Within hours of the news of Paul Reubens’ arrest, the court of public opinion began hearings on the Pee-wee Herman scandal. Here, some thoughts from five people in a better-than-average position to comment on the man and his talent.
Valeria Golino, actress (Rain Man, Hot Shots) who came from Italy to play Herman’s girlfriend in Big Top Pee-wee: ”Paul Reubens is why I am in America. He is a gifted and sensitive man with a great sense of humor. I find it very hypocritical. They have these porno movies…and they put police in the theaters? I don’t understand this. I don’t care if he did it or not — he’s a great guy.”
Annette Funicello, veteran of children’s television who appeared with Pee-wee in 1987’s Back to the Beach: ”What is the big deal? He has given so much pleasure to little kids, and what they’re doing to him is sad. I like him a lot. If I were able to call him now, I would say, ‘So many people are on your side. We love you. Just hang in there — it will blow over. These things do.”’
Randal Kleiser, who directed Herman in Big Top Pee-wee: ”In a way, fate may have stepped in to help him change his direction. People forget that the original Pee-wee Herman used to put mirrors on his shoes and look up girls’ dresses. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and I think what he’s probably going to do now is re-invent himself the way that David Bowie and Madonna do from time to time.”
Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress who worked with Pee-wee on a Playhouse Christmas special, and survivor of her own brush with the law: ”He’s a wonderful man. I find him a great talent. I was shocked. I didn’t think he was that type, but people like to pick on people who make good money. I mean, look at Charlie Chaplin. He was ahead of his time, darling, but he had problems too.”
Ted Schoenhaus, publisher of the industry newsletter Toy & Hobby World, which predicted the scandal would doom Pee-wee products: ”Pee-wee was always a little daffy — that’s what kids like. But you can’t do stuff like that and have a toy. Pee-wee had his ride — he made his career and he blew his career. You can’t come back after notoriety like that.”