Long Live Pee-Wee Herman

Many, many years ago, in a land far away (actually, the next town over), my then-fiancé (now husband) and my 8-year-old daughter, and I would wake up on Saturday mornings looking forward to watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on TV.  When the show came on we would sit on our old couch together and all laugh—each enjoying different parts of the show and reveling in the silliness that was both childish and adult at the same time. We’d all scream at the secret word and be sad when it was time for Pee-Wee to get back on his scooter and end the show.

We collected all the toys. In fact, when Lou and I got married, there was a Pee-Wee and a Miss Yvonne together on top of the groom’s cake (made of Jello). Phrases like “I know you are but what am I?” became part of our daily life together. All those toys are still in Lou’s room in the basement (yes, I said the basement).

When Paul Rubens, the actor who plays Pee-Wee, got busted for indecent exposure in a porn theatre I wasn’t that surprised. Pee-Wee was always a little naughty. I didn’t judge him, although I was sad for him that he would inevitably lose his ability to work with children in the same way as before (as if there were NO parents or adults ever before who watched porn or craved kinky sexual activities! Seriously.)

I have never been one of those people who think that sexuality of any sort as a bad thing. Isn’t it always the people who shout about abstinence, the sins of adultery, homosexuality, and whatever else they can think of who end up caught in the public bathroom or some bedroom in Brazil, humiliated? I have always thought, to each his or her own—sexual pleasure is a personal and primal thing…as long as all are consenting adults and no one gets hurt and everyone uses protection, I am in favor of it.

Over the years, Paul Rubens went underground and tried to disappear, but we never stopped watching videos of the show with our growing family. All our children have seen every episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse ever made, at least once.

So when Lou heard that Pee-Wee was coming to Broadway, he got tickets right away. We weren’t sure what to expect, since this was a long-time-coming comeback, so we left the kids at home. It also happened to be over Halloween weekend…so, Friday night, Lou dressed up as Pee-Wee Herman, and I went as Miss Yvonne, for the annual New York Restoration Hulaween party (which is sort of the closest you can come to an adult version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in real time). Then, Saturday night, Lou reprised his role as Pee-Wee and we went to the show. (I ditched the Miss Yvonne costume, since the wig was itchy and the makeup toxic.)

When Pee-Wee came out on stage to begin the show, the emotion in the room was palpable. There were gasps of joy. People were crying (me included—I’ll leave my husband out of this part). It was Pee-Wee! In the flesh! He had returned! And then the curtain opened and it was the PLAYHOUSE!!!! Just like the real one on TV, only bigger, brighter, and real. And Miss Yvonne! And Jambi! And what was most awesome of all is that his brush with scorn, while it aged him and made him look a little sadder at times, hadn’t destroyed the simple joy of his character. It was a show for kids after all. Little kids (there was a little boy dressed as Pee-Wee). Big kids and the kid in all of us.

I am glad he’s back. I want him to stay back no matter what he gets caught doing on his own time.  When the show was over, many of us were crying.  Not because it was an unhappy ending, but because it was such a happy one.

Long live Pee-Wee!


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13 Responses to Long Live Pee-Wee Herman

  1. Rita November 8, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    I used to babysit every Saturday morning for my cousin’s kids and we watched it! Best show on TV…I remember when he was making salad (a salad bar) and when he got to the beans, he did three f*rt sounds and I was HYSTERICAL! Love Pee Wee. That was the best show on TV….Cowboy Curtis, Floor-y, Globe-y!

  2. robin November 8, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    we need pictures ; )

  3. Maya November 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Oooh I got teary just reading about it!

  4. Amanda November 8, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Where ARE the photos?!

  5. dblinder November 8, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    My favorite Pee-Wee Herman moment, breakfast!


  6. Lisa S November 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Paige has been regaling me with all sorts of lines, dances, etc. from the show. I love that she enjoys the same sense of humor we did watching the tv show all those years ago. Our Spiderman show that we were going to over Thanksgiving was cancelled (:( so maybe I will finally get a chance to see Pee Wee. Thanks for posting this.

  7. maria (farm country kitchen) November 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    They DID NOT allow photos! Big guys were threatening to throw anyone out who took a picture…as for me as Miss Yvonne?! We’ll see. I don’t have one but maybe NYRP does?

  8. Victor Ortiz November 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    I was pullin’ for PeeWee then, and pullin’ for him, with Maria, now!

  9. Elizabeth November 9, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Wonderful article from beginning to end ! Thank You

  10. Alison November 9, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Excellent article. I felt the same way about the demise of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Maybe this will usher in a new era of the Playhouse and possibly a return to television where the show can be enjoyed by a new generation.

  11. Donna in Delaware November 10, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    I know, I just love when all of these holier-than-thou people try and sometimes succeed in tearing people down and destroying them. The worse people are the ones safely esconced in CHURCH and always casting the first stone. Trust me, I know plenty from when I lived in the south and was IN the church. MOST of their philosophy is, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Hypocrits all (just those who say this and live like they are pure), so please don’t think that I am speaking of all church-going people. Live and let live is my philosphy, as long as no one is hurting you and always trying to tell you how and what to do with your life. Welcome back PEE WEE. Miss that silly dance you use to do!

  12. Donna E July 11, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Oh Maria- I already loved you,so you didn’t need to give me yet another reason! I use to watch this show with my trainer at the stable I worked & trained at.I was a teen,he was in his mid 30’s-we had such fun watching Pee Wee,we even yelled whenever some one mentioned the word of the day! My best friend would watch with us on the days she was there early enough.Realize this is late,but reading this brought back some GREAT memories.Thanks and long live Pee Wee!

  13. Katrina May 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

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