I met Pee Wee Herman in person at a drive in movie theater.

I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There he was before me with a chili dog, a large popcorn, three snowcones, a foot long, a soda, an armful of candybars and a box of milk duds, in motley. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he managed to remain--why did he not instantly disappear?

But lets not start there, lets start earlier in 1973 when Pee Wee graduated college from Cal Arts as Paul Reubens, a theatrical performance artist who took seriously Disney’s fantasy mandate and Kaprow’s sermon for Art as Life. Soon after graduating, Reubens kidnapped himself and came out Pee Wee Herman. He was the logical conclusion to the art institute's collective fantasy…a self made golem, an idea that became its own agent.

And by the mid eighties, Pee Wee was behaving like nothing before him when he began to play himself on award shows, in interviews, and in The Big Adventure, a paramount production that is both a reality and a representation. Herman became the only fictional being to have a Hollywood star, etched proof that he had stepped beyond the logical boundaries of television and the cineplex and crossed over into actual space and real geography.

Tonight, for the price of one film, you get three or four or five, a documentary about a happening, a film, and a film folded within a film that might again be folded within another film. With each chunk of celluloid we might hear a creature broadcast its own improbable aliveness and witness an artwork fully atomize?

You will wonder, as I do now, what Pee Wee is made of besides a bowtie and big black shoes, is he flesh n’ blood, an image or a thing, a live action cartoon, something part Charlie Chaplin, part howdy doody, a logical fantasy or fantastic science? Could he be the nervous breakdown of reality? Is Pee Wee Herman actually Steven Hawking and what would Albert Einstein have to say?

Regardless, he is something that careens wildly through three dimensions of space-or even four to five for all I know-skating on the furthest edge of plausibility...impertinently he hoist himself into a world of innumerable and elastic dimensions and limitless possibilities, in which every chair, has not only potential life but a complete set of emotions.

The mind plays tricks on you, you play tricks back. It's like your unraveling a giant cable knit sweater that keeps unraveling and unraveling and unraveling.

Even Dottie, his adoring bike mechanic, doesn’t understand him. How could she?

At one Pee Wee tells Dottie. There’s a lot of things about me you don’t know anything about, things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.” To which Dottie perplexedly responds: “I don’t understand.”

Dottie is the stand-in for the artists, that didn’t get what Kaprow meant by ‘un-artist’.

Pee-Wee got it, Dottie didn’t. and Kaprow, he probably made whole damn thing up,

to Kaprow art was artlife, a performance in progress, a live-in-happening. Kaprow believed theater didn’t need a stage and art needn’t a medium, but rather a DNA, and he says life-like artists ... are conscious inventors of the life that also invents them. Herman was everything Kaprow could’ve wished for.

Kaprow wrote once,

I have taken my cue from those rare screwballs that emerge every once in a while in
unexpected places, who are crazy to transform themselves into the Essential Absolute of
each moment that passes through them and who are perhaps in that manner the purest
living forms of art. These men, these marvelously deranged beings, do not (or cannot) stop
long enough to call their selfness a creative thing.

Like Dante's inferno, the odyssey, ad infinitum, Pee Wee Herman is the classic quest tale and Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a quest tale within a quest tale with all the quest tales ancient themes. In many versions, it is the search for some precious object with magical properties: the golden fleece, an elixir of life, the holy grail, a red bicycle in an invisible basement of the Alamo. The precious object in most of the stories either remains elusive or is a disappointment when found, but Kaprow and Herman are wise that the search was the thing and that to find something is besides the point.

In the Big Adventure, which we will watch now, Dottie begs Pee Wee to take her to the drive in, and now we’re here back where I first met Pee Wee on the Big Adventure. And Pee wee says

Come on, Dottie. Let’s go.

Let’s go? Don’t you want to see the rest of the movie?

I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I “lived” it.