Paul Reubens, a/k/a Pee-wee Herman, Passes Away


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Paul Reubens, whose child-like character Pee-wee Herman entertained children and adults alike but whose personal life suffered from public perversions, died on July 30 from cancer after a six-year battle. Reubens was 70.

The announcement came on Reubens’ official Facebook page.

Reubens (actual last name Rubenfeld) was born in New York State in 1952. The acting bug bit Reubens early on, and during his college days, he came out to Los Angeles to study acting at the California Institute for the Arts. His classmates included David Hasselhoff, Kathy Sagal, the late Phil Hartman, and John Paragon.

Reubens eventually found work with the Los Angeles comedy ensemble The Groundlings, during which time he created the Pee-wee Herman character. After an unsuccessful 1980 audition for Saturday Night Live, Reubens focused on his Pee-wee Herman persona and created a solo act. It clicked; a 1981 HBO special foreshadowed multiple appearances on David Letterman’s show, during which Reubens never strayed from playing Pee-wee Herman, and a multi-city tour in 1984, highlighted by an appearance at Carnegie Hall.

The big screen beckoned, and in 1985, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” was a hit. The plot — Pee-wee travels the country and gets into assorted misadventures while looking for his stolen bicycle — was paper-thin, but audiences flocked to theaters nonetheless. The film, in addition to its cult classic status, marked the major production directorial debut of Tim Burton, who, among other films, lists “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on his resume. At least one scene from “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” has entered the cinematic canon.



While Reubens made other films, it was on television where he had his most significant impact. “Pee-wee Herman’s Playhouse” was part of CBS’ Saturday morning programming from 1986 to 1991. Its 45 episodes featured Reubens as Herman interacting with characters both human and “living” household items such as furniture. The show won 22 Emmy Awards, with Reubens co-winning two.

Reubens’ career temporarily came to a screeching halt in 1992 following his arrest for indecent exposure at a porn theater in Sarasota, Florida. He pled no contest to the charge and performed community service.

Hollywood being Hollywood, Reubens wasn’t out of work for long despite the seemingly irreparable damage to his brand. Setting the Pee-wee Herman character aside, Reubens worked steadily in television and radio, playing different roles such as Andrew J. Lansing III on  “Murphy Brown,” for which he earned an Emmy nomination.

Reubens’ vices once again threatened to be his undoing when, in 2002, he faced charges of misdemeanor possession of child porn. The charges eventually were dropped, and Reubens resumed his career. In 2010, he resurrected his Pee-wee Herman character, first on stage and then in 2015, for a Netflix special. Reubens had other works in various stages of completion when he went artistically silent due to the cancer he kept private knowledge.

Paul Reubens the man’s failures are well known and warrant no further discussion. In lieu thereof, an examination of his alter ego Pee-wee Herman. While adults behaving in a child-like manner has long been a staple of the entertainment world, with Pee-wee Herman, Reubens took it to a new level. Pee-wee Herman was no presenter of youth as sweet innocence as the character could be and often was sarcastic and surly. Pee-wee Herman also, in his awkward fashion, liked girls in an adult manner. Whether one found his act annoying or amusing, a thread can be drawn from Reubens’ creation to the men-children of today stubbornly refusing to grow up. The difference is Pee-wee Herman was an act. Today’s men-children, sadly, believe they are who they pretend to be.

Godspeed, Paul Reubens.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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