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ORANGE : He Wants to Do Justice to TV Ads

Furman B. Roberts, Orange’s city attorney for 22 years, wouldn’t mind becoming television’s next Mr. Whipple.

On Friday, Roberts, 61, stepped down from the job he had held since 1968 to embark on a career as an actor in television commercials.

While still the city attorney, Roberts filmed a commercial for Waterbed Warehouse that is still being aired locally.

“I enjoyed it,” Roberts said. “It was interesting to do something where you could use your creativity. They gave me the opportunity to ham it up a little bit.”

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Although Roberts said he still plans to do some part-time legal work, he hopes to find steady employment in commercials. He said he would be delighted to land a part as a recurring character identified with a product.

“If something like that were to happen it would be wonderful,” Roberts said. “If not, I would be happy just to find employment, because there’s a lot of competition out there.”

Roberts, the only full-time city attorney Orange has ever had, began the job 22 years ago after working as an assistant city attorney in Anaheim for eight years.

He said his new career should be a refreshing change from the old one, which forced him to “tell people what they have to know, not what they want to hear.”

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“I want to do television because I’ve kind of always felt that there was more interest in people who got up and clowned around than in people who got up and tried to make wise statements,” Roberts said. “People who try to make wise statements always get into trouble because, finally, you’re saying something people don’t like and they’re beating you over the head because of it.”

As city attorney, Roberts had to advise the City Council on a variety of legal issues as Orange grew from a city of 70,000 residents to one with 110,000.

“Orange is a city that has developed a very active citizenship,” Roberts said. “They get organized and they appear at council meetings to lobby for their interests.”

Along with the growth of the city came the growth of the city attorney’s office. Roberts once had to make do with only the help of law students he hired on a part-time basis. Eventually, the city created two assistant city attorney positions to help with the workload.

Through the rough times, Roberts said, he often has turned to Snoopy, the “Peanuts” character, for comic relief. He kept an extensive collection of Snoopy memorabilia in a glass case inside his office.

“The job has had its moments of stress, no question about it,” Roberts said. “I guess with my Snoopy collection I’ve tried to keep my perspective and tried not to get too serious about it. I’ve tried to keep a sense of humor--and Snoopy can provoke that.”

Roberts bought many of the approximately 70 items in the collection during visits to the Snoopy Gallery at Charles Schulz’s Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa.

Roberts lives in Anaheim with his wife of 25 years, Muriel, and their dog, Camille. Not surprisingly, like Snoopy, Camille is a beagle.

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