by Abb Jones
The Reelness

Emmy-award winning actor Paul Reubens, the comedian who created the iconic and beloved children’s character Pee-wee Herman, has died of cancer at the age of 70.

Paul Reubens in Pee-wee’s Playhouse

Reubens’ long-time representative said in a statement Monday that Reubens had “bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.” He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.

In a personal statement Reubens wrote prior to his passing, he addressed why he didn’t go public with his cancer battle:

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.” – Paul Reubens

Born in New York and raised in Florida, Reubens began acting an early age, creating a show for his famous Pee-wee Herman man-child character while at The Groundlings Theatre & School in Los Angeles, just after getting passed over in an audition to join Saturday Night Live. Following a wildly popular 1981 special on HBO, Reubens made his big-screen debut in 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, followed by Pee-wee’s Playhouse on CBS the following year.

Featuring Pee-wee interacting with characters such Jambi, Chairry, Pterri the Pterodactyl, Miss Yvonne, Globey, Cowboy Curt and Captain Carl (Phil Hartman), the show won 22 Emmy Awards during its five-year run, two of them for Reubens himself for Outstanding Art Direction/Set Design and Outstanding Graphics/Title Design.

Championed as a silly, subversive celebration of kindness and nonconformity, the show appealed to adults as well as children. Reubens’ career took a years-long hit after he was arrested in 1991 for indecent exposure at an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida, where he grew up, but enjoyed a resurgence in later years.

Reubens is survived by his sister Abby Rubenfeld.

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