November 1st, 2010
08:00 PM ET
Nearly two decades after a public scandal nearly destroyed his career, Pee-wee Herman is back and headlining on Broadway. But Paul Reubens, the man behind the beloved impish character, tells the New York Times it's been a long road to get to the Great White Way.
After helming two popular Pee-wee movies and the successful Saturday morning series "Pee-wee's Playhouse" in the '80s, Reubens made headlines in 1991 when he was arrested for indecent exposure in a Florida movie theater. In 2002, he was arrested again and vintage erotica was seized in his home; he pleaded guilty to possessing obscene materials in 2004.
“I had to go through a horrible time of feeling like I didn’t want to go anywhere or be anywhere, see anybody,” Reubens, 58, says of those dark days. “I, at a certain point, thought, ‘Well, if I just wait long enough, everything will go away, and I won’t be famous anymore and I’ll go back to my total anonymous civilian life.’ ”
Reubens continued to act, taking small film and TV roles, but it wasn't until two years ago that he was approached to put on his slim gray suit and bring Pee-wee back for an L.A. stage show.
“I felt like this was my window, right now. If I didn’t do it now, I would really be too old, and I don’t want to do it with a new face," Reubens tells the Times, adding that he didn't want to resort to plastic surgery.
Following a successful run at L.A.'s Club Nokia earlier this year, "The Pee-wee Herman Show" has made its way to Broadway's Stephen Sondheim Theater, and Reubens says he isn't worried about the New York critics' reviews.
“Honestly, I’m somebody who there’s nothing more horrible left to say to me. You know? There really isn’t," he explains. "And there’s enormous power in that.”
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