Pee-Wee Wannabe, New Orleans, LA, 1957

Man posing with bongo drum looks just like Pee-Wee Herman circa 1957

A man posing between a beautiful bongo drum and colorful display of plastic wrapped jazz albums predicts the Pee-Wee Herman look. Strike a pose there is nothing to it! That gray glen plaid suit over a white shirt finished with a red bow tie is in no uncertain terms an AMERICANA classic of the highest order. And so is Pee-Wee.

Speaking of…I went to see his new live “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” show here in LA the other night. When the curtain opened and I saw the Playhouse set it didn’t take me long to figure out that this had to be the most incredible set I’ve ever seen on a stage. Whatta thrill it was to see Pee-Wee walk out on that stage. The audience went wild. He looks great! It was quite the flashback-to-the-80s thrill to spend an hour and half in the Playhouse with him and the whole gang. The “secret word” was ‘FUN’ and it was! My imagination was inspired and spirit soared!

Actually I never did see the beloved Pee-Wee’s Playhouse show when it originally aired on CBS Saturday mornings for five seasons beginning in 1986. Which reminds me of the time I was with Paul- Pee-Wee-Herman-Rueben’s several years ago on a trip to the Adirondacks in beautiful upstate NY. We were both guests, along with several others, at a mutual friends’ family camp on a beautiful lake. One morning while everyone was deciding what to do that day I said, “does anyone want to go with me to Enchanted Forrest, the all original, 1956 children’s fairy tale theme park?” It was just up the road and I really wanted to see it. Everyone said, “no thanks,” but Paul.

The next thing I knew I was the passenger in the front seat of his big Buick rent-a-car and we were speeding thru the woods on our way. We got there and the place was even better than I had hoped. He had no shortage of fans gawking even with his baseball-cap-and-sunglasses disguise. The whole time I’m saying to myself, I just can’t believe I’m at the Enchanted Garden with Pee-Wee Herman! The most memorable moment of our excursion came on the ride back to camp when I told him that I had never seen even one episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Immediately he pulled over the car to the side of the road and said “Get out of the car!” I still laugh about that.

Here’s to Pee-Wee, his playhouse, big adventure, the wannabe and YOU!

Los Angeles, CA
February 3, 2010

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17 Responses to “Pee-Wee Wannabe, New Orleans, LA, 1957”

  1. Paul Duca says:

    I wonder if that guy also had issues with his “pee-wee”.

  2. Aitch says:

    Oh I hope Paul Reubens gets to see this!

  3. Hillary says:

    I remember this picture from your book and agree the sartorial resemblance to Pee Wee is uncanny! Mr. Reubens really tapped into Americana’s kitschty zeitgeist with his character, and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it over the years. Charles, that you met such a kindred spirit for a trip to the Enchanted Forest is on a par with Oppenheimer meeting Einstein. Sort of. :)

    And that is some great vinyl behind the conga player as well.

  4. Sue Shen says:

    I loved the Pee Wee Herman show. It was sweet, funny and spoke to
    the child in all of us, which he awakened. To this day, a little bit of
    Pee Wee lives within me and comes out in all kinds of situations.
    His “voice” liberates the goofiness in me and I’m grateful for that.
    If all of us on this blog had been with you in New York, we’d have
    all joined you in the Enchanted Forrest!

  5. This is fantastic, Charles. I was born and raised in New Orleans.

  6. Aitch says:

    Great “encounter with celebrity” story Charles.
    The PeeWee wannabe in your slide looks like he owns a record store!!
    Aitch Hollywood

  7. Loulou Steiner says:

    Are their slideshows of the Enchanted Forest adventure? I, so enjoyed seeing you at the Loyola Marymount talk you gave. We all laughed and had a rollicking good time.

  8. Jerry Foisel says:

    “ReBoot” & “Peewee’s Playhouse” WERE, what a GREAT Saturday morning WAS for the few short years Peewee was on network TV!

    Laughed my hieny off with Cowboy Curtis’ “off-the-wall”l BUT ALWAYS… with the “moral of the story is …”PEP TALKS”.

    And WHAT CARNAL MYSTERY DID THE LOVELY “MISSY VONN” TRANSMIT? The cute sexual-tensions between those two endearing characters, always charmed & amused us.

    “Guyyyyssss! It’s my DAD!!! is what Peewiddle would JUST HAVE TO SAY!!!


    Welcome back little buddy!

  9. That is such a great story and I’ll be forever jealous that you got to spend a day with Paul Ruebens!

  10. Trase says:

    I *adore* Pee Wee, and as a teenager, I watched Pee Wee’s Playhouse. In fact, I have every episode (including the Christmas special) on VHS – I was in a club where I got one tape a month, and the spine of the cases form a picture. They are one of my most precious possessions!

    Your visit to the Enchanted Forest together is something that I will forever wish I could have been a part of – two of my favorite pop icons in a pop culture landmark? Oh my, I think I have a case of the vapors!

    Seriously, how fantastic is that? :)

  11. Daniel Glass says:


    While the Pee-Wee story is charming and the resemblance is indeed uncanny, I can’t believe that you completely neglected to mention any of the details in this slide – the unbelievable collection of jazz vinyl proudly displayed behind this gent, the collection of percussion instruments, the classical composer busts and fantastic folk art painting on the wall! If this guy is not a musician himself (note the metronome as well), then he is a music appreciator of the highest order. With a slide shot in N’awlins in 1957, I am surprised that you did not take the opportunity to educate us “heathens” here in 2010 about America’s greatest contribution to world culture. Here’s to New Orleans and jazz music in 1957!

  12. She-ra Princess of Power says:

    Wow, what a mental image of you two together. Two peas in a pod of similar interests! Our 7yr old loves to rent episodes of the Pee Wee shows. One of our Favs is the one with the Delarubio Triplets!
    Love your slides of the week!

  13. Not wannabe Pee-wee, more like Pee-wee Sr.! And Pee-wee would have been around 5-years-old at this time, so having that dad with that cool record shop would definitely turn out that cool Pee-wee. Excellent.

  14. Thom Foolery says:

    “Conga Drum”, like the conga line, like Ricky Ricardo. Bongo Drums are small, paired and sit in one’s lap…

  15. Donna E says:

    I loved the Pee Wee Herman Show on Saturday mornings! I was in my late 20s when it was on and my roommate thought I was nuts for watching it. On some Friday nights, if my friends and I didn’t have dates, we would get together at one’s retro house in Fullerton, order Angelo and Vinci’s pizza, open up the white zinfandel wine spritzers and pop in the video of the live version “Pee Wee Herman Show” or “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and laugh our heads off. Wow, what memories that slide brought back. Thanks Charles!

  16. Steve Stuart says:

    Now why does the site of Charles Phoenix and Pee Wee Herman driving through the Adirondacks in a great big Buick seem, well – so perfect-? Especially heading off to Enchanted Forest. All must be right with the world, after all.

  17. Tim Severs says:

    I remember you posting this pic awhile back. I wonder if Paul Reubens saw this picture before he became Pee Wee Herman. The similarity is uncanny. Very cool about going with him to the Enchanted Garden. Hope you have more expericences like that.

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