He’s a sexy guy. He looks like this kind of Puerto Rican love doll. And the most beautiful lips on a man, the sexiest lips.
—Charlotte McGinnis, former comedy partner of Paul Reubens
He has a really nice body!
—Bonnie Schiffman, photographer, on shooting Pee-wee in a bathing suit
He’s incredibly sexy, he’s adorable, he’s got a great body. He really knows how to work Pee-wee Herman, so he holds his body differently when he’s in those clothes. He’s pretty tall — I’d say at least five eleven.
He’s got shaggy hair, he’s got a goatee, he’s dark complexioned, and he’s wearing rose-tinted sunglasses. You would never in a million years know it was Pee-wee Herman. He was real casual: California clothes, a loose Hawaiian shirt, blue jeans and Converse high-top tennis shoes.
—Wayne White, on the first time he saw Paul Reubens
I’m very recognizable, particularly with a crew cut. You can’t disguise a crew cut.
Is it Pee-wee or is it Paul? The Pee-wee Herman Show, an L.A. theater piece that became an HBO special in the early Eighties, listed Paul Reubens as playing Pee-wee Herman, in addition to co-writing and codirecting. After touring the club and college circuit, Pee-wee Herman, sans Paul Reubens, began popping up on Late Night with David Letterman, squealing nonstop about toys and unattainable celebrity girlfriends and, like, everything, I mean, you know, okay okay okay? Letterman suffered his guest with benign embarrassment, as if Pee-wee might actually go pee-wee on the upholstered chair. The movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in which our hero battled the forces of evil to recover his missing bicycle, hit theaters in the summer of 1985. It cost $6 million and earned $45 million — not including bucks yet to come from foreign markets (the French will probably love him), network, cable, syndication rights and videocassette purchases. In the credits, Paul Reubens was listed as a co-writer. Pee-wee Herman appeared as himself.
To promote the movie, Pee-wee traveled to big cities and met the press, with his little gray suit, little pink lips and little high voice. Paul wasn’t available for interviews; Pee-wee was. That, his managers and publicists maintain, is the inflexible Pee-wee policy. But sometimes it flexes. Faced with a New York Times reporter, Peter J.Boyer, Paul gave the interview, not Pee-wee. “I was a little amused at that,” Boyer says. “Whichever persona he showed up in would’ve been fine with me. I get along wonderfully well with nine-year-olds.”
As the publicity campaign for Pee-wee’s Playhouse went into high gear, the ground rules allowed no questions about Paul Reubens or about Pee-wee Herman’s work methods. His office explained that I would be talking to Pee-wee, but he wouldn’t be using his Pee-wee voice. I wondered if I should use a different voice. I thought of checking Sybil and The Three Faces of Eve out of the library.
The non-Pee-wee voice turned out to be soft, low and polite and sounded like Pee-wee on Thorazine. Our conversation was tiptoeing through the narrow range of permitted topics when suddenly the rules snapped and Pee-wee/Paul started talking about identity separation.
“My only fear about this subject is that it becomes more of a subject because I’m unwilling to discuss it. The problem, to me, is that I have two names, and beyond that, there’s not much of a story. This feels more right. I’m able to do all the things I want to do with this arrangement much better. There are so many things I would like to do, so many people I probably am, that it becomes a lot less complicated for me.”
He discusses nasty rumors. “No, I don’t have forty gray suits. Actually, my suits are all completely worn out right now, so I’m having some new ones made. I have six pretty beat-up suits.”
He claims not to know how many sizes too small they are; the main thing is they fit perfectly wrong. And that’s not the only thing wrong: “I’ve heard, I’ve even seen written reports of ten different people that discovered me in Hollywood. I really don’t care about setting it straight at this point. Maybe eventually I’ll write a biography and tell my side — Pee-wee Herman: My Side.”
He laughs. I laugh. At least he’s called it a biography, not an autobiography. Paul Reubens could write a biography of Pee-wee. Pee-wee could write a biography of Paul. And they could both write blurbs for each other’s books.