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!