In the middle of sorting through my ideas for this editor’s note, I learned that Paul Reubens died. For those who don’t know, he was Pee-wee Herman, amongst all the other amazing characters and roles he played.
Reuben’s Pee-wee Herman was a significant marker in my childhood and how I developed my penchant for offbeat comedy and oddball people. He was weird, a little awkward, and those things all worked for him. Mostly. There was certainly a period in the early ‘90s where his weirdness was his enemy but that blip in his history (which shall not be named) was the result, on some level, of the overreach of ‘80s conservatism. Reubens kept his private life private, especially after that incident, so when he passed, it felt like a lightning bolt. To me, anyway, because, as the proud owner of a Pee-wee Doll and all the films, he’s one of my favorites and to know he’s left the world feels like a little less pure joy is left in it.
In his final message which he held private until his death, he said, “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.”
With this being LEO’s Arts and Entertainment issue, how could I write a note and not give a nod to one of the delightful weirdos who made it possible for a world just strange enough for a LEO to exist? Reubens gave such a gift to the world and it’s my hope that every time we pull together an issue of LEO, we do something that is out of the norm, unexpected and perhaps, a little uncomfortable.
I think we have, especially as we invite new columnists and guests to our pages to offer opinions and perspectives that might ruffle a few dirty bird feathers.
This issue is focused on Arts and Entertainment with listings for events, gallery shows, film, books, and of course, a chance to meet some local artists. However, what makes LEO what it is involves looking towards the offbeat and unusual.
As the world of entertainment and theater shifts just a bit in the absence of Reubens, I hope that America, in particular, begins to understand the value of our cultural assets and invests heavily in those — as much as we do in tech or other industries.
To create, artists need support and space to bloom. This shouldn’t be something given to just a privileged few people whose families can afford for them to create art. It should be an occupation and career path like any other that can afford a living wage. For that to happen, Americans need to see the value in the people who sing us to sleep, tell our stories, and illustrate our lives even in the most abstract of ways. The document of the human condition is priceless.
Several of the Great Meadows grantees highlighted in this issue made mention of the need for more funding and more opportunity and those things are keys to unlocking the difference between someone who dabbles in the arts and a person who can live as an artist. It’s time to respect that craft and the hustle. •