoes," said an old friend, attorney Bob Macri. "His feet became leather."
In fact, those naked toes got him in trouble. Once he went to a hospital where he was working in a drug rehabilitation center, and officers cited him for entering the building without shoes, Macri said. He had been there 100 times and even offered to put on little slip-ons that could be used to cover shoes, but was arrested anyway, Marci said.
He served two weeks because he couldn't afford the bail, and then was released. "Twenty-one arrests - never once found guilty of anything," Macri added.
"He was the most harassed person on the face of the Earth. He was continually arrested and his van searched for this, that or the other," said Gary McDonough, an author and playwright who lived near Charlie's "Alameda Street Church."
"He used to hold forth there in Reservoir Park," and officers were always impounding his van or bus, searching it, hauling him to the hoosegow.
"Inevitably, he would win these things . . . He became a kind of unofficial symbol of a lot of the youth of the valley, of the oppression of the police sort of thing."
For many years, his best friend and the sharer of several communes was John MacPherson. Known in the '60s as "Brother Love," he now works as a child-abuse educator.
"When I met him in 1961, that was in the area that is now known as Reservoir Park," said MacPherson. " . . . He was sitting there playing on his autoharp, `Life is Like a Mountain Railway,' which I found out later was his favorite song."
"Charlie Brown" had dropped in to visit a girl he'd met when he lived in Iowa. MacPherson was in Salt Lake City because it was his mother's home. They became friends and together shuttled around the Teton Mountains, Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, the East and Salt Lake City.
"In '66, he had the tepee up on university (University of Utah) property. There was a big hoorah about that. It was taken down; he was hauled away for that," he said.
Around the same time, "he led a smoke-in, in Reservoir Park, with marijuana. He had a peace pipe and smoked that, with marijuana in it."
He was arrested from time to time for possession. "He wrote a thesis-type paper on marijuana, all about marijuana, the Cannabis sativa; outlined the reasons it should be legal, because the Indians used it," MacPherson said.
Charlie was interested in Indians, living with Sioux and traveling to Arizona and New Mexico to visit the Hopis. "We were both made honorary medicine men by the Hopis and taught how to perform the peyote ceremony and the correct chants," MacPherson said.
Around 1967, they started the first large commune in Salt Lake City on M Street, he said. He recalls it as adobe, with square nails, a "vine-covered cabin . . . It was the most magic-type house. I don't know what to call it - cosmic vibrations - I'm using '60s type terms - it was a very special place, where you could get in touch with yourself," he said.
MacPherson remembers that the commune was "like a secret kind of Twilight Zone corner of the universe, where just amazing things happened there . . . It had a sauna room where we'd put rocks on a pot-bellied stove, and meditation room, pottery room, rinky-dink piano."
How did he get the name "Charlie Brown"? "That was just because he liked Charles Schulz's work," the cartoon strip Peanuts, starring that round-headed kid.
"He used to watch Charlie Brown cartoons . . . He would just laugh, they were so funny. He especially loved the part where they said, `We love you, Charlie Brown.' "
For a time, "Charlie Brown" and his friends helped put on Salt Lake's Renaissance Faires. "We were artists, craftsmen, musicians," MacPherson said.
He used to work to help the poor and sold flowers for his food, usually one meal a day.
MacPherson and Macri say Brown didn't advocate use of drugs. "He advocated free choice." Macri said.
In the late 1960s, "Charlie Brown" performed an Easter sunrise service on Antelope Island. He had ridden his bike from Salt Lake City to Ogden and then participated in the 120-mile ride.
The next day he rode it to the Antelope Island causeway for the service. He found a chain across the causeway with a sign saying "No Vehicles." That must mean no bikes, he figured. "So he walked the whole nine miles of the causeway," Macri said.
"He walked all night in his bare feet . . . and got there just before the sunrise," arriving just in time to conduct the service.