Flown the coop: The Lavender Tube on Paul Reubens, Christian Cooper and 'Only Murders'

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday August 8, 2023
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Paul Reubens in 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' (photo: Warner Bros)
Paul Reubens in 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' (photo: Warner Bros)

When we were young and full of wildness, Paul Reubens' CBS Saturday morning children's series, "Pee-wee's Playhouse," was one of those TV shows we were told was for kids, but every queer adult we knew was a devotee. When Paul Reubens died suddenly on July 30 after a secret battle with cancer, we were shocked and saddened.

In his tight gray suits and red bow tie, with his vocal range from falsetto to baritone, Pee-wee Herman was an iconic comedic figure for us and other Gen Xers and late Boomers in the 1980s. While the character (and Reubens himself) were not gay, Pee-wee had such queer nerd vibes that we all were mesmerized by him.

Paul Reubens (photo: Wikipedia)  

I tweeted some bits from Reubens' stellar comedy cache—including when he hosted "SNL" in 1985 after the wild success of the film he wrote and Tim Burton directed, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."

Reubens did his whole "SNL" opening monologue completely in character. It was hilarious and vintage Pee-wee. At the end he put on The Big Shoes and did a dance across the stage and we were laughing and crying at the same time.

I also tweeted an excerpt from "Pee-wee's Playhouse" where Pee-wee calls the office from a phone booth and Dottie answers. She asks where he is and he tells her "Texas." When she seems disbelieving, he says, "I'll prove it to you!"

Pee-wee steps out of the booth and sings loudly, "The stars at night, are big and bright!" Suddenly out of nowhere a half dozen men in 10-gallon hats sing the refrain, "Deep in the heart of Texas."

It will never not be priceless.

Reubens began his comedy career as a member of the historic Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Groundlings. It was there he developed the Pee-wee character with some support from fellow Groundlings member and friend, Phil Hartman. He began appearing on TV shows, like "The Gong Show" and "Late Night with David Letterman," doing his Pee-wee impersonation in the early 80s. He then developed "The Pee-wee Herman Show," a comedy routine that he toured in across country, culminating in an SRO crowd at Carnegie Hall in 1984.

Reubens acted in numerous TV shows other than his own over four decades, including "Murphy Brown," "30 Rock," "Portlandia" and "The Blacklist." Reubens was nominated for an Emmy for his recurring role on "Murphy Brown."

In 2010 he revived "The Pee-wee Herman Show," which he performed in Los Angeles and on Broadway. In 2016 Reubens co-wrote and starred in the Netflix original film "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," reprising his role as Pee-wee Herman.

Following his death, a statement written by Reubens was released: "Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years. I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you."

RIP Pee-wee, and Paul. We loved you, too.

Only Murders In The Building
Season 3 of the stellar Hulu hit series, "Only Murders In The Building" began streaming August 8 and you will love it. This season Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd join Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) for a new mystery as they investigate a murder behind the scenes at a Broadway show. Yes, Meryl Streep.

Martin Short, Selena Gomez and Steve Martin in 'Only Murders In The Building' (photo: Hulu)  

If you somehow missed the first two seasons of this very good mystery dramedy, three strangers meet in the building in which they all live after a murder of one of the other tenants. The trio has a shared interest in true crime podcasts and team up to investigate that death and ultimately start their own podcast. (Watch the first two seasons before delving into season 3.)

Martin plays a semi-retired actor who was the star of a popular 1990s crime drama, Short plays an ambitious but financially struggling Broadway director who comes up with the idea of the podcast and becomes its director. Gomez is a maybe bisexual, maybe lesbian artist who is living alone in her aunt's unit and who was friends with the first season's murder victim.

In season 2, out actress Cara Delevingne played Alice Banks, an artist and Mabel's love interest. Out actor Nathan Lane plays Teddy Dimas, who has ties to organized crime and who agrees to sponsor the podcast.

"Only Murders in the Building" is very funny and at times very sad. It has some good scares, some really good whodunits and stellar acting from the principals and from the amazing list of guest stars. The series garnered nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Martin and Short. (If you loved "White Lotus," you'll love this series.) Will season 3 bring more queerness? Seems likely.

