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Paul Reubens

Paul ReubensAKA Paul Rubenfeld

Born: 27-Aug-1952
Birthplace: Peekskill, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Pee-wee Herman

As a boy, Paul Reubens spent his earliest years in upstate New York, a setting he still describes as "storybook". When he was in the fourth grade, his family moved to Sarasota, Florida, the winter headquarters for Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus, and he often saw people on the street who were obviously performers. On a stroll with his parents, he once heard an explosion and saw someone flying through the air between two houses -- it was a circus family, practicing firing each other out of a cannon in their back yard. Young Reubens loved I Love Lucy, The Mickey Mouse Club, Captain Kangaroo, and Howdy Doody. He started appearing in local stage productions at the age of 11, and one summer his parents let him go to circus camp.

In the 1970s, Reubens started working as a dramatic actor, but he loved The Gong Show, and concocted an act with struggling comic Charlotte McGinnis, as "The Hilarious Betty & Eddie". They won $500, and were invited back. As Eddie and other characters, Reubens appeared on The Gong Show 15 times. He joined the Groundlings improv group, and performed for six years alongside several comics who eventually became famous, including Reubens' lifelong friend Phil Hartman.

Pee-wee Herman was born as part of a Groundlings revue in 1977, written by Reubens and Hartman. The idea was to play a comedian who couldn't possibly be a successful comedian. Mincing about in a too-tight suit, he screwed up his voice, showed the audience his toys, and threw Tootsie Rolls into the crowd. In 1981, The Pee-wee Herman Show was filmed for HBO, with Reubens and a bizarre supporting cast, and with some adult-oriented material that would never air on his later Saturday morning show. He auditioned for Saturday Night Live, but didn't get the job.

Disappointed, Reubens turned his energy toward the Pee-wee character, writing a script "almost out of spite" -- Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) was Tim Burton's directorial debut. When CBS picked up Pee-wee's Playhouse, the blue humor had been expunged, but the show kept its mature appeal. Reubens always said the show wasn't so much for kids as for hungover college students. Hartman played Captain Carl, Pee-wee's sailor friend, Laurence Fishburne played the genial Cowboy Curtis, Gregory Harrison voiced Conky the Robot, a young Natasha Lyonne played Opal, and S. Epatha Merkerson played Reba the mail-lady. In its five-year run, CBS ordered a total of 45 episodes -- an average of nine per year. Pee-Wee's Playhouse won 22 Emmys -- almost an Emmy every two episodes, which might be the highest award ratio for any TV series ever.

In 1991, a year after Pee-wee's Playhouse was cancelled, Reubens was arrested in an adult movie theater for indecent exposure. He pleaded no contest, and was fined $135. The media vilified him as a pervert, and reruns of Pee-wee's Playhouse were pulled from syndication. Ten years later, Reubens' house was raided by police, who confiscated 30,000 items from his collection of vintage erotica. The DA waited 364 days (one day before the statute of limitations would have run out) and then alleged that a small fraction of it was "child pornography" -- decades-old physique poses, art photos, and yellowed nudist magazines. Some of models were minors when the pictures were taken, but most would have been dead of old age before Reubens was born, and all of the photos were legal when they were first published -- hardly the work of human traffickers. Again, he settled: the charges were reduced to obscenity, and Reubens pleaded guilty and paid a $100 fine in exchange for probation.

Reubens maintained an acting career separate from the Pee-wee character. He played a raccoon in Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle, a drug dealing hairdresser in Blow, and The Spleen in Mystery Men. Yet Reubens long wanted to bring Pee-wee back, and in 2010 he opened a stage adaptation of The Pee-wee Herman Show in Los Angeles. It was soon brought to Broadway, with tremendous success, rebuilding the old Playhouse and reclaiming the joy of the long-lost character. With filmmaker Judd Apatow, Reubens is working on a new Pee-wee movie for Netflix. "Let's face it," said Apatow, "the world needs more Pee-wee Herman."

Father: Milton Rubenfeld (owned a lighting store, d. 21-Feb-2004, cancer)
Mother: Judy Rubenfeld
Sister: Abby Rubenfeld (attorney)
Brother: Luke Rubenfeld (dog trainer)
Wife: Charlene Gail "Chandi" Heffner (m. 1991)

    High School: Sarasota High School, Sarasota, FL (1970)
    University: Boston University (dropped out)
    University: California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA (1971-75)

    Groundlings 1980s
    Drug Possession: Marijuana charge dropped (1971)
    Loitering Sarasota, FL (1983)
    Indecent Exposure Sarasota, FL (1991)
    Obscenity Los Angeles, CA (15-Nov-2002)
    Child Pornography charge reduced to obscenity (15-Nov-2002)
    Church of the SubGenius
    Risk Factors: Smoking, Marijuana, Ophidiophobia

    Dirt Chuck Lafoon (2007)
    Murphy Brown Andrew J. Lansing III (1995-97)
    Pee-wee's Playhouse Pee-wee Herman (1986-91)

    Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse (1988)

    The Smurfs 2 (28-Jul-2013) [VOICE]
    The Smurfs (28-Jul-2011) · Jokey [VOICE]
    Life During Wartime (3-Sep-2009)
    Reno 911! Miami (23-Feb-2007)
    The Tripper (13-Oct-2006)
    Teacher's Pet (16-Jan-2004) [VOICE]
    Mayor of the Sunset Strip (17-Jun-2003) · Himself
    Overnight (12-Jun-2003) · Himself
    Blow (29-Mar-2001)
    South of Heaven, West of Hell (28-Jan-2000) · Arvid
    Mystery Men (22-Jul-1999) · Spleen
    Doctor Dolittle (13-Jun-1998) · Raccoon [VOICE]
    Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (11-Nov-1997) [VOICE]
    Buddy (6-Jun-1997) · Prof. Spatz
    Matilda (2-Aug-1996)
    Dunston Checks In (12-Jan-1996) · La Farge
    The Nightmare Before Christmas (13-Oct-1993) [VOICE]
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (31-Jul-1992) · Amilyn
    Batman Returns (19-Jun-1992) · Penguin's Father
    Big Top Pee-Wee (22-Jul-1988) · Pee-wee Herman
    Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse (1988)
    Back to the Beach (7-Aug-1987)
    Flight of the Navigator (30-Jul-1986) [VOICE]
    Pee-wee's Big Adventure (19-Jul-1985) · Pee-wee Herman
    Meatballs Part II (27-Jul-1984)
    Pandemonium (Apr-1982)
    Nice Dreams (24-Jul-1981) · Howie Hamburger Dude
    Cheech & Chong's Next Movie (25-Jul-1980) · Pee-wee Herman -- Desk Clerk
    The Blues Brothers (16-Jun-1980) · Waiter
    Midnight Madness (8-Feb-1980)

Official Website:

Rotten Library Page:
Pee-wee Herman

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