Paul Reubens (born Paul Rubenfeld; August 27, 1952) is an American actor, writer, film producer, game show host, and comedian, best known for his character Pee-wee Herman. Reubens joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings in the 1970s and started his career as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. In 1982, Reubens put up a show about a character he had been developing for years. The show was called The Pee-wee Herman Show and it ran for five sold-out months with HBO producing a successful special about it. Pee-wee became an instant cult figure and for the next decade, Reubens would be completely committed to his character, doing all of his public appearances and interviews as Pee-wee. In 1985 Pee-wee's Big Adventure, directed by the then-unknown Tim Burton, was a financial and critical success, and soon developed into a cult film. Big Top Pee-wee, 1988's sequel, was less successful than its predecessor. Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred as Pee-wee in the CBS Saturday-morning children's program Pee-wee's Playhouse.
Thereafter, Reubens decided to take a sabbatical from Pee-wee. In July 1991, Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. The arrest set off a chain reaction of national media attention that changed the general public's view of Reubens and Pee-wee. The arrest postponed Reubens' involvement in major projects until 1999 when he appeared in several big-budget projects including Mystery Men and Blow and started giving interviews as himself rather than as Pee-wee.
Since 2006, Reubens has been making cameos and guest appearances in numerous projects, such as Reno 911!, 30 Rock, Dirt, Pushing Daisies, and The Blacklist. Since the 1990s, he has worked on two possible Pee-wee films: one dark and adult, dubbed The Pee-wee Herman Story, and one a family-friendly epic adventure called Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Movie. In 2010, he starred on Broadway in The Pee-wee Herman Show. In 2016, Reubens helped write and star in the Netflix original movie, Pee-wee's Big Holiday reprising his role as Pee-wee Herman.
In July 1991, while visiting with relatives, Reubens was arrested in Sarasota, Florida for masturbating during a film at an adult movie theater. During a random police inspection, a detective who had observed Reubens detained him as he was readying to leave. (This sweep also resulted in three other arrests). When detectives examined his driver's license, Reubens told them, "I'm Pee-wee Herman", and offered to do a children's benefit for the sheriff's office, "to take care of this". The next day, after a local reporter recognized Reubens' name, Reubens' attorney made the same offer to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in exchange for withholding the story. In 1971, Reubens had been arrested in the same county for loitering and prowling near an adult theater, though charges were dropped. His second arrest was in 1983 when Reubens was placed on two years' probation for possession of marijuana, although adjudication was withheld. On the night of the arrest, Reubens went to Nashville, where his sister and lawyer lived, and then to New Jersey, where he would stay for the following months at his friend Doris Duke's estate.
The 1991 arrest was widely covered, and Reubens and his character both became the subject of ridicule. Disney-MGM Studios suspended a video that showed Pee-wee explaining how voice-over tracks were made from its studio tour. Toys "R" Us removed Pee-wee toys from its stores. It was commonly thought that Pee-wee's Playhouse got cancelled due to the arrest; in actuality the show was already retired as Reubens, claiming an overworked crew and fear of decline of quantity and quality in material, had decided against a sixth season. However, the popularity of the show had put it into syndication, which CBS revoked in fall of 1991. Reubens released a statement denying the charges.
Reubens pleaded no contest. The plea kept the charge off Reubens' record and obligated him to spend 75 hours performing community service, making an anti-drug public service announcement that he would write, produce and finance.
Despite the negative publicity, many artists who knew Reubens, such as Cyndi Lauper, Annette Funicello, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Valeria Golino, spoke out in his support. Bill Cosby defended Reubens, saying, "Whatever [Reubens has] done, this is being blown all out of proportion." Other people who knew Reubens, such as Playhouse production designer Gary Panter, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Big Top Pee-wee director Randal Kleiser, also spoke in support. Reubens' fans organized support rallies after CBS canceled the reruns, picketing in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The TV news magazine A Current Affair received "tens of thousands" of responses to a Pee-wee telephone survey, in which callers supported Reubens by nine-to-one.
