Here follows a tale of “I know you are, but what am I …”
I’m not sure if its taken six months to write this blog because the lines quoted above are how I feel a little, but, if you’ll forgive my tardiness I’ll plow ahead! A couple years ago I decided to dip my toes into cosplay land and made an attempt to doppelgäng Plastic Man. Truth is, I had fun. So as last year’s San Diego Comic-Con began looming I started to wonder if there was any other character I could attempt to pull off.
Part of the fun of cosplaying Plastic Man was that it was totally “in character’ to ham it up and be goofy. And, I’ll tell ya, when you are walking around in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people wearing a red spandex body suit and a dancer’s belt, being goofy takes the edge off. Whereas I did identify some other superheroes I could maybe pull off, none brought with them the comedic effect that Plastic Man evokes. So I defaulted to “eh, maybe next year”.
At some point along the way the idea to cosplay Pee Wee Herman lodged itself into my subconscious. It eventually dawned on me that I could probably put together that outfit without having to enlist the skills of talented seamstresses (something I definitely had to do with Plas.) That’s not to say it was an easy costume to gather. I started with the most iconic piece of the wardrobe: a little red bow tie. Thank god for the interwebs. ‘Cause, I can assure you, the ‘ol “just go to the thrift store” routine pretty much never works out when you are looking for something specific. After a fair amount of searching I stumbled on an Etsy store called “With Care” run by Elizabeth Novak. Sprinkled in amongst cool vintagey jewelry and accessories were some sharp handmade clip-on bow ties. There was a red one that looked just about perfect. I sent Liz a message telling her what I needed it for and I was reassured to receive this note back from her:
Thanks for all of your confidence in me. I promise not to let you down! I worked in a theatrical costume shop for many years and made everything from teensy little 1880s britches a giant leopard print corset for a similarly giant drag queen. This tie will be a culmination of all those who came before it!
I was pretty flabbergasted when I received the tie in the mail. Not only was the tie perfect, but the packaging and presentation was superb. I love that there are craftspeople people out there like Liz who really have an eye for detail and spare no expense. Beyond that, though, the stars aligned for me in the search for the perfect bow tie. Liz mentioned in a note that she is friends with someone who worked as the wardrobe supervisor on the Pee Wee on Broadway show! So before sending me the tie Liz showed it to her friend and got a pretty darn official approval. Wow. She included this interesting tidbit:
Turns out that Mr. Reubens utilizes a system that has both a clip and an elastic to keep his tie in place. However, I think that yours should stay in place just fine.
Now, Pee Wee Herman doesn’t just wear a light grey, two button, notch lapel, tapered leg suit. It is specifically “glen plaid“. Believe it or not, finding a suit that fits all those criteria is just not always doable. I tried hard and almost spent a dumb amount of money on the one and only I could find. Thank goodness my size was sold out. I eventually settled on a very reasonable priced suit that fit almost all of the criteria minus the glen plaid. I’m a “its gotta be 100%” kinda guy, so this was almost a deal breaker. But I decided that, from a distance, the texture in the suit I did buy was close enough.
White dress socks? Also not easy. Finally found a pair in the old fart section of a stuffy department store. Got my pocket hanky there, too. White loafers with no tassel? Bought a pair on eBay. Got them and found out they were off-white. Bought a different pair, again off eBay. A little pricey but my options were limited. The white short sleeve tee shirt was probably the easiest thing to find. But even there, finding one that was fitted for a skinny dude took some looking.
So, I’m pretty much bald but I’m still trying to fake it with the little I’ve got left. Pee Wee’s got a full head of hair. For Plastic Man I bought a wig. Having gone through that process I’m aware that real wigs don’t really come in the close-cropped Pee Wee style hairdo. So I asked my barber, Sparticus, to do his best.
Pee Wee either has naturally rosy cheeks and lips or he wears some makeup. My girlfriend, Professor Pretticute, agreed to help me out with the cosmetics. One mistake I made was waiting until the day of to figure out the origami involved in creating a two point handkerchief fold. Not terrible hard, but it took some doing. The pic below in the lower right is me searching for instructions on my iPad.
I will give props to the hearty souls who cosplay an entire convention. Honestly, its kind’uv exhausting. Both times I’ve braved Con in a get-up, I only did it on Saturday. And, speaking just for myself, its probably good to limit it to one day. You actually do get a lot of attention. Every couple feet someone stops you for a photo. And after a full day of that ya start getting used to this peculiar sort of limelight. Such that, when you go back to your room, take off the costume and walk back out of the hotel, you get a little bummed that no one wants a picture with you anymore. So yeah, one day in fantasy land is plenty for an itchy ego!
Probably the coolest part of the day involved a more current kid’s TV star. I happened by the Nickelodeon booth when DJ Lance from Yo Gabba Gabba! was there for a signing. I waved to him through the large crowd that had gathered. A while later a guy with a professional looking camera around his neck stopped me and asked if I could come with him. I asked, “Where to?” He said that DJ Lance sent him to find me and bring me back to where he was currently signing. DJ Lance wanted to take a picture with me! I got to the booth where DJ Lance was signing autographs with Sid & Marty Croft. He stopped what he was doing, came out to take a photo, and complimented my costume. I was so incredibly stoked! After he went back to signing, the Croft brother’s agent asked me to come say hi to them as well. He cut me in front of the line and both Sid and Marty told me about being friends with Paul Reubens. They both signed a photo for me which I treasure.
The experience cosplaying Pee Wee Herman drove home how beloved a character he is. The reaction, not to me, but to who I was portraying was really cool. Lots of smiles, lots of laughing, lots of me having to say: “I’m not the real Pee Wee!” Of course, there were a handful of haters who couldn’t help but make movie theater jokes. But they were the lame minority. Thanks, Mr. Reubens, for creating such an enduringly lovable and iconic character!
This blog would not be complete without a huge thanks to my gal. Not only did she help me get my costume together, but she agreed to make a Miss Yvonne dress and do a little cosplay’n herself. Like the professional she is, Miss Yvonne spent an entire day walking the con … in high heels!