Pee-wee’s Peewee – Icky Icon from Yesteryear

celeb: Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman)
occupation: singer, actor, pervert

And you thought this blog was bad before, wait until you read this nugget!  (And now that I have your attention)…..  Hollywood, that land of tinsel and turds, has sown some pee_wee_hermaninteresting characters in its day and none as stomach-turning as some of its child actors, or children’s’ actors (the distinction being the former was an actual star and the latter either voicing a character, or portraying a character, rather than being an icon themselves).  Clear as mud, right? We’ve explored a few child actor losers, including Danny Bonnaduce and Brooke Shields for example, (have to keep rubbing that one in as I love the reaction it gets). Here’s another one to add to that golden pond.

Pee-wee Herman – remember that pervert?  Paul Reubens, the actor, and his character Pee-wee, were creepy enough as it was, but then the bozo had to go and get caught for pulling Pee-wee’s peewee-sized peewee in an adult movie theatre (why do they call it “adult” when the behaviour is anything but?).  The film  Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by a young Tim Burton (love that man – and Johnny Depp – helluva pair)  hit the screens in 1985, and, love this irony, “toned down the adult innuendo for the appeal of children. Too bad Reubens didn’t keep that in mind when he took his pee-wee on his X-rated Adventure. Speaking of Johnny Depp,  in 2006, when discussing a third Pee-wee film, Reubens said that he would cast Johnny Depp if needed. He claimed that he spoke to Depp himself and that the actor asked for time to think about it (that’s polite talk for “I really don’t want to be associated with a kiddie performer who whacks himself in a porn theatre”).

Adventure didn’t do too well commercially, but to its credit, it became a cult flick. In spite of the “toning down”, sexual innuendo in Pee-wee’s television series was still apparent, particularly between the Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne characters. Reubens portrays Pee-wee as though he is a stand-up comedian and is playing himself in his films cowboy-curtis-pee-weeand TV series. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was awarded to Pee-wee Herman rather than Paul Reubens (how long is that freaken sidewalk anyway?). In both Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Pee-wee’s Playhouse, he surrounds himself with strange inventions. Big Top Pee-wee depicts him as a farmer/inventor. David Letterman said, “What makes me laugh…is that it 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”.  In folklore, an incubus (its female counterpart being a succubus), is a demon, appearing in people’s nightmares, and sitting on the dreamer’s chest whilst attempting sexual intercourse.  The weight of the incubus, and the sex act, causes deterioration to the dreamer’s health and eventually death. There is something sickeningly appropriate about the little demon and the little pervert Pee-wee Herman. Eventually Reubens generously stated it was his appearances on David Letterman’s show that made Pee-wee a star.

At the start of Pee-wee’s career, Paul Reubens auditioned for Saturday Night Live for the 1980-1981 season but was not accepted into the cast.  However all was not lost: Pee-wee hosted the 198th episode of Saturday Night Live on November 23, 1985.  After the SNL rejection, he started a stage show with the Herman character, and made his first appearance in the 1980 film Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie. He first played a rude receptionist in the film, spewing obscenities at police and being arrested…this, kiddies, is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. 1988 saw the release of  Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. The program included various celebrity guests, including Oprah Winfrey, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Little Richard, and Joan Rivers (Rivers herself being another caricature entirely).

That’s where it gets tawdry. 1991 was the year that Reubens was arrested in Sarasota, Florida for masturbating publicly in an adult theater. Reubens was cited for indecent mugexposure.The arrest was widely covered and both the character Pee-wee and Reubens became the subject of ridicule. CBS stopped airing Playhouse and Disney-MGM Studios suspended from its studio tour a video that featured Pee-wee. Toys-R-Us removed Pee-wee toys from its stores. Despite the negative publicity, many artists who knew Reubens, such as Cyndi Lauper and Zsa Zsa Gabor, (that’s no surprise – didn’t she belt a cop?), spoke out in his support.Bill Cosby defended Reubens, saying “Whatever (Reubens has) done, this is being blown (true, that) all out of proportion“. A shocker for Cosby, who is supposedly all things children and decency.

I would disagree with Cosby.  The greatest harm here is not necessarily that Pee-wee is a pervert. This is Hollywood, after all.  It is that Reubens was a children’s performer and an icky icon to many tykes.  His lewd sexual act was odious considering Pee-wee’s targeted television audience. The public however appeared to sympathize with Reubens — the TV rollingnewsmagazine A Current Affair received “tens of thousands” of responses to a telephone survey supporting Reubens with a nine-to-one majority. That just proves even the majority can be grossly incorrect in its judgment of character. He remained in a state of shock for weeks, and was haunted by the arrest for several years, refusing to give interviews or appear on talk shows. According to a 1991 Rolling Stone article he stated he had become weary of the character and wanted to explore new territory (I thought he already had). in 1999 in one of his very first interviews not as Pee-wee. It was also on that interview that Reubens announced plans in 1999 to start writing a new Pee-wee movie, in spite of his interview with RS.

On January 15, 2011, Reubens appeared on Saturday Night Live yet again as, surprise, Pee-wee, depicting Andy Samberg and Pee-wee getting drunk, taking a ride on a mechanical bull, and ambushing Anderson Cooper in an alley way with a chair. On February 1, 2012, Reubens appeared as Pee-wee on Bravo’s Top Chef: Texas and peewee_herman1served as guest judge. My guess is they made chocolate cupcakes with “hi kiddies, I’ve got a candy for you” scrawled across them in jelly beans. As for the third, aforementioned flick, Reubens hopes will be graced by Depp, Reubens told MTV he hopes to have Justin Bieber make a cameo appearance. In light of Bieber’s recent public behaviors, if Reubens is hoping to make a decent comeback, he might want to re-think that one. He also stated that filming of the movie has not started yet, but hopes to begin filming in the next couple of months. That film will not see the light (uh-oh) of day until at least 2015 due to “delays“, whatever that means.

Years before Reubens wrote his Playhouse  movie script, he wrote an “autobiography” of Pee-wee the character, stating: “It’s basically the story of Pee-wee Herman becoming famous as a singer. He has a hit single and gets brought out to Hollywood to make musical movies, kind of like they did with Elvis. It all kind of goes downhill from there for Pee-wee (you don’t say). He turns into a monster. He does everything wrong and becomes a big jerk (off).” Truth is stranger than fiction after all.

Redemption: His fans seem to welcome him back with open arms…I’ll never figure that one out
Comeback: H for hopefully never

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One Response to Pee-wee’s Peewee – Icky Icon from Yesteryear

  1. Chicky Baby says:

    The Pee-Wee incident was blown out of proportion. He was at an adult movie theater, not The Little Mermaid, for God’s sake. He doesn’t deserve to be crucified and calling him a “pervert” is way overblown.

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