Paul Reubens dies after six year cancer struggle

Fans remember much loved Pee-wee Herman character

by Jennie Kermode

Paul Reubens speaking with attendees at the 2019 Phoenix Fan Fusion at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Paul Reubens speaking with attendees at the 2019 Phoenix Fan Fusion at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Paul Reubens, the versatile yet iconic actor who rose to fame through the character of Pee-wee Herman in the early 1980s, died yesterday as a result of cancer, it has been announced. He was 70 years old.

"Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the past six years," he said in a final statement. "I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you."

The Pee-wee Herman series, which was originally aimed at a general audience, saw the character become massively popular amongst children, resulting the in the big screen outings Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Big Top Pee-wee, plus a further, bigger budget series. Although Reubens' career as a children's entertainer was damaged by pornography charges, which some fans characterised as targeted harassment, the character continues to have a huge influence and be remembered as a favourite part of many people's childhoods.

The Nineties saw Reubens team up with Tim Burton to lend his vocal talents to The Nightmare Before Christmas and play the Penguin's father in Batman Returns, a role which he reprised 24 years later, in a very different way, in Gotham. He also appeared in the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer and popular films including Mystery Men and Blow.

"We...can't thank you enough for the lifetime of laughter," said Mark Hamill, while Jennifer Tilly remembered him as always making her laugh. David Hasselhoff, who studied alongside him at the California Institute of the Arts, recalled him presenting him with The Muppets on his birthday. Tributes are continuing to pour in.

"Pee Wee got his wish to fly," said Steve Martin.

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