An unlikely curtain call for Paul Reubens following his 1991 arrest for indecent exposure found the disgraced comedian's Pee-Wee Herman character on stage at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Nearly 10 months after Reubens' July 1991 incident at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Florida, country music's Mother Church came calling. Hats off to Minnie: America Honors Minnie Pearl was filmed at the Opry House in May 1992 for airing on TNN after Pearl's 80th birthday in October. Reba McEntire, Ricky Van Shelton, Glen Campbell and other country stars appeared on the special, as did several comedians inspired by Pearl, including Rosanne Barr and Reubens.
Pearl met Reubens for the first time at Comic Relief in 1986, and the duo remained friends until Pearl's 1996 passing.
"I admire and respect her and consider her a longtime, close friend," Reubens told the Associated Press at the time.
For his final public appearance as Pee-Wee Herman for 15 years, Reubens borrowed a gaudy outfit from Cowboy Curtis and interacted with Nashville's unofficial mascot, Shotgun Red.
It's easy to speculate that some Nashville taste-makers might've been uncomfortable with Reubens' red bow-tie wearing perma-child's involvement in the Pearl tribute. Let's hope that if they spoke ill of Reubens that night, it was countered with a swift "I know you are, but what am I?"
It wasn't Pee-Wee's first country music adventure. Kris Kristofferson co-stars in the 1988 film Big Top Pee-Wee, and who hasn't seen that meme-worthy photo of Reubens and Miss Yvonne dead-ringer Dolly Parton?
Between early '80s HBO special The Pee-Wee Herman Show and his infamous mug shot from 1991, Reubens took the best-known character from his stand-up routine to the big screen (Warner Bros.' Hollywood blockbuster Pee-Wee's Big Adventure featured pre-Batman Tim Burton as director, with music by Danny Elfman) and CBS' Saturday morning lineup with the Emmy award-winning TV series Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
Nostalgia for '80s pop culture opened the door for Pee-Wee Herman, Chairry and Pterri's mainstream return in the 21st century, most notably with a 2010 stage show that made it all the way to Broadway at New York's Stephen Sondheim Theatre (their Opry House, if you think about it). Its box office success opened the door for another Pee-Wee Herman movie in the 2016 Netflix feature film Pee-Wee's Big Holiday, which was directed by Judd Apatow.
Reubens broke into comedy with the Los Angeles troupe the Groundlings, which also featured the late Saturday Night Live star Phil Hartman. Early film roles include the foul-mouthed receptionist (billed as Pee-Wee Herman in the credits) from the 1980 film Cheech & Chong's Next Movie.