A Private Battle with Cancer
The passing of the incomparable artist, Paul Reubens, widely known for his portrayal of the effervescent and joyfully childlike character Pee-wee Herman, left a void in the hearts of many. On Sunday night, he succumbed to a private battle with cancer at the age of 70.
An Apologetic Message
Apologizing for keeping his struggle private for the past six years, Reubens shared a heartfelt message on Instagram, expressing his profound love and gratitude for his friends, fans, and supporters. He found immense joy in creating art for all those who cherished his work.
The Iconic Pee-wee Herman
Pee-wee Herman became an iconic figure with his trademark bright red bowtie, grey suit, and distinctive flattop haircut. His endearing catchphrases, delivered in a unique high-pitched voice, added to his charm.
A Tribute to Paul Reubens
The estate of Paul Reubens paid tribute to the beloved actor, comedian, writer, and producer, acknowledging his positive and whimsical portrayal of Pee-wee Herman, which touched the lives of both children and adults alike. They praised his courage and wit in facing cancer, a battle he fought with trademark tenacity.
The Journey Begins
Reubens’ journey as an entertainer began in the 1970s when he joined the Groundlings, a Los Angeles live comedy troupe, as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. His fictional character, Pee-wee Herman, evolved over time, leading to the creation of “The Pee-wee Herman Show” in 1980. The stage production became a cult hit, running to packed audiences for five months and earning him an HBO special. Reubens remained dedicated to the character during interviews and public appearances.
Pee-wee on the Big Screen
Collaborating with Tim Burton in 1985, Reubens brought Pee-wee to the big screen in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” a critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. He returned as the character three years later for “Big Top Pee-wee,” directed by Randal Kleiser. On television, Pee-wee transitioned to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” airing from 1986 to 1990 on CBS’ weekend morning show.
Artistic Brilliance and Colorful Sets
“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was artistically groundbreaking, drawing inspiration from vintage kids’ shows like “Captain Kangaroo.” The show won several Emmys and featured postmodernist set design and music from New Wave icons like Mark Mothersbaugh, Cyndi Lauper, and the Residents. Renowned guest stars, including Laurence Fishburne, Natasha Lyonne, and Jimmy Smits, added to the show’s charm.
A Troubled Period
Unfortunately, in 1991, Reubens’ image as a beloved childhood hero suffered due to a national sex scandal involving indecent exposure at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Fla. As a result, he distanced himself from the Pee-wee character, choosing to appear in public as himself. Despite the setback, Reubens received support from his fans and fellow celebrities, evident during his appearance at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.
The Resurgence of Pee-wee
After a long hiatus, Reubens reprised the iconic role in 2010, bringing “The Pee-wee Herman Show” to Broadway and making various appearances, including on “WWE Raw” and Funny or Die’s digital sketches. In 2016, he co-wrote and starred in “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” a sequel to “Big Top Pee-wee,” marking his final film role before his passing.
A Versatile Talent
Throughout his illustrious career, Reubens was part of various projects, including Kinka Usher’s superhero comedy “Mystery Men” and Ted Demme’s biographical crime drama “Blow.” He also appeared in “Batman Returns,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Matilda.” His television credits encompassed shows such as “30 Rock,” “The Blacklist,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Hercules,” “Rugrats,” “Reno 911!” and “What We Do in the Shadows.”
Overcoming Legal Troubles
Reubens faced legal troubles in 2002 when charged with possessing obscene material depicting a child in sexual conduct. As an avid collector of erotica, he disagreed with the city’s classification of pornography. Eventually, the child pornography charges were dropped in 2004, and Reubens pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor obscenity charge.
A Strong Assertion
In a 2005 interview with NBC News’ Stone Phillips, Reubens passionately asserted that he was not titillated by images of children and emphasized the importance of not labeling him as a pedophile.
Prior to his passing, Reubens was actively involved in developing two Pee-wee Herman projects, one being a black comedy titled “The Pee-wee Herman Story,” and the other a family adventure film named “Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Movie.”
A Lasting Legacy
Paul Reubens leaves behind an enduring legacy as an artist who brought joy and laughter to countless lives. His unforgettable contributions to entertainment will forever remain in the hearts of those who adored him.
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