And now it's gone. CBS had canceled Pee-wee's Playhouse before the Tiger Shark incident because of its expense and a slight decline in the ratings; but after Reubens's mug shot appeared in newspapers across the country, the network decided not to air five scheduled repeats. A video starring Pee-wee that had been showing at the Disney-MGM theme park at Disney World also was spiked. As happened following the airing of a videotape showing Rob Lowe involved in a three-way love affair, Pee-wee jokes have already begun making the rounds (sample: "Did you hear that Pee-wee decided not to hire a lawyer to defend him? He decided to get himself off"), and Reubens's guilt or innocence is being debated beside water coolers in offices across the nation.
The consensus among most observers is that Pee-wee will never be able to come back from this blow, but this will only prove true if Pee-wee fans prove to be as hypocritical as network executives. Just because public masturbation may not be the kind of thing most parents want to encourage in their children doesn't mean that this single incident should serve as an excuse to banish one of the only decent children's performers on the scene. Talk about indecent exposure: Would you rather have your kids watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The Care Bears? Slimer! & the Real Ghostbusters?
So don't become one of those cretins who's kicking Reubens now that he's down. If you're a man, prove your solidarity with Pee-wee by growing a goatee, and if you're a woman, tease your hair until it's as big as Miss Yvonne's. Don't let this talented man burn in public-relations hell for a momentary weakness.