Pee-wee Herman seeks absolution from inconvenienced ticket buyers
When a celebrity has to apologize to the public, the protocol in Hollywood is to issue a statement through a publicist and be done with it. But Pee-wee Herman has decided to take his apology directly to his fans -- eight times a week.
The bow-tied performer has been meeting with devotees at the Club Nokia in downtown L.A., where his new stage production "The Pee-wee Herman Show" opened last week. Herman, whose real name is Paul Reubens, stated in October that he wanted to meet with ticket holders after each performance to apologize for changing the date and venue for his comeback show.
Fans of Herman expressed anger and frustration late last year when show organizers delayed the opening day from November to January and changed venues from the Music Box @ Fonda in Hollywood to the larger Club Nokia.
Some out-of-town ticket holders complained about canceled airplane and hotel reservations. Others balked at the new price structure at Club Nokia, which some said forced them to pay more for comparable seats.
On Sunday, more than 100 ticket holders stuck around after the matinee performance for the talk-back. Fans who had exchanged their tickets from the Music Box were given orange wristbands to gain admittance to the closed event.
Herman explained some of the reasons for the show's change of venue. "One rumor was that it was my greed," the actor said. "But the deal at the Music Box was that we would play only three or four days a week because they had booked music groups at the same time. Here, we never have to leave."
The performer said his conception for the new show kept changing and eventually outgrew the Music Box. He said the price tag for the show is about $2 million, while the original version that debuted in L.A. in the '80s -- and helped to launch his film and TV career -- cost only several thousands of dollars.
With a microphone in hand, Herman circulated talk-show-style among his fans, alternating unpredictably between the Pee-wee persona and Reubens.
Attendees appeared to be in a forgiving mood, showering the star with praise and questions about the future of the stage production.
"Please take this show to Vegas," one said.
"Have you heard the rumors?" replied Herman. "Maybe you heard what I told the crowd last night."
Fans also took the opportunity to take digital photographs of the star. "Did you just take a picture of my butt?" Herman asked one fan. "Is that why you're laughing? I'm very paranoid."
Herman said one of the reasons for producing the show was to help jump-start a couple of Pee-wee movie projects that he has been trying unsuccessfully to get made. "They've remade everything from the '80s except me," he deadpanned.
A few fans showed their adoration by attending the event dressed as Pee-wee in a tight gray suit, red bow-tie and white loafers.
Peter Flores, of Redlands, said he purchased his Pee-wee outfit at a Salvation Army store, though he said had to spray-paint his dress shoes white.
"I was really pleased how casual Pee-wee was, to be able to talk to his fans like that," Flores said after the talk-back.
Kim Johnson, 34, traveled from Cleveland to see the show. At first she wasn't sure she would exchange her tickets because of the unpredictable winter weather in the Midwest. But she ended up attending Sunday's matinee performance with her son, Gavin, who wore a miniature Pee-wee outfit.
"It's a ring-bearer suit that's two sizes too small," said his mother.
-- David Ng
Photos: Pee-wee Herman talks to fans after Sunday's matinee performance. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times