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I first visited Los Angeles in 1988.  I had fallen in love with a comedian during his show the year before in Atlanta.  While I was here visiting him, we ended up on a movie lot to see some friends of his who were taping a show and while he was doing that I wandered to the stage next door where they were taping PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.

The sign on the door read “PRIVATE -- No one allowed” and so I knocked.  I was from Georgia and to me that sign only confirmed that what was going on in there was terribly important.  An assistant with a headset came to the door and looked me up and down. 

 

“I saw Pee Wee's Big Adventure twelve times in the first fourteen days it was playing.  And each time I took a new group of people with me,” I told her.

She pushed the door open for me and moved back so I could come in.  “Be very quiet,” she said, “And don't touch anything.” 

The stage was huge and dim and in the deepest corner of the room was the circular purple velvet sofa and on it a life-sized Pee Wee Herman.  It was like walking into a dream.  It was all there.  Trying to stay out of the way, I sat down on the surreal sofa and watched the actors on the set.  Where was Pee-Wee?  There weren't as many people as I'd imagined but there were even more toys.  Toys everywhere.  I turned to look at the actual-sized Pee Wee beside me on the sofa.  It made me smile.  And he smiled back.  It was him, the living, breathing character...Pee Wee Herman right there beside me.  How long had I been sitting there before I realized? 

They let me stay until I was ready to leave.  No one said a word -- I just took it all in and then I left.  Some people spend a lifetime in LA waiting on one dream to come true. 

By the next time I saw Paul Reubens, I had married the comedian and moved to LA and gotten a job in International Marketing at Paramount Pictures.  There were always invitations to movie premieres, but I almost never went because there just doesn't seem to be much being made that's really interesting anymore.  Then I got the invitation to Tim Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW.  Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, Christopher Walken -- these are the ones you wait for.  And there in the lobby of Grauman's Chinese Theater was an old-fashioned popcorn machine, and standing beside it all alone, Paul Reubens, and I thought how perfect it was to find him again, eleven years later, standing next to a circus-like popcorn maker.  Again I smiled, and again he smiled back.  This time I even spoke. 

“Oh, hey.”

“Hey,” he said and I know he could tell it meant something to me.

Later that year I was at the Antique Mall in the Farmer's Market on Fairfax, a kind of historical Hollywood place, and I found a Pee-Wee Herman doll, the kind where you pull the cord in the back and then “I know you are but what am I” blasts all over the store.  I was in line with it and admiring it and thinking about all that he created and wishing that the real world was a little more like that…a place where all it took to make us smile was a package of trick gum or a shiny red bike, and the girl in front of me noticed and said, “Who's it for -- the doll?” 

I said, “Oh, it's for me -- don't you love him”

And she said, “Do you?” 

I don't remember if I even answered because it was obvious, and then she said, “I'm Paul's assistant, and I know he would want to send you a Christmas card -- why don't you write down your address.  The card came in December, and I don't know if he signed it himself or not but I kept it on the wall for a few years. 

Then one day I ran down the hill from my apartment on Hollywood Boulevard to Greenblatt's, the Jewish deli on Sunset that kept me fed for about ten years, and as I was going back to my car, there he was in the parking lot a couple spaces over, getting out of his car, and I thought to just walk over and tell him all that I've been thinking about him for these fifteen years, and how there may not be but seven original ideas in the world but that I'd take his ideas and dreams and concoctions and creations any day over most everyone else's.  I wanted to tell him to please make something else for us and to be encouraged because he is still loved and admired even when the spotlight swings to someone else, as it does all the time in this town, that there's still a glow around him.  But in the end, I just yelled, “You rock,” out the window of my car, like an idiot.  And he smiled and waved.  And I haven't seen him since, but I'm on the lookout…waiting and watching, and I know that it'll be good, whenever and whatever it is…

The world is better for having Paul Reubens in it.  And we are fortunate to have been born during his lifetime. 

 

--by Delight Underwood



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