Sic transit gloria, Pee-Wee.
One week ago, actor Paul Reubens — best known for his bliss-inducing portrayal of 1980s man-child Pee-Wee Herman — was charged with one misdemeanor count of possessing materials depicting children engaged in sexual conduct.
And he was in talented company. His acquaintance, the great character actor Jeffrey Jones, also a 1980s film mainstay, was charged with hiring a 14-year-old boy to pose for sexually explicit photos — a felony — as well as misdemeanor possession of child pornography. If you don’t know the name, he played Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the modern handbook of juvenile delinquency.
Their actions speak for themselves. That said, I am not a fan of public shaming. That is to say, I don’t like hearing about celebrities’ private lives at all. It’s really none of my business who’s back in rehab and who’s trying to get back in rehab. The fact that I know, and that it is assumed that I am entitled to know, about Jones’ and Reubens’ private indiscretions is what bothers me most about their private indiscretions. Don’t tell me what Catholic bishop did what to whose altar boy, just as long as he’s not getting anywhere near anyone’s faith again.
The difference between the recent child sex scandals in the Catholic Church and this new revelation about these two comedians, is — well, just reread that sentence. I never put my faith in Pee-Wee. I watched him religiously, to be sure. But the Playhouse was not my temple. I mean — it’s just TV. If you can’t separate TV from reality and finding out that some TV star is a real person blows your little mind, then that’s your own problem. Go talk to your parents.
Wait, scratch that. If you can’t separate TV from reality, then it was probably your parents who screwed you up in the first place. On second thought, go talk to your priest — Oh — No, actually, scratch that too.
To my 9-year-old mind, the only thing scarring about Paul Reubens’ 1991 arrest for public exposure in a Florida adult theater was the subsequent cancellation of the Playhouse. The past 11 years, I’ve kept a pretty close tab on Paul Reubens, considering all the other shit I’ve had to get done. Like puberty, for instance. Still, I’ve followed Reubens’ career because I’ve always thought him capable of making a glorious comeback, perhaps even bringing back Pee-Wee.
Now that seems even more unlikely, with Paul Reubens back where he was in 1991 — in the outhouse, looking at the Playhouse from afar. I bet he misses that cool automatic breakfast machine about now. I sympathize. I used to obsess over constructing and maintaining one of those of my very own in my home. GOD, that would have been the BEST!
Though I did consider writing the rest of the column on the specific dimensions of my breakfast machine (I’d even install a fireman’s pole down from my bedroom and everything), there are certain unsettling facts surrounding this new non-scandal that I now feel compelled to bring to light.
It is my opinion that the arrests of Paul Reubens and Jeffrey Jones are the results of a wide-ranging and deeply bad conspiracy. (I would call it a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” to quote Hillary Clinton, but then again, the right wing has so much power now that they don’t have to waste their time sneaking around behind anyone’s back. So they’re out.)
The third point in this criminal constellation is none other than Winona Ryder. Earlier this month, the former “It” girl was convicted on two of three felony counts of theft and vandalism, following a surprisingly inexpensive visit to Saks Fifth Avenue one afternoon last December. According to Winona (real last name Horowitz — no joke), she was researching a part. Yeah. And I killed my uncle because I’m playing Hamlet. No, seriously. That’s why I did it.
What, then, is the connection between Reubens, Jones and Ryder? See if you can follow me around the room on this one.
Paul Reubens stars in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985. Later, he cameos in “Batman Returns.” Jeffrey Jones stars in “Beetlejuice” in 1988, alongside none other than Wy-no-na. (He also makes a cameo in “Sleepy Hollow” in 1999.) Winona enjoys working on “Beetlejuice” so much, she stars in “Edward Scissorhands” in 1990. Dizzy yet, hot shot?
I call it: The Tim Burton Connection. Why are these celebrities, all of whom gained fame (indeed, who had some of their best roles) in films of this one director, all falling upon hard times at exactly the same time? What, exactly, is happening to the stars of Tim Burton? I fear that some great dark force is winding its way through the cast lists of Burton’s films, wreaking public havoc on the lives of these B-list celebrities. Perhaps it’s the Pope himself pulling the strings, scheming to deflect the hideous scandal in his church by setting up hapless comedians in compromising positions.
Maybe that was just the plot of “Godfather III.”
What next? Will it be uncovered that Johnny Depp (a.k.a Ed Wood Scissorhands) trades designer babies on the black market? Or will the feds finally get a warrant allowing them access to Michael Keaton’s (Beetlejuice and Batman) sweatshop/rumpus room? What will become of Winona and Johnny’s Scissorhands co-star, poor Anthony Michael Hall? Moreover, what DID become of Anthony Michael Hall?
If you’re still reading this column, then I thank and pity you. Because I wrote it as a call for help to one man — the ONLY man who can save Tim Burton now — one of his own stars. He is the one man completely invincible to all negative press: the Joker himself, Jack. Nothing touches Jack. Not even the Pope.
Mr. Nicholson, if you’re reading, please help your co-stars before it’s too late, before all their good names have been besmeared. Everyone makes mistakes, Mr. Nicholson. Even you.
That’s right, I saw “The Two Jakes.” Don’t make me use it against you.
Greg Yolen plans on stuffing himself inside a turkey this Thanksgiving for the sake of Irony.