The unexpected death of actor and comedian Paul Reubens, beloved by a generation for his role as quirky children’s TV show star Pee-wee Herman, has shaken the entertainment industry, including longtime Hallmark star Holly Robinson Peete, who’s feeling particularly devastated to lose him after their decades-long friendship.
On July 31, 2023, Reubens’ family and publicist shared the news that he had died the night before at age 70 after privately battling cancer for six years.
In a social media post on his Pee-wee Herman account, his team shared, “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.”
A brief note from the actor was included with the post, in which he apologized for not sharing publicly that he’d been ailing.
“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. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”
Among the celebrities who commented on the post, Robinson Peete wrote, “Nooooooooooooooo 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢”
She then shared the same photo of Reubens to her Instagram account and wrote, “This is just absolutely crushing. 💔💔💔💔 I loved Paul, a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman so much. My brother, mother and I have known him for decades.”
As fans and colleagues mourned his death, Robinson Peete shared her reflections on their friendship and said she wished she could have said goodbye. Here’s what you need to know:
Holly Robinson Peete Pays Tribute to Paul Reubens: ‘What an Awesome Life’
In her Instagram post, Robinson Peete shared that Reubens was always able to put a smile on her face.
She wrote, “He always brightened my day with messages of support and love and laughter as recently as a few months ago, and I had no idea what he was going through. 😢 I completely respect his decision to keep this cancer private. It just breaks my heart not to be able to say goodbye. I love you, Paul what an awesome life. Thank you for Everything!! You were a GIANT 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾”
In her Instagram Stories, Robinson Peete added, “And just like that My Monday is ruined. Rest in Peace Paul. @peeweeherman 💔”
The actress also shared an image of a popular meme that made the rounds in spring 2023, as seen in one Instagram user’s post below, featuring Reubens in the 1985 movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” In the still image, Pee-wee is seen hitchhiking by the side of the road in his trademark tight-fitting suit, with the added text “Y’all used to laugh at PeeWee Herman’s suit but now your sons are wearing it to Prom”
In her Stories, Robinson Peete shared that image with a brief story of one of her last exchanges with Reubens.
“I sent him this meme a couple months ago and he laughed and replied ‘but are they rocking the red finger nail hitchhiking thumb??’ ❤️😂💔”
Many Celebrities Shared Their Grief & Fond Memories in the Wake of Paul Reubens’ Death
After Reubens’ death was announced, many celebrities took to social media like Robinson Peete did, revealing what a good friend and creative inspiration he had been to them, too.
“Married With Children” star Katey Sagal, who also appeared the 2004 Hallmark movie “When Angels Come to Town,” replied to the announcement of Reubens’ death by writing, “Oh my sweet Paul I’m am speechless. Grateful at the same time, for years of love and friendship You’ve been in my life for most of it. We went to school together, Cal Arts. Before I dropped out I spent most of my time with him in his dorm room. Looked like the playhouse.”
On the same post, director and screenwriter Judd Apatow replied, “This is devastating news. We got to spend many years working with Paul on Pee Wee’s Big Holiday and got to see his genius and kindness up close. He made the world so happy! Some of the biggest laughs I have every experienced was watching him perform live. He is irreplaceable. ❤️”
Actor David Arquette, who was one of Reuben’s best friends over the years, wrote on Instagram, “Thank you for being the best friend a boy could ever wish for Paul. I love you”
On Twitter, late night host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel wrote, “Paul Reubens was like no one else – a brilliant and original comedian who made kids and their parents laugh at the same time. He never forgot a birthday and shared his genuine delight for silliness with everyone he met. My family and I will miss him.”
Many stars also mentioned that Reubens was known for showering his friends with fun and funny messages on their birthdays.
Fellow comedian Conan O’Brien tweeted, “No tweet can capture the magic, generosity, artistry, and devout silliness of Paul Reubens. Everyone I know received countless nonsensical memes from Paul on their birthday, and I mean EVERYONE. His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts.”
Actress and TV host Sara Gilbert wrote, “Paul — you were the kindest and most generous of spirit. i will never have another birthday without thinking of the pictures and videos you would send all day. you always made me feel so loved and special. i hope to be half the friend you were. you are missed. love you forever, peewee.”