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Bill Evans / Peace Piece


Today, I wrote my cousin Dave today about the death of his close friend Paul Reubens or Pee Wee Herman. Dave met Paul when Paul came to California from back East in the 70s and both were students at the famous Cal Institute of the Arts.  Paul had just moved out to California from the East.

After high school graduation, he attended Plymouth State University for one semester before attending Boston University. After this, he auditioned for acting schools. He was turned down by several including Julliard and twice by Carnegie Mellon before being accepted to the California Institute of the Arts (One of the premier art establishments of our time). Paul moved to California with his acceptance to CIA and worked in restaurant kitchens and as a Fuller Brush salesman to support himself.

After Cal Arts, Dave would go on to be one of the first people to work for George Lucas at Industrial Light & Magic in LA. (Everyone’s dogs were all over the place). Then, in San Rafael, California where I visited him a number of times when they were in the process of creating Star Wars.

Paul took a different path in life than Dave. Many have memories of this path so it doesn’t seem necessary to mention this to readers. He made so many people happy and so many people laugh by his young, silly and goofy self. Inside Pee Wee. Inside us all.

* * *

In spite of all of the cold, digital technology of our times. Paul’s symbols were many but perhaps one of his most iconic was on that tricycle with a bow tie. Some didn’t like Paul. It reminded them of their own young and foolish time in life. When they were “immature.” Some applauded when Paul got into legal trouble.

What I remember most – though – is the warm and caring person I sat next to that night for dinner at the top of the Fairmont Hotel in the Union Square area of San Francisco. One can listen to all the reports and reviews of Paul out there. In that digital atmosphere of the Internet. Or, one can simply go by a personal experience with another person.  

* * * 

This is the way it is with so much of our world today. There are screen voices of life (Hollywood screens, smartphone screens, TV screens, computer screens) that work 24-7 at defining our world for us. Forget that personal experience of living for the moment in this world.  

All of these are like perpetual set designers of our world, our life, always attempting to create a context for us to live in. Always attempting to impose their own context and view of life on us. Creating those “mediums” that “messages” are transmitted within. Demonstrating Marshall McLuhan’s axiom in his 1965 book Understanding Media that “The medium is the message.”

They are all symbols of that old adage about the “Elephant in the room.”  Or, that invisible force behind everything, around, everything in life. The Wizard of Oz before Toto pulled the old green cover back. Life in general before the “cover” is pulled back. All the hidden and invisible things of life that always surround us. Like water around fish.  

* * * 

I return to that special evening at cousin David’s wedding when I sat next to Paul on the top floor of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Francisco. It was a magic time when San Francisco was still the most beautiful city in the world. I knew because I knew had lived and worked in San Francisco during the 70s and 80s. It was a time when the world still had a belief (and need) for in the goofy antics and activities of Pee Wee Herman.

Paul was a warm and open person about his life that night when he sat next to me and we met for the first time. A ray of light in the darkness of a world that didn’t like people like Paul putting this light into darkness.  

I wrote to Dave after Paul’s death yesterday.

“He brought happiness to so many.”

I got the following email back from Dave this evening with (the above) photo of Paul. 

“Yeah, he was very private. But I knew about his cancer which was diagnosed 5 years ago. He kept up with his work and friendships with dignity and grace. Until the very end.”

* * *

My cousin Dave’s close friend Paul Reubens was an enigma for many who only look to the surface of culture for answers. Paul was so far below this surface. In those depths of culture when it was young, foolish, silly, and (as Freud and Jung would say) instinctual. This was the life Paul operated in and refused to be pulled out of. By outside forces, whatever they might be.

Paul was somewhat of a diminutive person. Somewhat like Robert Oppenheimer in the current movie. Like Oppenheimer, a powerful person whose power as a person was never understood. Like the power of that first explosion in the desert in the 40s.

Yet, my meeting with Paul that night, at the top of the Fairmont, is always a special memory for me. One of those events that stick like bubble gum on a show to a past event. There is no possibility of wiping clean the memory of the events. The first meeting with Paul was also with the content of his branding on the Internet.

* * *

Not much more to report from my perspective tonight. I’m doing little above than commenting on the passing of a close friend of my cousin. The above is really little more than this.


The website of Paul (Pee Wee Herman) Reubens.

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