Baby Boomer Celebrity: What Happened to Pee-Wee Herman?

Posted on April 28th, 2015 in 1980s,1990s,Celebrities,Collectibles,Pop Culture,Television by Terry Hamburg


OK, my boomer fans, let’s deal with that 800-pound gorilla in the theatre. It was humiliating, but what are the local cops doing trolling an adult movie house for victimless crimes?

Just for the record, know what the crime rate is in Sarasota, Florida? Almost twice the national average. So every time the local fuzz nabs a dude in a dark room another guy is pulling a holdup in a dark alley. Of course, the incident was so important it had to be the pop culture news story of that day in 1991.

Immediately, CBS halted Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which won 22 Emmys in the 1980s. Thanks for the memories. Disney-MGM deleted my video from the studio tour. And the cruelest cut of all: Toys “R” Us pulled all the Pee-Wee stuff from its stores. That makes sense: punish the kids along with me.


I had lots of support from celebrity friends like Cyndi Lauper, Annette Funicello, and that love, Zsa Zsa. Women understood the absurdity more than men. Bill Cosby did say the incident was “blown way out of proportion.” In retrospect, Cosby I didn’t need.

My baby boomer fans protested, too. “Pee-Weeites” picketed studios in LA and New York. A Current Affair received thousands of responses to a phone survey – 90% supported me including, I’m sure, the good citizens of Sarasota.

Know the real irony? I tamed the Pee-Wee character to be wholesome. I’m a heavy smoker and was never photographed with a cigarette. I refused big bucks to endorse candy bars and junk food. I even developed a sugar-free “Ralston Purina Pee-wee Chow” cereal, but it didn’t taste good enough to market. My toys and movies were clean as a whistle.

Enough. Pardon the expression, but let’s not beat a dead horse. I went into seclusion for years. No talk shows, no interviews.

Actually, I had grown disenchanted with the character. I was more than just type-cast. I was soul-cast. My Hollywood Walk of Fame star says Pee-Wee Herman. That’s like giving a star to Frankenstein instead of Boris Karloff. Do you even know my real name?

Finally, I began to emerge from the shadows. I appeared as myself in a few Murphy Brown episodes. I played a flamboyant hairdresser in the hit movie Blow. In 1998, Fox Family aired reruns of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

The next year I appeared on The Tonight Show (as me) and announced that a third Pee-Wee movie was in the works. Hopefully, it’ll come out soon. If for some reason I can’t do the role, I asked Johnny Deep to fill in for me.

I recently resurrected my Pee-Wee stage show (on Broadway). Then I guest starred on Saturday Night Live. I’m ready to fly again.

I guess this baby boomer was born to be Pee-Wee Herman. I shouldn’t complain. At least I don’t have to work for a living. By the way, my real name is Paul Ruebens.

High School Yearbook 


What celebrity appeared as a regular on Pee-wee’s Playhouse? Answer at end of post.

Samuel Jackson
Lawrence Fishburne
Robin Williams
Cyndi Lauper


Trivia Factoids


> The Pee-Wee toy empire was a juggernaut. At its peak in 1988, it raked in $25 million.

> As his real self, Reubens appeared as a snippy waiter in the 1980 Blues Brothers movie.

> The Pee-Wee character had many inspirations. Not the least was 1950s manic kid’s star, Pinky Lee.


> Reubens has a 70,00+ collection of kitsch, including many erotic items.

> His spots on the David Letterman Show helped Pee-wee become a national pop culture figure. Letterman said: “What makes me laugh…is that the character has the external structure of a bratty little precocious kid, but you know it’s being controlled by the incubus — the manifestation of evil itself.”

> There’s an idea for a “dark” Pee-Wee movie. The character becomes a star and “does everything wrong and becomes a big jerk.” He described it as a “Valley of the Dolls” Pee-Wee.


Answer


Lawrence Fishburne, best known for Orpheus in the Matrix movie series, was Pee-Wee’s buddy on Playhouse.


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