Extraordinary Birder With Christian Cooper
The new series on National Geographic Wild and Disney+ stars out Black gay ornithologist and comic book writer/editor Christian Cooper. It's a fabulous six-part series with all things birds and Cooper is just an extraordinary host and educator. His love of birds and all things avian is palpable. And the birds are fantastic.

Cooper travels across the U.S. and talks with experts who reveal fun and surprising facts about these creatures who survived the dinosaur age. Cooper is well-trained and well-versed in his chosen field and it's a delight to watch him go to some amazing lengths to introduce us to a panoply of birds. He also has a surprisingly acute vocal skill for imitating birdsong, which is not common among birders.

Christian Cooper (photo: National Geographic)  

Among the exciting events in the series are Cooper climbing the George Washington Bridge in New York City to visit a peregrine falcon mother and her chicks in a nest and his traversing volcanic terrain in Hawaii to pursue honeycreepers. He hikes through Puerto Rico's huge El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System where we are blessed with parrots.

Cooper made national headlines in 2020 after his video of a confrontation between him and Amy Cooper (no relation), a white woman with an unleashed dog in a section of New York City's Central Park known as The Ramble, went viral on Twitter. Christian asked Amy to leash her dog as required by law, and she called 911 and said "a Black man" was threatening her. The video was a shocking display of overt racism.

Amy Cooper was charged with filing a false police report. The charges against her were dropped in February 2021 after she completed an educational course on racism. The racist incident led to the introduction and establishment of Black Birder Week.

Cooper has a long history of queer firsts. He was Marvel's first openly gay writer and editor. He introduced the first gay male character in "Star Trek," Yoshi Mishima, in the Starfleet Academy series, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in 1999. He also introduced the first openly lesbian character for Marvel, Victoria Montesi, and created and authored "Queer Nation: The Online Gay Comic."

Cooper's birding obsession is life-long. In the 1980s, he was president of the Harvard Ornithological Club, and is currently on the Board of Directors for NYC Audubon. Cooper also has a long history of LGBT activism, including having been co-chair of the board of directors of GLAAD in the 1980s.

Now Cooper is making history again with the first Black birder series which is just delightful and a must-watch.

Megan Rapinoe (photo: Wikipedia)  

Soccer finals
It's been a cruel, cruel summer in soccer. Megan Rapinoe exited her soccer career with a missed penalty kick on August 6, sending USWNT's Team USA out of contention in the 16th round of the FIFA World Cup against Sweden. (Twitter)

Twitter/X (Notice how not one mainstream publication or TV news outlet is actually calling Twitter "X") was awash in MAGAs crowing for USA's downfall with "Go woke, go home!" tweets claiming "USA-hater" and "anti-America, anti-woman activist Megan Rapinoe" had "caused USA's "downfall."

It was a sad moment for the two-time Olympic and World Cup gold medalist, who praised her team, saying they "played really well," and praised teammate Alyssa Naeher "who came up huge and kept us in it."

Rapinoe said, "I think it can be cruel and just not our day... I've loved playing for this team and playing for this country. It's been an honor."

Antigay, anti-trans hearings
Finally, the GOP-led House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government focused on gender dysphoria, Title IX and women's sports and parental decision-making around gender-affirming care for minors in a more than two-hour hearing last week.
Philadelphia Gay News)

The hearing, which was televised on C-SPAN, was an exercise in demonization of trans and gay people and their families. There was not one doctor or other health professional testifying, but GOP House members made sure to stock their testimony with anti-gay and anti-trans speakers, including San Francisco "detransitioner" Chloe Cole, 19, and people from the Federalist Society and the hate group Family Research Council.

C-SPAN has video and a transcript available free. Never forget that they hate us and want us miserable, closeted or better yet, dead. That's not hyperbole—it's where their dangerous rhetoric is leading.

So for the dark and the delightful, the sacred and the profane, you know you really must stay tuned.

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