Reubens, who for years would not give interviews or appear on talk shows, did make a subsequent public appearance as Pee-wee at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, where he asked the audience, "Heard any good jokes lately?" He received a standing ovation. Reubens then appeared as Pee-wee once in 1992, when he participated in a Grand Ole Opry tribute to Minnie Pearl. As part of his community service, Reubens returned to the Pee-Wee character for a public service announcement, as well as reviving one of his Playhouse characters, a claymation character named "Penny" for a second PSA talking about the dangers of substance abuse.
In November 2002, while filming David LaChapelle's video for Elton John's "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", Reubens learned that police were at his home with a search warrant, acting on a tip from a witness in the pornography case against actor Jeffrey Jones, finding among over 70,000 items of kitsch memorabilia, two grainy videotapes and dozens of photographs that the city attorney's office characterized as a collection of child pornography. Kelly Bush, Reubens' personal representative at the time, said the description of the items was inaccurate and claimed the objects were "Rob Lowe's sex videotape, and a few 30- to 100-year-old kitsch collectible images." Reubens turned himself in to the Hollywood division of the LAPD and was charged with possession of obscene material improperly depicting a child under the age of 18 in sexual conduct. The district attorney looked at Reubens' collection and computer and found no grounds for bringing any felony charges against him, while the city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo brought misdemeanor charges against Reubens on the last day allowed by the statute. Reubens was represented by Hollywood criminal defense lawyer Blair Berk. In December he pleaded not guilty through Berk, who also complained that the city attorney failed to turn over evidence to the defense, which City Attorney Richard Katz countered that prosecutors were not required to do until after arraignment, after which they did; neither side disclosed the contents.
"One thing I want to make very, very clear, I don't want anyone for one second to think that I am titillated by images of children. It's not me. You can say lots of things about me. And you might. The public may think I'm weird. They may think I'm crazy or anything that anyone wants to think about me. That's all fine. As long as one of the things you're not thinking about me is that I'm a pedophile. Because that's not true." Paul Reubens on the charges.
In March 2004, child pornography charges were dropped in exchange for Reubens' guilty plea to a lesser charge. For the next three years, he was required to register his address with the sheriff's office and he could not be in the company of minors without the permission of a parent or legal guardian. Reubens later stated that he was a collector of erotica, including films, muscle magazines and a sizable collection of mostly homosexual vintage erotica, such as photographic studies of teen nudes. Reubens said that what the city attorney's office viewed as pornography, he considered to be innocent art and that what they described as people underage engaged in masturbation or oral copulation was, in fact, a judgmental point of view of the nudes that Reubens described as people "one hundred percent not" performing sexual acts. Being an avid collector, Reubens had often purchased bulk lots, and one of his vintage magazine dealers declared that "there's no way" he could have known the content of each page in the publications he bought and that he recalled Reubens asking for "physique magazines, vintage 1960s material, but not things featuring kids".
He spent the next two years caring for his terminally ill father in Florida, who died in February 2004 of cancer.
Relationship to #Pizzagate
Connection to Jeffrey Jones
From the Entertainment Weekly article, Actor Jeffrey Jones is busted on child porn charges, by Gary Susman, published November 1, 2002:
Jones’ accuser, a 17-year-old boy, came forward last November and ”alleged criminal acts of a sexual nature,” police spokesman Jason Lee told the Associated Press. Lee told CNN that ”numerous items of evidence” were seized from Jones’ house. ”For several months, detectives from Juvenile Division’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit conducted an extensive investigation into the allegations made against Jeffrey Jones,” he told CNN. The same probe targeted Jones pal and fellow Tim Burton movie alumnus Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman, the Times reports. (Jones played Winona Ryder’s dad in ”Beetlejuice” and had roles in ”Ed Wood” and ”Sleepy Hollow.”) A year ago, police armed with a search warrant searched Reubens’ home and carted off boxes of material, including computers and what Reubens’ spokesperson described as a collection of ”vintage erotica.” The spokesperson said there was no underage porn found at the house, and no charges were filed against Reubens, but days later, police searched Jones’ house, saying they were acting on leads found among Reubens’ stash.