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Monday, December 11, 2023

Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, honored at Cabazon Dinosaurs

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Motorists heading westbound on Interstate 10 have probably noticed Mr. Rex of the Cabazon Dinosaurs has a fresh coat of paint in tribute to the late Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs posted photos on its social media pages of Mr. Rex painted in Pee-wee’s signature gray suit, white shirt, red bow tie and white shoes on Tuesday night.

Reubens, who died Sunday after a six-year battle with cancer, wasn’t a local resident but is connected to the roadside attraction near Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon after it was featured in the 1985 film with director Tim Burton, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”

Denise Kanter, who owns and operates the dinosaur park, said Mr. Rex will be in Pee-wee mode through October before the site switches to its Christmas celebration, but she added “Pee-wee Herman is going to live on!”

“When someone passes away, you have to be considerate of how you approach that situation. I was thinking, ‘Well, what do we do? Do we (do) something or don’t do something?’ Then I felt with requests coming from customers and interest on behalf of news organizations, we must do something.”

Many Pee-wee fans over the years have made a pilgrimage to the Cabazon Dinosaurs to take a selfie or recognize it while driving through the area.

“15 years ago, it used to be 40 to 50% of our clientele but its probably about 20% now. They know the movie, the dinosaurs and they’ll comment ‘We love ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.'”

An uncertain history

Kanter and her husband Gary purchased the Cabazon Dinosaurs in 1995. The dinosaurs were created by Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist, Claude Bell. According to a 2011 Patch.com article, the 150-ton Apatosaurus and 100-ton Tyrannosaurus rex were completed in 1975 and 1986.

When asked if Reubens ever visited the dinosaurs again, Kanter said she was unaware of whether he did during the previous ownership and hadn’t since they owned the property.

“I thought about contacting him numerous times, but he was very quiet and private. Ever since he was diagnosed (with cancer), he took the backseat as far as being in the public.”

Reubens’ estate confirmed news of his death on his official Instagram page Monday.

Paul Reubens, Pee-wee Herman actor and comedian, dies at 70 after private cancer battle

“Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness,” the announcement read. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. 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 included a quote from Reubens himself, apologizing to fans for dealing with his health privately. “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” he said in the statement. “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.”

Pee-wee Herman and the complications of talking about people after they die

Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment for the Desert Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye.

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