Florida of the day: It’s the 25th anniversary of the Pee-Wee Herman incident

by Joey deVilla on July 26, 2016

pee-wee herman mug shot

Photo via The Smoking Gun. Click to see the source.

On July 26, 1991, Paul Reubens — better known to the world as Pee-Wee Herman, and at the time, host of a popular (and surreal) Saturday morning children’s show — was arrested for partaking in a form of onanism in a pornographic cinema in Sarasota County, Florida, a 90-minute drive south of my place.

For you younger readers: in the days before home internet, never mind home broadband internet and wifi, there were generally two ways to watch porn in 1991:

  • By renting or buying a videotape (DVDs were still 4 years away in 1991) from an adult video store
  • Going to a movie theatre that showed porn

That’s right, kids, once upon a time, the only way you could watch porn — and perform any ancillary activity — was in a public place. This started to change in the 1980s with the rise of video playback devices (first VCRs, then DVD players) and speciality cable TV channels, but even in 1991, XXX theatres were still a viable option for porn consumption.

The incident provided comedians of all stripes with lots of material. David Letterman remarked “Hey, Pee-Wee, have you never heard of a VCR?” and I remember the alt-rock station in Toronto dedicated this song to Pee-Wee every time they played it:

I also remember his appearance on the 1991 MTV video music awards after the incident, where he asked a very forgiving audience “Heard any good jokes lately?”

The Smoking Gun has commemorated this event today. In an age when all the porn you can eat is available on a device that fits in your free hand, the Pee-Wee Herman incident wouldn’t even have happened, and my 2016 sensibility is leading me to wonder why the cops would even bother looking for a non-crime like masturbating in an adults-only legal business that showed films specifically made for that sort of thing.

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