8bef96a927f94cabc282991742be81e1--pee-wee-herman-entertainment-weekly

I am neither judge, nor jury, nor executioner…but I know what is fair. Today I will apply that fairness to the first case in our series. I should note my legal expertise are largely drawn from overheard bus conversations and works of fiction, but I feel my instincts will make up for any gap in formal education.

Pee-wee Herman losing his career for jerking off in a porno theater

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In 1991, Paul Rubens, better known as  Pee-wee Herman, was arrested and cited for public exposure after being caught jerking off in a porno theater. In the backlash from this incident his show was cancelled, his toys pulled from the shelves, and his status as beloved children’s entertainer was irreparably sullied. He was wrong, but also wronged much wronger than his wrong required.

I’m have my limits, if he forced his way into a library puppet show and befouled the marionettes, by all means drive him into the wild never to return. However, getting cited for jerking off in a porno theater is like getting thrown out of a soup restaurant for slurping. Yes, it is weird and unpalatable, but well within the conventions of the establishment. I’m not going to rule out the presence of a 16mm film buff reviewing the flic for his blog, but I feel like most of the attendees understood the visceral nature of this sort of theater experience.

But that is an emotional argument on my part, let us lay out the facts of the case (via the smoking gun article ) and litigate accordingly.

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Pee-wee–actually Paul Reubens–was collared on July 26, 1991 after an undercover cop spotted him twice exposing himself inside the South Trail Cinema, Sarasota County’s only adult theater. According to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report, a detective watched as Reubens “exposed penis with left hand” and began to “masterbate” at 8:35 PM (and then again 10 minutes later).

I realize that the police are not on trial here, but I have a couple of issues:

Firstly, why did the cops not arrest him after the first wank? Is there a two strike policy in Florida, or did he have to wait for his armed backup to arrive before he made the collar?

Secondly, and more important, why is the vice squad sending deep cover operatives into the porno theater to bust discrete wankers[1]? This is Florida, I guarantee you there is a man selling human toes from a stolen ice-cream truck within ten blocks of that theater, why is swamp Donny Brasco wasting his day making the sole porno theater in town marginally less skeevy?

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I suspect that having the slicked backed hair and goatee of a trailer park pedophile didn’t help his case. Also, the public support of his fellow celebrities was uninspiring at the time and has aged exceedingly poorly.

 “Whatever he may have done,” Bill Cosby told People magazine, “he hasn’t done that to children.”

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I mean, even without modern context, that is not exactly a rallying cry. With modern context, that is more veiled confession than friendly support…and perhaps the least helpful character witness in the history of litigation.

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More helpful to his cause was a bit of background information toward the end of the article that I believe completely exculpates him

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The star of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” a graduate of Sarasota High School, was in town visiting his parents.

 He was in town visiting his parents, presumably in a tiny house with thin walls, in the time before internet pornography. What other option did he have? Was he supposed to shimmy into a rusty culvert to pleasure himself to a stolen sears catalog? Or does he go to the porno theater, far from his parents judgement, to try and crank out a quick one to clear his mind before dinner. That is the act of a considerate son and community leader, who was persecuted by a corrupt police force with bizarre quotas. The secret word is martyr, let us scream together.

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[1] And you know at least one of those cops got too deep and couldn’t come back to the force. Lived out his days as a trench coated ghost haunting the worlds peep shows and erotic book stores.