BTC: The Pee-wee Panacea

Good morning. Get back to work. Oh, by the way, GIANT UNDERPANTS!

How could even the most veisalgic or seasonal affective disorder-suffering among us remain mopey after viewing this?

As a matter of fact, Paul Reubens always said that Pee-wee’s Playhouse wasn’t written for children so much as for hungover college students. Nonetheless, back in the day I was about as big a Pee-wee fan as any pre-pube could get. That clip’s got to be one of my top ten most cherished all-time TV moments. No, seriously.

We all know what happened to that poor man back in 1991. Got caught in an adult movie theater –apparently with his pants down– was arrested for “indecent exposure” and immediately vilified by the media. Reruns of his recently canceled show were quickly yanked off the air. Overnight, our beloved Pee-wee was reduced to a sniggering punchline. Does anyone else remember Reubens’ first public appearance afterwards on the MTV music awards? His sad-eyed “heard any good jokes lately?” delivery prompted cheers from the supportive crowd, but watching at home, I was in mourning. We all knew a death knell had been sounded.

Over the following decade, Paul Reubens fans were delighted to see him resurface for the occasional cameo role in movies and television. Then, in 2001, around the time Reubens first mentioned he might like to make a second Pee-wee movie, the actor’s home was raided by police. 30,000 items from his large private collection of vintage kitsch and erotica were confiscated. Quoting

The DA waited 364 days (a single day before the statute of limitations would have run out) and then alleged that some of it was “child pornography” — decades-old physique poses, old art photos, and yellowed nudist magazines. Some of the nude photos were of minors — when the pictures were taken, but most of the models would have been dead of old age before Reubens was born. All of the photos, Reubens maintained, were legal when they were first published. Again, though, he settled. The charges were reduced to “obscenity” and Reubens pleaded guilty and paid a $100 fine in exchange for probation.

Uh huh.

Here are a few excerpts from some of the many vintage beefcake/bodybuilding books included in Reubens’ collection:

Upon reaching a settlement after the second scandal, Reubens finally spoke out about both incidents on NBC, urging people to try to understand that whatever they might think about him, there was absolutely no truth to the pedophilia allegations. In a 2004 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Reubens insisted “It’s a collection of vintage photography, and a lot of it is erotic or sexual. But I don’t view my collection as dirty in any way. I view it as art…. They seized magazines that were 40, 50, 60 years old–stuff that was legally produced and legal to possess at the time.”

He was an easy target. It could have happened to anyone.

If the cops should ever break down my door crying PERVERT, I will answer with a loud, proud “I know you are, but what am I?”

9 Responses to “BTC: The Pee-wee Panacea”

  1. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    I always thought Reubens really got a raw deal on both those counts.

    Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed seeing him in small roles on TV and films, especially the semi-recurring character he played in FX’s Dirt.

  2. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Gah! Thank you. Ze man was a big deal to me when I was a wee gob, und a figure of hope that let me know it was okay to question things, as I began to realize those charges were indeed, bullshit. Through his ordeal, ze fabric of what I was told was ‘truth’, began to unravel. About perceptions in general, but specifically, about sexuality.

  3. Chesney Says:

    Poor Pee-Wee. Agreed, he most definitely got a raw deal. I was thrilled when they put his show into the Adult Swim lineup. I don’t think they have it on anymore, but I don’t really watch it much anymore, so maybe it is.

    And I totally have that episode of the clip you used on tape from when I was little, haha! Complete with the rest of the Saturday morning lineup. I think thats when it was on? I’m pretty sure most of those shows weren’t really meant for kids heh.

  4. rachel radness Says:

    every summer there is a paul reubens day in san francisco. google it, there’s some great pictures and arguments for why there should be a paul reubens day.

  5. Nadya Lev Says:

    You know, as a kid, I never knew about the whole Paul Reubens fiasco. But Pee-Wee Herman skeeved me out. As a character. Maybe I was the wrong age, maybe it was because I didn’t speak English that well back then… but somehow I missed out!

  6. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Chesney, I think Adult Swim ran almost the entire series. I know they were planning to show the Christmas Special as well. I don’t actively watch Adult Swim, but I am a diehard Venture Brothers fan.
    Rachel, isn’t a certain Aaron Muszalski, builder of enormous rubber duckies, one of the main folks associated with PRD? Always a sign of quality. I just might have to check that out next year (although the whole handing-out-of-tissues-and-tube-socks portion of the festivities makes me wanna cry a leedle).

  7. Cosmic Anomaly Analyst No.7 Says:

    That made my morning.

  8. Cosmic Anomaly Analyst No.7 Says:

    Well, when it WAS the morning.

  9. Tess Says:

    That made my morning! Nothing like jokes about giant underpants.

    As a kid hearing about how “wrong” and “perverted” Pee-Wee was made me feel really sad I really loved that show. Now as an adult I really think he’s really been scapegoated, it makes me wonder about what sort of perverted criminal case someone could put together from my house. “She obviously has a fetish with vintage pottery. . . this is just sick.”