Comedian/actor Paul Reubens, best known as children’s character Pee Wee Herman, has died after a battle with cancer, according to reports. He was 70.
His death was announced on his official Facebook page on Monday, July 31.
“Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit,” the statement read in part.
Reubens performed as Pee-wee Herman in a stage act that later developed into a major motion film titled Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985.
His CBS children’s TV series “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” won an Emmy Award and led to another film, Big Top Pee-wee, released in 1988.
Reubens became a household name as Pee-wee Herman in the 1980s. He was wildly popular and loved by children everywhere.
ScreenCrush’s Erin Whitney described Pee-wee Herman as a mix between a “feminine boyish persona” and an “effeminate gay man and asexual man-child.”
Reubens’ career as Pee-wee Herman came crashing down on July 20, 1991 when Reubens was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater.
His mugshot was published widely in newspapers and magazines, and his arrest stunned parents who considered him to be a safe children’s character.
Amid the uproar over his arrest, Disney-MGM Studios suspended a video that featured a Pee-wee Herman voiceover. Toys “R” Us removed Pee-wee Herman toys from its stores, and CBS canceled reruns of “Pee-Wee Herman’s Playhouse” on July 29, 1991.
Reubens retreated from the public spotlight for years. He reportedly moved in with his sister and worked odd jobs.
He later re-emerged and began doing interviews and appearing as himself in several films in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2002, while he was working on a film, police executed a search warrant at Reubens’ home and found dozens of child p0rn photographs.
Reubens turned himself in to police and was charged with misdemeanor possession of obscene material improperly depicting a child under the age of 18 in sexual conduct.
Prosecutors dropped his child pornography charges in March 2004 in exchange for Reubens’s guilty plea to a lesser misdemeanor obscenity charge.
Reubens was never married and had no children. He is considered to be a gay icon.