Pee-wee Herman Star Paul Reubens Opens Up About 1991 Arrest and Child Porn Scandal
By PopEater Staff Posted Aug 16th 2010 01:26PM
In an in-depth interview with Playboy, the 58-year-old actor defends himself, states how he could have proven in court the masturbation arrest was an error, and describes himself as "more infamous for two misdemeanors" that perhaps any cult hero in Hollywood history.
Reporter Bill Zehme writes of the interview, "Paul Reubens told me repeatedly, as we dug through emotional crevices unimaginable, that he'd never opened himself up this nakedly outside of a shrink's presence." Read on.
Pee-wee Herman has seen a major resurgence lately, with a live stage show receiving glowing reviews in LA and set to come to Broadway this fall, as well as talks of new films possibly produced by Judd Apatow. "Being somebody who has had the opportunity to move through a lot of horrible stuff, I would much rather be in this mode of 'Wow, it really is true! People really do like me' instead of any other negative thing I've dwelled on or built up," Reubens tells Playboy.
But there were much, much darker times. His arrest became the hottest story of its time in 1991, beating out serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer for headlines. "My story led the news for five days in a row. This man killed lots of people, drilled holes in their heads and poured acid into them. And he got the second spot on the news, after me," Reubens says.
The wounds of showbiz companions reducing him to a punchline still sting. Reubens calls TV personalities like Arsenio Hall and Jay Leno people he naively mistook for true friends. "I had already said the allegations weren't true and felt I deserved the benefit of the doubt from them. Make a joke about me but also just say, 'By the way, he's been a friend of our show for many years,'" Reubens says. "I was shocked people would kick me when I was down."
One of the newsiest bits in Playboy's interview is the revelation that Reubens was set to knock the masturbation charges down if the case had gone to trial. "We had ready an expert from the Masters and Johnson Institute who was going to testify that in 30 years of research on masturbation the institute had never found one person who masturbated with his or her nondominant hand. I'm right-handed, and the police report said I was jerking off with my left hand. That would have been the end of the case right there, proof it couldn't have been me."
Reubens ultimately plead no contest to get out of the limelight and move on. But moving on wasn't as easy as he'd hoped. Though Reubens had never been a socialite or paparazzi magnet, he found his home staked out by photographers for months. "To get out, I hid on the floor of somebody's car, under a blanket. Toward the end of those first three months I made an appointment with a therapist and made him come to my house. Sometime during the session he said, 'You know you're in shock, right?' I didn't know. When he said it, I thought, Oh my God! Okay, I get it ... As a result I now know everything there is to know about scandal and shock ... I know how to navigate all this hideous, sh***y, horrible stuff you go through. Which saved my life when scandal number two happened."
The second scandal is handily summarized by Reubens himself:
Now Reubens faces an existence where the two misdemeanors -- misunderstandings both, it seems -- trail him as footnotes on Wikipedia, IMDb, on airplanes or in interactions with complete strangers. "But you know what?" he says. "At this point the footnote is neither here nor there for me. It has no effect on me."The police had been given a false tip in an alleged sting operation and came to my house. They thought the wrong thing, and they were there for the wrong reason, and when that became clear, they should have left. Or they should have taken all my computers like they did but spent three minutes looking through them and realized they were wrong. Hypothetically, even in a less than perfect world, you assume if the police barge into your house and it's the wrong house and they have guns drawn and you hit the ground because you're supposed to be, say, a crack dealer -- and it's obvious you're not -- that they ought to say, 'Oh, okay. Sorry.' But they don't, and they certainly didn't after raiding my home in search of things that just didn't exist. The state eventually realized I had nothing offensive, but the city attorney decided to put me through three years of hell anyway."
It's hard to argue the greater footnote for Paul Reubens will always be the classic character of Pee-wee Herman, a gig he's so associated with 'The Godfather' himself didn't know there was a distinction to be made: "Amazingly, by way of a mutual friend of his son Christian, I learned that even Marlon Brando thought Pee-wee was a real person! He couldn't believe I was an actor who had created that persona -- which is maybe the highest benediction."
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