Actually the full name of the program was Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. It originally aired in 1988 on CBS. I recorded it on VHS the night it aired and that was my version that I viewed for many years. Later on, I received the professional VHS version of it and then of course the DVD version I currently watch to this day. I’m a Pee-Wee fan going back to his HBO days. Granted I didn’t get the adult humor back then but I still loved it. I rode a red cruiser bicycle, even in my college days. At times, people yelled “hey faggot, nice bike.” I didn’t care though, I had a Pee-Wee bike and I was rocking it like a champ.
The Christmas Special remains in my holiday tradition, as it will with my daughter next year, whether she likes it or not. As I watched it this year though, I wondered about something that plagued me through the entire viewing. How many of these people are dead. My wife told me to shut up because it’s a depressing thought. I feel quite the contrary.
In taking the time with each actor in the cast who moved up to that big Playhouse in the sky, I feel like this blog entry is my attempt at memorializing them. Below is an alphabetical obituary of the cast of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. Thank you for continuing to be apart of my holiday tradition.
Actually a member of the Del Rubio Triplets is still alive. Milly Del Rubio, 88 years old, and her two late sisters performed Winter Wonderland on the special, shortly after Pee-Wee fools “Cowboy Curtis” with his mystery tracks in the snow. Eadie Del Rubio died of cancer in 1996 and Elena Del Rubio died of cancer in 2001.
Santa Claus was played by Aaron Fletcher. It seemed that he had a knack for portraying the lovable character, as this was not his first appearance in the red suit. He also played Santa in Gloria (1982) and in St. Elsewhere (1985). Aaron Fletcher died in 1990.
More popularly known for his role as Blacula, William Marshall played the King of Cartoons in the special. He presented Pee-Wee with two fruitcakes and then gave Annette Funicello the honor of starting a cartoon by saying the popular command, “Let the cartoooooon, begin!” William Marshall died in 2003 from Alzheimer’s disease.
On the special, Dinah Shore performed her rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas for Pee-Wee via video phone. After about a minute into the song, Pee-Wee grows tired of the performance and slips out of the phone booth, sneaking in a dummy in his place. Dinah does not notice the switch-a-roo and continues to sing the song escalating well over 100 days of Christmas. It was only til after the closing credits that she asks Pee-Wee for a response. Dinah Shore died in 1994 from ovarian cancer.