Pee-Wee Herman: From Oneonta, New York to Hollywood
Oneonta is known for its tight-knit community and charming Main Street. However, what many people may not know is that Oneonta is also the early home of one of Hollywood's most iconic and eccentric actors - Paul Reubens, famously known as Pee-wee Herman.
Paul Reubens was born on August 27, 1952, as Paul Rubenfeld in Peekskill, New York but as a small child, his family moved to Oneonta. Reubens' parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld lived in Oneonta from 1957 to 1960 before relocating to Sarasota, Florida. During his time in Oneonta, Reubens attended kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
As a small child living in Oneonta, Rubenfeld, who changed his last name professionally to Reubens, developed a vibrant imagination and a knack for entertaining others. He would often captivate his family and friends with his witty humor, creative antics, and unique characters.
Oneonta also played a small role in Reubens' early exposure to the world of show business as he and his sister, Abby, were selected to be in the Peanut Gallery on "The Howdy Doody Show." Little did anyone know that one day that same little boy would become a TV actor known by millions.
As Reubens grew older, he set his sights on pursuing a career in entertainment, venturing to Los Angeles, seeking opportunities to bring his imaginative creations to a broader audience. It was there that he would develop his most iconic character - Pee-wee Herman.
Pee-wee Herman, with his red bowtie, signature laugh, and childlike wonder, became a cultural phenomenon. Reubens' portrayal of this quirky character catapulted him to stardom and cemented his status as an accomplished actor and comedian. However, amidst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Oneonta remained a significant part of Reuben's identity.
Reubens always maintained a deep appreciation for his roots in Oneonta. He often recalled the supportive community that encouraged his pursuit of the performing arts, and the memories made in the town that nurtured his passion.
Despite his success, Reubens faced personal and legal challenges. In 1991, he was arrested for indecent exposure in a Florida adult theater. The resulting scandal and negative publicity cast a shadow over his work and jeopardized his standing in the entertainment industry. As a result, Pee-wee Herman was put on hold, and Reubens took a step back from the spotlight for some time.
More trouble followed Reubens in 2001 when he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of child pornography however the allegation was reduced to an obscenity charge and Reubens was given three years probation.
Today, as the world remembers the life of comedic genius Paul Reubens who died on Sunday, July 30, it's important to remember the formative years he spent in Oneonta. It was in this quaint town that he discovered his love for entertainment and laid the foundation for a remarkable career in show business.