Paul Reubens, who created the iconic character Pee-wee Herman, has died at the age of 70, Breitbart reported. Reubens had fought cancer for years but did not make it known publicly.
His death was announced Monday via Instagram. Reubens had composed his own farewell statement that was shared on social media after his passing.
"Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years," Reubens wrote. "I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters," he added.
"I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you," Reubens wrote as his last words. The Instagram post from his official account more thoroughly eulogized the late actor and comedian.
The post said his "beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness." It also noted that "Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit," although there was no word on what type of cancer it was.
"A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit," the post concluded. Indeed, Reubens left behind one of the most iconic characters of the last century.
With a wink and nod to the knowing audience, Reubens played the part of an innocent child with a slight, almost imperceptible edge. The character began as a bit used in his stage routine that was turned into an HBO special in 1981.
However, it was the 1985 Tim Burton flick "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" that catapulted Reubens (and newcomer Burton) to stardom. Critics and audiences loved it so much that it spawned the sequel "Big Top Pee-wee" in 1988 as well as the creation of a CBS Saturday morning series, "Pee-wee's Playhouse."
Dressed in a bowtie, gray suit, and his signature white platform shoes, Pee-wee Herman danced into the hearts of children and adults alike. The nostalgia-obsessed Generation X remained devoted to Reubens, though there was a period where his career seemingly came to a grinding halt.
In 1991, Reubens was arrested in Florida for masturbating in a pornography theater. While the public wouldn't bat an eye these days, the comparative innocence of the time plus his image as a family-friendly star caused the incident to derail his career.
However, Reubens would again find success embodying the Pee-wee character once again. In 2010, Reubens was a success in a live theater show that debuted in Los Angeles and eventually ended up on Broadway.
His past sins seemingly forgotten, Reubens made "Pee-wee's Big Holiday" in 2016 for Netflix. The film was well-received by critics, but not as much by audiences who rated it 61% on the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.
Other minor but important roles came for Reubens in hits like "Batman Returns," which was also directed by Tim Burton, where he played the Penguin's father. Reubens also had a bit part alongside Johnny Depp in "Blow" in 2001, opting for a more serious role.
Reubens created a character that appealed to adults and children alike, and he was adored for it. His death marks the passage of another unique performer who entertained millions with his own creative spirit.