Surely there are a score of fantastic comic characters known as much from their actions as the leather, PVC, and latex costumes they wear. But surely a character synonymous with his suit is Pee-wee Herman. The man behind Pee-wee, actor, comedian, and writer, Paul Reubens, died this Sunday at the age of 70.
That infamous gray glen plaid suit Pee-wee wore was actually given to Reubens by Gary Austin, the founder of the legendary Los Angeles comedy troupe, the Groundlings, where Reubens began to develop Pee-wee, and honed his comic and improvising skills. Accessorizing with a bright red bow tie, a white button-down shirt, and white leather loafers, Pee-wee’s distinctive costume was born with the character. Reubens would come to change his choice of footwear across the many appearances of his infamous character, a character he would earn worldwide acclaim with, two personal Emmys and 14 for his Pee-wee’s Playhouse TV show. Pee-wee’s footwear even came to inspire the creation of Nike’s “Pee-wee Herman” designer sneakers, part of their 2007’s “Fallen Heroes” collection. The “Grey/Heather Dunk High Pro SB” featured a grey and white color scheme with red detail, paying homage to Pee-wee’s couture.
The Pee-wee character would be featured in a score of movies and TV appearances, an HBO special, and on Broadway. In fact, Pee-wee’s first big screen starring appearance, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, marks the directorial debut of Tim Burton.
But there was more than Pee-wee in Reuben’s career of playing many fantastic characters.
Reubens played the Penguin’s father in Batman Returns. “Amilyn,” the henchman of Rutger Hauer’s big vampire boss in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and alongside Johnny Depp, in the movie Blow. On the small screen, he was “Mr. Vargas” on The Blacklist and also starred alongside Sharon Stone on the HBO mini-series Mosaic, to name but a few acting turns.
A unique talent who created an iconic character, which we know as much from what he said as what he wore, goodbye Mr. Reubens and thank you for the smiles.