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Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, defends public masturbation arrest in Playboy interview

In November, Pee-wee’s Playhouse will open for business on Broadway, and Paul Reubens will have his chance to make his comeback.

But before that can happen, the embattled entertainer has decided, one last time, to defend his biggest disgrace: a public masturbation charge in November of 1991, where Reubens was allegedly caught, pee-wee in hand, in an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Florida. Reubens pled no contest to avoid a trial, but always maintained his innocence.

“Had we gone to trial, we had ready an expert from the Masters and Johnson Institute who was going to testify that in 30 years of research on masturbation the institute had never found one person who masturbated with his or her nondominant hand. I’m right-handed, and the police report said I was jerking off with my left hand. That would have been the end of the case right there, proof it couldn’t have been me,” Reubens said in an interview with Playboy.

His case was solid, but the no contest plea robbed Reubens of a chance to prove his innocence in court. As a result, his career was dealt a significant blow. He dominated the headlines for days on end, a twist that Reubens always thought was outlandish given that Jeffrey Dahmer’s case was breaking at the same time.

“This man killed lots of people, drilled holes in their heads and poured acid into them. And he got the second spot on the news, after me,” Reubens remarked to Playboy. “Suddenly I went straight from being just Pee-wee Herman to that scary mug shot.”

Endorsement deals and tie-ins were severed, and while Reubens did not fade entirely from the spotlight – he had supporting roles in the superhero farce “Mystery Men,” the drug drama “Blow,” and the short-lived TV darling “Pushing Daisies” – he never enjoyed Pee-wee level fame again. A second arrest, for child pornography possession in 2001, also didn’t help (Reubens pled not guilty and charges were eventually dropped).

But things appear to be finally looking up for Reubens, who has enjoyed renewed success as Pee-wee, and got a particularly satisfying kick out of “The Pee-wee Herman Show’s” Los Angeles run.

“Every night before I walked onstage, the curtains opened on the ‘Playhouse’ set — nobody had ever seen it other than on TV — and I could feel the oxygen being sucked out of the theatre by the gasp. There’d be this ‘Holy s–t, there’s the Playhouse!'” Reubens said.

And, even with success again knocking at the door, Reubens wouldn’t trade his tumultuous past for all the jewels in Jambi’s box.

“Everything happened for a reason—with insight and knowledge and growth involved,” Reubens told Playboy. “It is a journey, and I will not accept a s–ty ending.”

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