On March 21, 2023, Paul Reubens called me on my mobile to discuss some details about the disposition of several pieces of furniture from his childhood home in Sarasota, Florida. I run an auction gallery about an hour north of there, and a high school friend of his – who’s in the estate business here in the area – connected the two of us. The three of us had been on an introductory, 30-minute conference call a few weeks prior, and I figured that – since the deal was all set – Mr. Reubens would have no occasion to speak with me again.

So when he called, I figured he had a quick follow-up question or two. But he and I ended up talking on the phone for nearly an hour, and while we did discuss some details about the furniture, we mainly just chatted.

Now of course I don’t claim to have been his friend. But after two rather lengthy phone calls, I am left with a couple of impressions of Mr. Reubens. And I thought it might be nice to share them.

His manner (on our phone call) was serious – a little sad, perhaps – but there was a slightly playful aspect to everything he said, almost as though he were smiling just a little as he spoke, even as we discussed mundane details about letters of authenticity and whatnot. He was very quick-witted, too (as you could probably guess), and while our conversation was mainly about business, I’m proud to say that I made Paul Reubens – the iconic comedian, Pee Wee dadgum Herman – laugh out loud a couple of times.

Iconic? Definitely. But he didn’t come across as self-important. Not at all. He even asked me at one point if I really thought anyone would care that the pieces came from his home – sort of in a “who am I anyway?” kind of way. He was sincere, not fishing for compliments. Why would he? And from me, a person as far removed from a celebrity as one could possibly be? So I proceeded to explain to him that in terms of cross-generational appeal, I believe that he is very nearly without peer: A wildly popular 1980s star who portrayed a character reminiscent of Pinky Lee from the 1950s, riding a 1940s Schwinn bike, and still a household name well into the 21st century. The unapologetically puckish Pee Wee Herman still amuses the children (and grandchildren) of many of those who saw him when he first appeared on screen.

Just an aside: A couple of weeks ago, I was in Stockholm, and I enjoyed a visit to the ABBA Museum there. I mentioned this highlight in a conversation with a 30-something server in a local restaurant who asked how I enjoyed my trip. Upon hearing “ABBA,” she stared at me, nodding very slowly. “A-BBA,” I prompted a little louder, thinking perhaps that she hadn’t heard. (Really? ABBA? I thought.) Not a glimmer of recognition. 

But I’d bet a hundred dollar bill she’s heard of Pee Wee Herman.

Back to Mr. Reubens. During our conversation, he mentioned two projects he was working on – a possible documentary about his life and an autobiography. And that they might happen sometime in 2024 (almost a year away, at the time). I was holding 15 or so pieces of his furniture in my auction gallery, and it occurred to me that the best time to offer them would be after one of those projects got released. It would make little sense, I reasoned, to miss out on such a promotional opportunity for his pieces as a highly publicized documentary or book release. 

So I told him we should wait it out. After a long pause, he said no. I laid out my case again as to why we should wait. Again, he said no. Finally, after my third or fourth objection, he said to me, “Listen, Edwin, I can’t ask you to store all of my stuff for that long – it’s not fair to you.” But I finally prevailed, and he thanked me – more than once – for being willing to hold off until the time was right. 

Maybe I read too much into his reaction – being unwilling to put someone out, someone he didn’t even know – but I don’t think I am. I believe Mr. Reubens was a genuinely considerate person.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, just before we started pulling together our June 8 auction (The Iconic Sale: Legends). I reached out to his estate for permission to sell his furniture pieces. I secured their blessing, so we’ll be offering these pieces from his early years in that event, each accompanied by a signed Letter of Authenticity from Paul Reubens, as well as a signed photograph of him as Pee Wee Herman.

Part of me is glad to have that 300 or so square feet back. But to be honest, I’m a little sad to see the pieces go.

And I really would have enjoyed speaking with Mr. Reubens again.



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