For me, Christmas begins when I receive my yearly Christmas card from Paul Reubens. Sometimes Paul writes a personal note. The cards are always charming and even hilarious, and we have easily two dozen of them. This year Barb made a wreath out of some our favorites.
I went crazy over Pee-Wee with his HBO Special, THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW in 1981. I was doing the DICK TRACY strip at the time, and I put Pee-Wee in the strip – he was on television saying, “My name’s Pee-Wee – what’s yours?” And a TV-obsessed villain of mine replied, “Splitscreen!”
Paul Reubens phoned me shortly after that, delighted by the TRACY appearance, and we chatted. Shortly after that, taking time out from a San Diego con, Terry Beatty and I visited Paul in LA – he was in a small one-story brick house filled with funky toys and oddball memorabilia. We watched a version of THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW that the cast had looped with blue improv material. The Pee-Wee Herman suit was on a coat tree. I asked Paul how many of those he had, and he said, “Just the one.” Then, noting my surprised reaction, he added, “Sometimes Pee-Wee doesn’t smell so good up close.”
Paul knew that I was a movie buff, and he was working on getting a Pee-Wee film going. Late at night, we would talk on the phone and (at his request) I would send him Betamax copies of offbeat films like Eddie Cantor’s ROMAN SCANDALS and Russ Meyer’s FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL KILL! He called once every month or two for a couple of years, sometimes when he was off shooting a movie. (One was a MEATBALLS sequel, and I asked him what it was about. He said, “A virgin sees her first dick.” I thought he was kidding till I saw the movie.) Barb and I (and sometimes Terry) would go to live shows of Paul’s, and we’d see him after – we did this in New York and Chicago.
When the Pee-Wee movies and TV show kicked in, Paul changed his phone number and I haven’t heard from him since…except at Christmas. Always a wonderful card, and sometimes a warm personal note. I still love Pee-Wee Herman, and it’s been a nice perk of my minor celebrity that I got to know Paul Reubens a little. It’s very thoughtful and generous of him to send me these fantastic cards every year.
Last week I sent out 14 advance copies of THE WRONG QUARRY. I am cleaned out. I had promised 12 here, planning to keep a couple for myself, but wound up sending them all. I apologize to those I had to turn down. They went the first day.
I do thank those of you who are writing Amazon and other reviews. It’s very important for me and every writer whose work you enjoy.