Beloved actor and comedian Paul Reubens, best known for his role as Pee-wee Herman, died last month at the age of 70 from acute myelogenous leukemia, according to his representative. Acute myelogenous leukemia is a common form of acute leukemia in adults, affecting the blood and bone marrow. Reubens had privately battled cancer for years, displaying his trademark tenacity and wit in his fight. In a statement released after his death, his representative praised Reubens as an iconic American actor, comedian, writer, and producer, whose character Pee-wee Herman brought joy to generations of fans with his positivity and whimsy. Reubens' death came as a shock to many, as he had kept his health struggles out of the public eye. In a heartfelt message shared on his social media pages, Reubens apologized for not going public with his health battles and expressed his love and gratitude for his fans.
In addition to his battle with leukemia, Reubens was also battling metastatic lung cancer, according to his death certificate. Acute hypoxic respiratory failure was listed as the immediate cause of his death. This condition occurs when the lungs cannot release enough oxygen into the blood, preventing the organs from functioning properly. Reubens' death certificate revealed that he had been dealing with this respiratory failure as a result of his cancer battles.
Reubens' career soared after creating the character of Pee-wee Herman and joining the Los Angeles improv troupe The Groundlings in the late 1970s. He debuted "The Pee-wee Herman Show" in 1981 at the Roxy Theater, performing for both children and adults. The show gained immense popularity and was eventually aired as a special on HBO, leading to Warner Bros.' interest in creating a Pee-wee movie. This resulted in the 1985 hit film "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," directed by Tim Burton and grossing over $40 million. Reubens reprised his role in the 1988 sequel "Big Top Pee-wee," which was not as successful critically or commercially.
In 1986, Reubens launched the highly acclaimed CBS live-action children's television show "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which ran for five seasons and won an impressive 22 Emmy Awards. Reubens himself received 14 Emmy nominations, winning two. Unfortunately, Reubens' career took a significant blow in 1991 when he was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater. The incident led to severe scrutiny and repercussions, including the removal of Pee-wee Herman toys from stores and the cancellation of his studio tour.
Reubens faced further legal trouble in 2002 when he was arrested on charges of possessing obscene material. Although the charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor, Reubens had to register his address with the sheriff's office for three years and was restricted from being around children without parental or guardian permission.
Despite these setbacks, Reubens made a successful comeback in 2010 with his live stage show "The Pee-wee Herman Show," which later moved to Broadway and aired as an HBO special. He also starred alongside Joe Manganiello in the Judd Apatow-produced Netflix movie "Pee-wee's Big Holiday" in 2016. Reubens made appearances in various television shows and movies, including "30 Rock," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Gotham," "The Blacklist," and "What We Do in the Shadows."
Reubens will be laid to rest in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery after being cremated. In his posthumous statement, he requested that expressions of sympathy be made in honor of his late parents to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations involved in dementia and Alzheimer's care, support, and research.
The loss of Paul Reubens has left a void in the comedy world, but his legacy as Pee-wee Herman will forever be cherished by fans of all ages. His positive and whimsical character brought laughter and joy to millions, and his contributions to the entertainment industry will be remembered for years to come.
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