Paul Reubens, the actor best known for portraying Pee-Wee Herman in films such as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Big-Top Pee-Wee, has died. According to a Facebook post, Reubens lost a private battle with cancer on Sunday (July 30). He was 70.
“Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness,” the post reads. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit.”
Beginning in 1982, Reubens starred in his own show, “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” which ran for five sold-out months. “Pee-Wee” became a cult figure seemingly overnight. For the next decade, Reubens remained completely committed to his character, doing all of his public appearances and interviews as Pee-Wee. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), directed by Tim Burton, was a financial and critical success. Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred as Pee-Wee in the CBS television show Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, where characters such as Cherry (a talking chair) and Jambi (a genie) become fan favorites.
Meanwhile, Pee-Wee’s signature dance—best depicted in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to The Champs’ single “Tequila”—spread like wildfire. In 1986, the rapper Joeski Love made a song about it, the aptly-titled “Pee Wee Dance.”
Reubens legacy is complicated by a series of run-ins with the law. In 1991 he pleaded no contest to indecent exposure at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Florida. Then in 2004, he was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obscenity charge involving photographs of minors engaged in sexual conduct. But slowly but surely, he started to reemerge.
After 2006, Reubens made cameos and appearances in numerous projects, such as Reno 911! (2006), 30 Rock (2007) and Accidental Love (2015). He also played the voice role of “Pavel” in the Disney XD television series Tron: Uprising (2012–2013). More recently, Reubens co-wrote and starred in the 2016 Netflix original film Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, reprising his role as Pee-wee Herman.
AllHipHop sends our condolences to Reubens’ loved ones.