Pee-wee Herman’s quick trip to San Antonio left a lasting impression

Paul Reubens, who created and portrayed the character, died on Sunday.

By Michael MarksAugust 1, 2023 12:56 pm, ,

After getting bucked off a bull at a San Antonio rodeo, Pee-wee Herman is left in a daze.

The scene from the 1985 cult classic “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” then features a group of cowboys huddled around the quirky man-child in a bowtie. Pee-wee can’t remember his name, or even where he’s from.

“Can’t you remember anything?” asks one of the cowboys.

“I remember… the Alamo,” Pee-wee replies, prompting cheers from the assembled cowpunchers.

The exchange forever endeared Pee-wee to the Alamo City. But the man behind the character, Paul Reubens, recently died from cancer at the age of 70.

Kiko Martinez, a San Antonio-based film critic, spoke to Texas Standard about Reubens and his ties to Texas. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: It’s hard to describe Pee-wee Herman for those who haven’t actually seen the character. He was known for being this sort of bizarre manchild-like character with this goofy laugh and a bow tie. I understand you got a chance to meet and talk to Paul Reubens, though, is that right?

Kiko Martinez: That’s right. Back in 2016, he was at the South by Southwest Film Festival. I was very interested in knowing more about his trip to San Antonio back in the day when they made the movie, when they originally made the first movie. It was great being able to talk to him about that and how San Antonio tied into everything.

» RELATED: We asked Pee-Wee Herman about the Alamo. Here’s what he said.

I presume he was not in character, right? I mean, he was just being Paul Reubens.

He was just being Paul Reubens at that point. But back in the 1980s, I mean, everywhere you go, he would be in character – whether it was on the Letterman show or somewhere on the red carpet. He was always in character.

I think that’s was something that everybody enjoyed about him the most, is that he embraced that side of him.

You talk about that singular character. I had read that some comedians were sort of frustrated with Paul Reubens, but they knew his depth of talent and the fact that he chose to focus on this one character. I think Phil Hartman, who used to be one of the regulars on SNL, used to express frustration, sort of wishing that he wouldn’t put all of his energy into the Pee-wee Herman character. But there was something about that character that struck a chord with so many people. And I wonder what you think that was.

You know, like many kids of the eighties, I grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and I remember, you know, he wasn’t doing anything much different than the characters on Sesame Street. He was entertaining kids with puppets and different human characters. He was educating kids about values. He was just doing it in a wackier sort of way.

I think that’s what he captured and the magic of kids and that childlike enjoyment and being able to reach not only kids, but their parents. When you’re able to find something to sit down and watch as a family, I think that was very special.

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Could you describe the relationship that some San Antonians have with this movie?

It’s just one of those movies like you mentioned, you use the word “bizarre.” I would say it was wacky, was fun.

Very few times we get a chance to represent San Antonio in Hollywood. So to see a movie that only even gives us 20 seconds – if you’re not familiar, there’s only 20 seconds of actual San Antonio in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” He runs into the Alamo for 10 seconds, and then he runs out of the Alamo for 10 seconds. And that’s it –t hat’s all you get from San Antonio.

For some reason, it just stuck. It’s one of those things where we claimed it and we will never let go it.

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