Los Angeles, Jul 31 (EFE).- US comic Paul Reubens, whose alter ego – madcap man-child Pee-wee Herman – was a sensation on television and in films during the 1980s, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer in Los Angeles. He was 70.
He was 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,” according to a statement released by his estate on the social networks on Monday.
“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,” the statement said, adding that “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.”
The statement was accompanied by some of Reubens’ final words in which he apologized for not having made public the fact that he had been battling cancer for the past six years and thanking his fans for their “love and respect.”
Reubens, born in New York in 1952, created the Pee-wee Herman character in 1978 when he was a member of the comic team The Groundlings, and the character soon achieved great popularity in Los Angeles and later throughout the United States.
The NBC talk show “Late Night With David Letterman” (1982) was the first showcase for Reubens to bring his extravagant Pee-wee character to television, with his signature gray suit seemingly a size too small, red bow tie and constant simpering and shy smile that delighted both children and adults.
The character became so popular that starting in 1984 Reubens began to go on tour in the US, performing at venues including New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Between 1986 and 1991, Reubens presented “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” a colorful children’s show in which he surrounded himself with toys and talking characters that children loved. The show ran for five seasons, airing more than 45 episodes and winning 22 Emmy Awards.
Reubens starred as Pee-wee in a the films “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985) and “Big Top Pee-wee,” directed by Tim Burton and Randal Kleiser, respectively.
His career kept skyrocketing until 1991, when he was arrested for “indecent exposure” after being found masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, the central Florida city where he grew up and where X-rated theaters were legal but public masturbation constituted – and still constitutes – a crime.
After that, Reubens’ police mug shot and the details of the charges against him were published by dozens of media outlets and his image plunged so far and so fast that CBS broke its contractual relationship with him and pulled “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” off the air.
The huge Toys R Us toystore chain removed the Pee-wee dolls from its shelves and it appeared that Reubens’s career as a comic was finished.
Reubens pleaded no contest to the indecent exposure charge, but in 2001 police raided his home and reportedly found child sex abuse material, a case which was dropped in 2004 when he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. In 2002, the actor turned himself in on a misdemeanor charge of possessing materials depicting children under the age of 18 engaged in sexual conduct.
After the child sex abuse material case was settled, Reubens spoke out about the allegations, maintaining his innocence.
Since then, he tried unsuccessfully to revive his career by playing supporting roles in films such as “Batman Returns” (1992), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992) and in 2015 even produced a third film based on his favorite comic character.