Friday, October 21, 2011

Real Creepy Kid's TV #6 - Pee-wee's Playhouse

I don't know if you remember how big the Pee-Wee Herman empire was growing before Paul Reubens' became the punch line for every stand-up comic in the early 90's.  When I list names like Laurence Fishburne, Jimmy Smits and Phil Hartman, you don't think about guest actors on Pee-Wee's Play House, but all of them were at one point.   When I say Pee-Wee Herman, most people my age say "weird dude that got caught with his pants down in an adult theater."  They don't think multi-million dollar children's entertainment empire, but that is what this franchise was becoming. That empire collapsed on the day Reubens was arrested. CBS stopped airing reruns, and there was no hope for syndication. Reubens went from top of the world to nothing in the span of several hours.

The Pee-Wee character was originally part of Paul Reubens' stand-up act, and Pee-Wee's jokes were originally a lot more adult oriented, especially during his one-time HBO special.

Somehow, someone saw a squirrely guy in a gray suit telling dirty jokes and said, "Let's give this guy a kids show!" and the rest is history. During its time on the air, Pee-Wee's Play House won 22 Emmy Awards and earned Pee-Wee (not Reubens, interestingly enough) a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  In case you're wondering, Pee-Wee has made a come back of sorts, with his own Broadway show, an appearance on SNL and an HBO special possibly in the works.  Good luck Pee-Wee, my kid won't be watching.

Somehow, my parents were smart enough not to let us watch the Pee-Wee's Play House TV show; however, we were allowed to watch Pee-Wee's Christmas Special when we were a little bit older. I remember that my brother freakin' LOVED this video, and I watched it, but I always acted too cool for it. I had just discovered collecting baseball cards, and I had no time for stupid kid shows.  I was too busy looking up Todd Van Poppel's rookie card value in my Beckett catalog.

I would never admit, until now, that the real reason that I did not watch this movie is that some of the characters kind of creeped me out.  It wasn't the talking chair or Jambi the genie in a box.  No, I was scared of Pee-Wee's guest appearances.  I'm pretty sure that your "special guests" are not supposed to scare your audience.  So, I am going to pick a few of the creepiest members of this star-studded ensemble and share them with you.

Charo - She appeared on the show to sing "Feliz Navidad" for Pee-Wee, and all I can remember thinking is, "Her hair is really big and scary. What a big mouth you have... what a strange accent you have... and what self-respecting Hispanic person wears a beret to sing 'Feliz Navidad' on national television?"  I was culturally advanced at my young age. Hang in there for the scariest part at the end of the video where she says, "Goochie goochie... I LIKE IT!"

K.D. Lang - She sang "Jingle Bell Rock" for the special, and all I can remember thinking is, "Is this a man or a woman?  It's a man... no wait, it's a woman. That's a dress. Or is it a dress?  Maybe it's an outfit that guys wear to Russian nightclubs?" I was not very culturally advanced at my young age.  If you're wondering, it was a woman, and I believe in the 80's what she was wearing could be described as a dress.

Little Richard - Pee-Wee happens upon Little Richard while walking outside.  Little Richard is trying to ice skate, and is failing miserably.  Pee-Wee claims that ice skating is easy, and Little Richard delivers the creepiest line in the film, "Think so, then you try!" In his whimpering, whispering way.  I can remember thinking, "For a grown man, he sure screams a lot... this man has extremely thin eyebrows... and his face looks like silly putty.  He claps like a seal.  Black people don't ice skate."  I was apparently very racially stereotypical in my young age.

Grace Jones - This is by far the scariest moment in the show for me.  A large box arrives at the play house, but it was supposed to go to The White House.  Grace Jones pops out of the box wearing a giant fur coat and what can only be described as the least fashionable outfit ever, and says, "You're not the president; you're Pee-Wee Herman!"  So, she offers to sing a song since she is already out of the box.  She proceeds to lose the fur coat and sing "Little Drummer Boy" for Pee-Wee.  In this mock lap-dance, she takes off her electric blue gloves, bedazzled with jingle bells, and struts around like an Egyptian in her weird hat and what can only be described as a chest mold with a zipper for a top.  I don't remember what I was thinking at this point.  I just know I would always leave the room.  Enjoy.

Please feel free to share your favorite Pee-Wee Herman stories in the comments section below.  Unless, of course, you were also in that theater in 1991.  In that case, just keep that special memory for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. It's a real shame this guy turned out to be such a weirdo. Didn't he also get busted for kiddie porn with the guy that played Kevin Arnold's math teacher on "The Wonder Years"?



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