Pee-wee's Closet


| 11/11/2013 1:32:00 PM


Tags: Katie Haegele, fashion, Pee-wee Herman, Hilton Als,

Paul Reubens and Cyndi Lauper

Katie Haegele on everyday costumes, dressing from the imagination, and Pee-wee Herman.

This old picture of Paul Reubens with Cyndi Lauper rolled past my tumblr dashboard today, prompting me to reflect on him. Reubens lives, in my mind, in the small category of famous people who I really wish I knew. I am not into hero worship. I just think he and I could be friends.

I once listened to an interview he did with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. (You can listen to or read it here.) They talked about his life, and at one point he recalled moving to Florida from upstate New York when he was around nine years old. When his parents told him they were going to Florida he was all excited, thinking they were moving to the tropics. It was important to him to look the part. His mother took him shopping for school clothes and he picked out things that would suit his new look. (Apparently he had more agency in this arena than I did.) He’d be, like, a beachcomber. That’s what you do in Florida, right? Comb beaches? He showed up for the first day of fourth grade wearing clamdiggers and a nautical-themed shirt, “like a total freak.”

I love this story. Picture it: You’re little Paul Reubens, the future Pee-wee Herman, and you wear costumes instead of clothing because costumes make sense to you as a part of everyday life.

He goes on, in his conversation with Terry Gross, to explain how, even though looking back on it he figures most kids would have bowed to the peer pressure to look a little bit less like a total freak, he really thought his classmates were missing something obvious. “I was sort of like, ‘Don’t you get it? You know, I’m a beachcomber.’” And he kept on wearing his get-ups to school.