If I come across perpetual man-child Pee-wee Herman and gush about how much I love his new movie “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” I can only imagine his response.
“Then why don’t you marry it!,” he would blurt out, quickly followed with a Pee-wee chuckle.
Go ahead and grab the preacher; I’m ready for my vows, Mr. Herman.
The fact “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” a made-for-Netflix feature that premiered March 18, seamlessly picks up where Herman’s alter ego, Paul Reubens, cinematically left off 28 years ago proves to be a feat in itself. The comedic tone and rhythm remain pure, unadulterated Pee-wee. The character and jokes come off as rip-roaringly funny as Pee-wee was in his prime three decades ago. The streams of tears that lined my face while watching “Big Holiday” serve as the perfect testament to that.
So why is “Big Holiday” such a big deal? Look at it this way. Imagine your favorite musician, who delivered a career-defining performance 30 years ago, hitting it out of the park again in the present day. It’s rare, folks. Sure, it happens, but certainly not often. Most icons get rich, fat and happy, and lose the creative hunger that brought them to the dinner table in the first place.
With “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” Reubens not only shows us he still has quite the appetite, he lays out a bountiful buffet of near-timeless comedy we’ll be feasting on for years.
The premise is simple. At the beginning of “Big Holiday,” we find Pee-wee Herman perfectly content living a simple and sheltered life in Small Town, America, while flipping omelets and whipping up milkshakes as a short-order cook. That all changes when a buff celebrity biker, Joe Manganiello playing himself, rolls into town. The two quickly form a man-crush bond and big Joe encourages Pee-wee to break out of his bubble and journey to Joe’s birthday bash in NYC.
Mr. Herman obliges and soon finds himself tangling with a trio of bad ass babes straight out of “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”; hitching a ride with a traveling salesman; being chased by a brood of big-boned country babes; cruising with some hardcore hair stylists; hopping aboard a flying car; reluctantly hanging with a mountain man; and pit stopping in Amish country before arriving in the Big Apple.
Now that I’ve dispersed my rave, it’s time to get back to the blog business of geek travel. Since I can’t celebrate “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” with each of you, gorging on a big, communal bowl of ice cream soup, here are a few California travel stops tied to all three Pee-wee Herman films.
"Pee-wee's Big Adventure"
Arguably the most iconic location in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” director Tim Burton’s debut feature, is Cabazon Dinosaurs, about 16 miles west of Palm Springs, Calif. It’s the site where Simone the waitress and Pee-wee become pals, and where Simone’s jealous beau, Andy, attempts to rip Pee-wee a new one.
Home to a pair of mammoth dinos, Mr. Rex and Dinny, Cabazon allows guests to get up close and personal with the creatures. You can climb inside both the tyrannosaurus rex and the apatosaurus for prehistoric selfies.
The attraction is open daily, and tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for kids, and $7 for seniors and active military. Tots ages 2 and younger are free. A special dinosaur kiddie ride is available for $2 per youngun.
50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, Calif. 951-922-8700, cabazondinosaurs.com.
Go Ride a Bike at The Hollywood Museum
Second only to Pee-wee himself, the brightest co-star in “Big Adventure” would be Pee-wee’s bike. Several of the prop bikes used in the movie can be found in museums around the country, but film geeks will likely salivate once inside The Hollywood Museum.
Located just around the corner from the TCL Chinese Theatre and neighboring the N. Highland Avenue location of Mel’s Diner, the Hollywood Museum sits inside the historic Max Factor building. More than 10,000 Tinseltown artifacts live inside. Step right off of the third floor elevator and you can scope out Pee-wee’s righteous ride.
Other eye candy includes W.C. Fields’ top hat, Rocky’s boxing gloves, old-school “Planet of the Apes” costumes and Hannibal Lecter’s entire cell from “The Silence of the Lambs.” A special summer-spanning Marilyn Monroe exhibit has enough blonde bombshell treasures to blow up your skirt. That’s just a smidgen of what you’ll find across four floors with 38,000-square feet of exhibit space. And unlike the Alamo, it has a basement. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $5 for kiddos ages 5 and younger.
1660 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, Calif. 323-464-7776, thehollywoodmuseum.com.
Pee-wee at the Studio
“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” rocks its third act with a romp across the Warner Bros. Studio lot. Where else would Pee-wee stumble upon Twisted Sister, Godzilla and demanding child stars?
Today you can actually tour a portion of the 110-acre backlot where Pee-wee ran amok. “Conan,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show” are a few of the shows currently getting busy on the grounds.
Visit the Archive, featuring “Harry Potter” costumes and props, and its Picture Car Vault, complete with Batmobiles. Ticket prices vary depending on the tour you choose. Visit its Website for the skinny.
3400 Warner Blvd., Burbank, Calif. 877-492-8687, wbstudiotour.com.
"Big Top Pee-wee"
Pee-wee Herman Had a Farm
“Big Top Pee-wee” may not be the greatest show on earth to some, but it still has my inner child reaching for cotton candy and giggling like a hyena. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, much of the film was shot at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, Calif., less than an hour from Los Angeles.
Basically the last remaining studio ranch in operation, it has nearly 700 acres with rural town sets, city streets, houses, barns, a lake with a covered bridge, waterfalls and more. Thanks to Bill Cotter’s Website, I learned this amazing hunk o’ nature served as the Triple R Ranch on the “Spin and Marty” segments on the original “The Mickey Mouse Club.” “'The Apple Dumpling Gang,” “Pete's Dragon,” “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Muppet Movie” were just a few of the films and TV shows shot there.
More contemporary productions that have used the Ranch include “CSI,” “Entourage” and “Sons of Anarchy.” Although it’s on private property and not open to visitors, Cotter, who actually worked there at one time, says if you pass by the entrance, you can get a decent view of the town built for “Roots II.” Take the trail at the nearby Placerita Canyon Nature Center, and you can walk up to the edge of the Ranch.
19802 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall, Calif. goldenoakranch.com.
"Pee-wee's Big Holiday"
Big Nature in “Big Holiday”
Although “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” doesn’t have striking locales like the looming lizards of Cabazon, the Internet Movie Database says some scenes were shot in beautiful Big Bear Lake, Calif. If I were Madam Ruby the fortune teller, I’d guess the Grizzly Bear Daniels scenes were filmed in the area.
The city of Big Bear Lake, tucked in the San Bernardino Mountains along the south shore of Big Bear Lake, serves as an escape from big-city bustle. The San Bernardino National Forest surrounds it. Snow skiing, snow boarding and other seasonal activities hit the slopes in the winter. A wine festival, a Renaissance fair, an Oktoberfest bash and oodles more pack the rest of the year. It’s a two-hour drive from L.A., two-and-a-half hours from San Diego, and three hours from Vegas.