Oct 16, 2017

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."


  1. I thought the King of Comedy was supposed to be one of those drunk, creepy guys who are always hanging around parks and playgrounds

  2. The drunk King of Cartoons was Gilbert Lewis. After the first season, he was replaced by William H. Marshall, who played him sober.

    1. I don't remember him being drunk. I do remember him doing a bad Brian Blessed. Or is that another show?

    2. His voice was slurred, he stumbled around, he could hardly find the film projector. Definitely drunk or playing a drunk. And his leer was definitely creepy. He scared me even as an adult.

  3. I just found out that the 1930's "Betty Boop" singer of the theme song was none other than "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Cyndi Lauper.

  4. I remember the huge scandal about him being caught in a porno theater, as if he doesn't have a life outside of a gender-bending acid trip. I hadn't heard of the CP.

    Were they all Fleischer cartoons? I ask because I know a guy who worked in animation, and Max Fleischer was a big influence of his.

    (Which brings us into Bendy and the Ink Machine, an indie horror game inspired by Fleischer's rivalry with Disney. And Cuphead, another homage to the Golden Age of Animation.)

    1. There were some Fleischer cartoons, and a lot of other weird public-domain cartoons from the 1930s.


No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...