Aug 4, 2015

Pee-Wee's Playhouse

When I was living in West Hollywood in the 1980s, we watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Saturday morning, but we stayed away from children's tv.  It was crowded with insipid child versions of adult characters -- The Muppet Babies, The Flintstone Kids -- or insufferably cute furry animals -- Wuzzles, Kissyfur, Care Bears, Gummi Bears.  


But there was one "must see" exception.  At 11:00, every household in West Hollywood watched Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986-90).  It was a surreal, live action series hosted by the androgynous Pinkie Lane lookalike Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), who would invite various live and puppet characters to play in his playhouse.

It was the gayest show on television.

1. A hunky speedo-clad lifeguard named Tito.


2. Drag queens Ms. Yvonne (right) and Mrs. Steve (left).  They both appeared at the 1990 AIDS Walk, and we all assumed that Mrs. Steve was a real drag queen, played by a male actor; I only discovered that she was played by a woman while researching this blog post. .

3. The extraordinarily feminine Jambi the Genie, who lived in a drag queen's jewelry box and lisped "Wish?  Did somebody say wish?"  Everyone in West Hollywood spend the afternoon saying: Swish?  Did somebody say swish?"







4. Laurence Fishburn as Pee-wee's best friend Cowboy Curtis, who informed us that he slept nude, and joked about his penis size: "You know what they say about big feet -- big boots!"

5. The creepy, leering, obviously drunk King of Cartoons, who stumbled across the room and slurred "Let the cartoon begin." And the creepy 1930s cartoon that followed.  Ok, he wasn't gay-coded, but who puts a guy who's drunk, or pretending to be, on a kids' program?

6. A hunky soccer player named Ricardo.

The writers, producers, directors, and cast have always claimed complete ignorance of any gay-coded characters or gay-subtexts.  In fact, according to Inside Pee-wee's Playhouseby Caseen Gaines, Paul Reubens was homophobic -- if he had known about any subtext, "he would have put a stop to it."

Or maybe he was just closeted.  Paul Reubens has consistently refused to comment on his sexual identity, although when he was arrested for allegedly possessing child pornography in 2002, he stated that he was a collector of muscle magazines and "vintage homosexual erotica."