It's a big week for Pee-wee Herman fans: August 9 marks the 25th anniversary of 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure,' that cult classic comedy about a manchild and his bike. And this weekend at the 70th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, Pee-wee (and his alter ego Paul Reubens) will try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's biggest 'Tequila' dance, by recreating his famous 'Big Adventure' bar top dance. div style="text-align: center;">
It's a big week for Pee-wee Herman fans: August 9 marks the 25th anniversary of 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure,' that cult classic comedy about a manchild and his bike. And this weekend at the 70th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, Pee-wee (and his alter ego Paul Reubens) will try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's biggest 'Tequila' dance, by recreating his famous 'Big Adventure' bar top dance.
Actually, it's been -- and will continue to be -- a big YEAR for Pee-wee fans, as the successful Los Angeles revival of 'The Pee-wee Herman Show' stage show has led to a Broadway birth for the show in October, while Reubens and big-screen comedy director Judd Apatow announced in July that they're collaborating on a new Pee-wee movie, and, in October, 'Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Collection,' hits DVD from Image Entertainment.
So, in honor of Pee-wee and his big adventures, past, present and future, here's a little walk down memory lane with the only man who can rock a bow tie and highwater pants and still be one of the coolest kids on the block:
August 27, 1952 -- Paul Reubenfeld was born in Peekskill, New York, to car dealership owner (and World War II pilot) dad Milton and elementary teacher mom Judy. The future funny guy, who is the eldest of three siblings, including brother Luke and sister Abby, was a fan of TV shows like 'Captain Kangaroo' and 'Howdy Doody' (he once appeared in the show's audience, the Peanut Gallery), which influence his future work.
1961 -- The Reubenfelds moved to Sarasota, Florida, where Milton and Judy opened a lamp store, and Paul began performing in plays at the local Asolo Theater. Among the family's neighbors: The Flying Wallendas, the famous high-wire act circus performers.
1970 -- Reubenfeld, who, of course, later changed his name to "Paul Reubens" professionally, graduated from Sarasota High School and headed off to Boston University. He decided to pursue acting as a career, and transferred to the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.
1977 -- Reubens joined The Groundlings, the famous Los Angeles comedy/improv troupe, where his contemporaries included Edie McClurg ('Ferris Bueller's Day Off's' Grace and Mrs. Poole on 'The Hogan Family') and the late Phil Hartman.
1978 -- During his six-year stint with the famous Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings, Reubens created the Pee-wee Herman character, with help from pal Hartman. Pee-wee is named after a brand of harmonica (Pee-weiny) that Reubens owned, combined with the last name of a hyperactive kid he knew as a child. Pee-wee's trademark suit was borrowed from Groundlings founder Gary Austin, and the character's persona is a nod to 1950s comic and children's TV host Pinky Lee. "I was fairly confident that joining the Groundlings was a big, smart life-changer for me," Reubens would tell an LAWeekly.com interviewer in 2010. "I like the people in the group -- a great combination of being nice, interesting people, and talented. They may be competitive, but they're also very supportive. The opposite of that was the Comedy Store, where everyone's out for themselves. The Groundlings was a workshop with people who wanted everyone else to succeed. And that's really what made Pee-wee possible."
1980 -- Reubens made his first big-screen appearance as Pee-wee in the Cheech and Chong flick 'Next Movie,' where he uttered one of his soon-to-be catchphrases, "I know you are, but what am I?"
1981 -- Borrowing $3,000 from his parents, Reubens created an L.A. stage show called 'The Pee-wee Herman Show,' which, along with co-writing and co-starring by Hartman, featured a much more sexualized, naughty version of Pee-wee. The show was sold out at The Roxy Theatre in L.A. for months, prompting HBO to film the production and air it as a TV special. Pterri the pterodactyl, Captain Carl, Miss Yvonne, Jambi, Clockey and Randy are among the characters that originated in the stage show.
1983-84 -- After the success of the HBO special, Pee-wee's popularity continued to grow, as Reubens took 'The Pee-wee Herman Show' on the road across the country, including a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in 1984. But the comedian credits a series of appearances on 'Late Night with David Letterman' with making Pee-wee a star.
Aug. 9, 1985 -- Warner Bros. took notice of Pee-wee's popularity and made a deal with Reubens to create a big-screen Pee-wee flick. Reubens was working on an idea when he noticed that people used bicycles to maneuver around the WB lot. That sparked the idea that became 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure,' in which Pee-wee embarks on a road trip in search of his stolen bike. Phil Hartman co-wrote the script, and the movie was one of the first directorial efforts of Oscar nominee Tim Burton. The flick was also a big success; not only has it become a cult classic, but the movie went on to earn more than $40 million dollars at the box office, on a $6 million budget.
Nov. 23, 1985 -- Reubens, as Pee-wee, hosted 'Saturday Night Live,' for which his friend Phil Hartman was by now a writer. Reubens had auditioned to be a part of the 1980-81 season cast, and had lost out to Gilbert Gottfried. It was losing out on joining 'SNL' that sparked him to create the Pee-wee stage show, from which all other things Pee-wee flowed.
