Stream On: ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ (has ended—RIP)

By on August 10, 2023

Paul Reubens, the creator of Pee-wee Herman (Pee-wee’s Playhouse), died last week at the age of 70. Born Paul Rubenfeld in Peekskill, New York, his father had been one of the founding pilots of the Israeli Air Force in 1948. Paul went into comedy and then acting, when he developed the character of Pee-wee, and starred in The Pee-wee Herman Show for five months in 1980 at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. It was recorded and broadcast on HBO in 1981, and Paul was hired by the Warner Brothers Film Studio, where he, Phil Hartman (NewsRadio) and a few others wrote Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a comic odyssey loosely inspired by Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.


/Amazon /Streaming /🍅87%🍿79% /Trailer /1985 /PG

“Innocence is a kind of insanity.” (Graham Greene, The Quiet American)

Paul Reubens was born in New York, but grew up in Sarasota, Florida, the winter headquarters for the Ringling Brothers Circus, and so got the chance to live out many a child’s dream: he went to circus camp, and thought that there was where his future lay. As a young man he chose the next best thing, joining the Groundlings, the improvisational sketch comedy troupe in Los Angeles, where he developed the character of a failed stand-up comedian. This would become Pee-wee Herman, the child trapped in a man’s body, the eternal innocent, whose innocence was so transcendent that it affected all around him.

And in his first movie, Pee-wee’s costar was every child’s friend: his bicycle. (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure also encouraged adults to get back in touch with their inner children, on bicycles.) As the movie opens, Pee-wee dreams of winning the Tour de France—in his habitual grey suit, with white shirt and shoes, and red bow-tie, on his beloved red and white 1953 Schwinn DX Cruiser.

His house, which he shares with his little dog Speck, is dreamlike in itself—or hallucinogenic—tomato, tomahto. It’s filled with Rube-Goldberg-esque gizmos that help him get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. in the most complicated and fun ways. Outside, the yard is a riot of Native American Indian statues with a totem pole and a tipi, plus livestock, a Santa Claus and a space ship.

Two big names in Hollywood got their start on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure: Tim Burton, animator, storyboard artist, graphic designer, art director, and concept artist at Walt Disney Productions, had been fired for spending the company’s resources on a short film that was too dark and scary for children to see—his 1984 animated featurette Frankenweenie. Paul Reubens was so impressed by it that he hired Burton to direct the Big Adventure, beginning a stellar career. Oingo-Boingo bandleader Danny Elfman sent Reubens a demo cassette of original music and was hired to score the film, the first of more than a hundred, including nineteen for Tim Burton. The film—and worldview—created by these three newcomers, Reubens, Burton and Elfman, turned out so iconic that CBS-TV approached Reubens to produce a kids’ show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, that itself quickly acquired a cult of fans.

When Pee-wee loses his beloved bicycle to theft, he begins an odyssey to recover it that takes him to the Alamo in Texas, with encounters at a truck stop (taken there by a truck-driving ghost), a biker’s bar (this time, motorcyclists—and mean ones at that!), a rodeo and the Alamo, during which he sees his bike on TV being used as a prop at Warner Brothers studio in Burbank.

Pee-wee’s interactions with everyone turn out positively; this flamboyant, frenetic little man who moves like Charlie Chaplin and speaks in strangled childlike exclamations brings out the best in everyone. This was Pee-wee’s enduring message, that however weird you might feel, just go with it, and everything will be alright—to thine own self be true. The motorcycle gang, for example, rallies around Pee-wee and they give him a Harley-Davidson chopper to take him on his quest (which he crashes).

In Burbank, Pee-wee’s story is picked up by Warner Brothers for a feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, starring James Brolin as Pee-wee and Morgan Fairchild as his girlfriend, a movie in the movie that ramps up the crazy even more (Pee-wee himself gets a cameo as a bellhop) in a closed loop of a story that cemented Pee-wee’s place among Hollywood’s greats.

In 1991 Reubens, no longer innocent, was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota. His arrest set off a chain reaction of national media attention, though he received support from people in the entertainment industry—and $40 from one of the arresting officers, a fan, so he could make bail. In 1999, as Paul Reubens, he was back, taking cameo parts in films and TV shows, like 30 Rock, all apparently forgiven. He said, in an interview, “I don’t know why they still love me, but you could have worse problems, right?”

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers. Columns are archived and updated when necessary on Substack.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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