"I'm lower-key than people think I am." Paul Reubens
Comedian and actor Paul Reubens is widely recognized for his famous character Pee-wee Herman, a hyper, childish, cartoon-like man with slick short hair who always wore a gray suit a size too small with a red bowtie, on CBS’ popular all-ages show “Pee-wee's Playhouse” (1986-1991). He later brought the character to the big screen in The Blues Brothers (1980), Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Back to the Beach (1987) and Big Top Pee-wee (1988). He was also seen in such films as Batman Returns (1992), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Matilda (1996), Buddy (1997), Doctor Dolittle (1998, voice), Mystery Men (1999) and Blow (2001).
Paul Reubens was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He raised public’s attention when he was arrested for alleged indecent exposure and masturbating at a porno movie theater in 1991 and for a misdemeanor count of possessing child pornography in 2002.
"I tried to be responsible in teaching kids things I thought were good lessons, all in the context of its O.K. to be wild and have a good time." Paul Reubens
In the Playhouse
Childhood and Family:
The son of lamp storeowners Milton Rubenfeld (former car salesman) and Judy Rubenfeld (former teacher), Paul Rubenfeld (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) was born on August 27, 1952, in Peekskill, New York. He has two younger siblings, sister Abby (lawyer) and brother Luke. After graduating from Sarasota High School in 1970, Paul attended Boston University, in Boston, Massachusetts. He decided to try acting and studied at the California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia, California.
Paul Reubens once told a magazine that he exchanged "impromptu" wedding vows with Chandi Heffner, when Reubens sought refuge at the home of her adopted mother Doris Duke following his arrest for indecent exposure. Reubens currently resides in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles, California.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Raised in Sarasota, Florida, Paul Reubens spent six seasons performing at the Sarasota's Asolo Theater as a child and performed in several plays. He made four guest appearances on “The Gong Show” (1976) before signing up with the Los Angeles-based improvisational theater troupe The Groundlings, in 1977. There, Reubens created such characters as Indian chief Jay Longtoe and the disloyal husband Moses Feldman. He debuted his greatest comic invention in 1978, the now-infamous character Pee-wee Herman.
Reubens worked for six years with Bob McClurg, John Paragon, Susan Barnes and Phil Hartman. During that time, Reubens was also seen in Things We Did Last Summer (1977, TV), Pray TV (1980, a.k.a. K-GOD), Midnight Madness (1980) and Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty (1980, TV). He also made a feature debut with an appearance as a waiter in the Pee-wee Herman persona in John Landis-directed The Blues Brothers (1980), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd).
The Pee-wee character helped catapult Reubens toward stardom in 1981 when "The Pee Wee Herman Show" was sold out at the Los Angeles’ night club Roxy for five months and later aired as an HBO special. He subsequently became a regular guest of David Letterman and performed to sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall in 1984. He also wrote and starred in Tim Burton's feature directional debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), in which his Pee-wee character embarks on a quest to find his stolen bicycle.
Reubens hosted NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" in November that year and hosted his own Saturday morning TV series, "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which he also executive-produced, scripted, set decorated, designed the titles and composed theme music. The widely-received show was aired on CBS from 1986 to 1991. During its five-year run, Reubens was nominated for 22 Daytime Emmy Awards in various categories, including Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. He later won two Emmy Awards (for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic and Title Design and for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design; both shared award) in 1990/1991.
During his stint in the long-running comedy series, Reubens costarred with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in Lyndall Hobbs' comedy Back to the Beach (1987) before he helmed, hosted, produced, scripted and wrote the song "Oh, It's Christmas Time in the Playhouse" for CBS’ "Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" (1988). That same year, Reubens produced, co-wrote and starred in Randal Kleiser's adventure comedy feature Big Top Pee-wee (alongside Penelope Ann Miller and Kris Kristofferson), in which Reubens’ Pee-wee falls in love with the star of the circus that comes to town. 1988 also marked Reubens with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
After CBS cancelled five re-runs of "Pee-wee's Playhouse" in 1991, Reubens had a cameo appearance as the unloving father of Danny De Vito's The Penguin in Tim Burton Batman Returns (1992, starring Michael Keaton) and garnered positive reviews while playing Amilyn, Rutger Hauer's cackling vampire henchman, in Fran Rubel Kuzui's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (also in 1992, with Kristy Swanson and Donald Sutherland). He lent his voice to character Lock in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, with Danny Elfman and Chris Sarandon) and began appearing in the recurring role of Andrew J Lansing III (1995-1996) on the CBS sitcom "Murphy Brown" (starring Candice Bergen).
The rest of the 1990s saw Reubens team with Danny De Vito again in the film version of children's author Roald Dahl's Matilda (1996, starring Mara Wilson), appear in Caroline Thompson's true-based family movie inspired by Gertrude Davies Lintz' book, Buddy (1997, starring Rene Russo), and voice the raccoon in Betty Thomas’ Dr. Dolittle (1998, starring Eddie Murphy). Also in that year, Reubens starred in the reruns of "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which aired as part of the daily line up on cable's Fox Family Channel, and appeared as The Spleen in Kinka Usher's adaptation of Bob Burden's comic book series by Dark Horse, the comedy feature Mystery Men (starring Hank Azaria) in the next year.
In the new century, Reubens received applause for portraying Derek Foreal, a gaudy hairdresser-turned-drug dealer, in Ted Demme's biopic based on Bruce Porter's book, Blow (alongside Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz), and starring as Troy Stevens in the TV game show version of the hugely popular computer game, "You Don't Know Jack" (both in 2001). He also guest starred in an April 2001 episode of the hit series "Ally McBeal." More recently, Reubens provided the voice of Dennis in Timothy Björklund's big screen version of the TV series Teacher's Pet (2004, with Nathan Lane and Kelsey Grammer) and appeared in the comedy TV series "Hopeless Pictures" (2005).