Sept. 13, 1986 -- The growing popularity of the Pee-wee character prompted CBS to offer Reubens a Saturday morning children's TV show, and the now-classic 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' was born. The show, which featured a much toned-down (but still sly) Pee-wee and was as big a hit with adults as with kids, was a mix of live-action, puppets and animation. It also starred Lynne Marie Stewart, from the Pee-wee stage show, as Miss Yvonne, future Emmy and Golden Globe winner S. Epatha Merkerson as Reba The Mail Lady, future Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis and Phil Hartman, who was also a writer on the show, as Captain Carl. 'Playhouse,' which ran for 45 episodes and won 22 Emmys, also featured playful Pee-wee shenanigans like the Secret Word of the Day and Pee-wee's marriage to fruit salad ("If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?"), as well as future Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jimmy Smits as Your Authorized Conky Repairman, Sandra Bernhard as Rhonda the Picturephone operator, Magic Johnson as the cousin of Magic Screen and Cyndi Lauper (credited as Ellen Shaw) as the performer of the show's memorable theme song.
1987 -- Pee-wee headed 'Back to the Beach,' the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movie which found the bow-tied one performing 'Surfin' Bird' at the beach.
1988 -- The 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' follow-up, 'Big Top Pee-wee,' didn't prove to be as successful as Pee-wee's first big-screen romp, but the movie was notable for being the big-screen debut of future Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, who played Duke the Dog-Faced Boy.
1988 -- Pee-wee got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (it's at 6562 Hollywood Blvd.).
Fall 1990 -- Reubens and CBS agreed to end 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,' as the actor was exhausted after five seasons of working as star (for which he paid himself scale, via his production company), producer, writer, director and coordinator of Pee-wee merchandise (including a Ralston Purina Pee-wee Chow kids cereal that was set to hit supermarket shelves, until it failed a kiddie taste test). The performer, who later told a Vanity Fair writer that he was "an empty shell" by this point, took a year off to relax and travel, and the network continued to air 'Playhouse' repeats.
July 26, 1991 -- While visiting his folks in Sarasota, Reubens was arrested at a Sarasota porn theater and charged with indecent exposure and masturbating in public. CBS immediately pulled 'Playhouse' repeats from the air, Toys 'R' Us removed Pee-wee toys from its shelves and a bearded, long-haired Reubens, who rarely appeared in public without being in Pee-wee mode and took his role as a children's show star very seriously, was horrified. "That even one parent would say, 'Well, I'm not going to let my kid watch that show anymore,' that was painful because I just took it so seriously, the show. I took my responsibility (to kids) really seriously," Reubens, who'd become fodder for tabloids and late-night monologues, told Vanity Fair in a 1999 interview.
Sept. 5, 1991 -- An outpouring of support from fans (including some who picketed at CBS office in L.A. and New York to protest the network pulling 'Playhouse' repeats) and celebrity friends convinced Reubens to make an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, his first post-arrest public appearance. Dressed as Pee-wee, he greeted the crowd with, "Heard any good jokes lately?" MTV later asked Reubens to bring back 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' at MTV, but he turned down the offer. "I didn't feel like it was the right time ... certainly not right after (the arrest)," he said.
June 1992 -- Reubens' first post-scandal movie role was in pal Tim Burton's 'Batman Returns,' where he played the father of The Penguin.
1992-2007 -- Some fans thought Reubens was on a long sabbatical from Hollywood, but he actually worked a lot, including a scene-stealing performance in the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' movie; playing superhero The Spleen in the comic book movie 'Mystery Men'; guest roles on 'Murphy Brown,' 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' 'Ally McBeal,' 'Dirt,' 'Pushing Daisies,' '30 Rock' and 'Reno 911!'; playing a killer in Dwight Yoakam's western 'South of Heaven, West of Hell' and a hairdresser-turned-drug dealer in 'Blow'; and he hosted -- as a character named Troy Stevens -- a short-lived (six episodes) TV game show adaptation of the hilarious pop culture video game 'You Don't Know Jack.'
June 2007 -- In public as Pee-wee for the first time since 1991, Reubens appeared at the inaugural Spike Guys' Choice Awards. Introduced as "one of the funniest MFs of all time," Reubens presented the Funniest MF statue to Will Ferrell, a fellow Groundlings alum.
Sept. 2009 -- After hints for years that he would make another Pee-wee movie, Reubens joined Twitter ... as Pee-wee.
Jan. 12, 2010 -- The revival of Reubens' stage show, 'The Pee-wee Herman Show,' opened in Los Angeles at Club Nokia, and was an immediate success. Reubens updated the show with references to the Internet, purity rings and ShamWow, Lynne Marie Stewart and John Paragon returned as Miss Yvonne and Jambi, and new cast members included Groundlings alum Phil LaMarr as Cowboy Curtis (replacing Laurence Fishburne, who was busy on 'CSI') and Josh Meyers as Firefighter (and the voices of Clockey and Conky).
July 1, 2010 -- Reubens and 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up' director Judd Apatow confirmed that they're teaming up for a new Reubens-penned 'Pee-wee' movie. Apatow approached Reubens about the possibility of a Pee-wee movie after he and actress/wife Leslie Mann saw the 'Pee-wee Herman Show' stage revival in L.A. earlier in the year. Reubens told the New York Times that Apatow wants to make a road movie, similar to 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure,' but that "there still exists the possibility that this could turn into the 'Playhouse' movie. I don't think we know the answer to that yet." The star also coyly sidestepped rumors that both Johnny Depp and George Clooney have expressed interest in making cameo appearances in the movie.
Oct. 19, 2010 -- 'Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Collection,' with all five seasons, including the Christmas special, will be released on DVD by Image Entertainment.
Oct. 26, 2010 -- 'The Pee-wee Herman Show' will open at the Stephen Sondheim Theater in New York City, for previews. The six-week Broadway run officially opens on Nov. 11.
Aug. 3, 2011 -- Reubens will provide the voice of Jokey Smurf in the big-screen adaptation of 'The Smurfs' that also stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Winters, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Katy Perry, Hank Azaria and Alan Cumming.