For the first four years of my elementary school career, our semi-annual school concerts were mundane affairs: The students would line up on stage, we’d sing a few seasonal songs, and our parents would applaud accordingly. In fifth grade, our music teacher decided to spice things up a bit. She gave the concerts a special theme and based them around everyone’s favorite childhood star: Pee Wee Herman!
In case you were curious, this took place before Pee Wee’s um…”scandal.” Had the music teacher chosen to base a school production around Pee Wee Herman a few years later, she likely (definitely) would have been fired.
Obviously, the role of Pee Wee was highly coveted, and half of the boys in the fifth grade class vied for it. Unfortunately for them, they had to contend with the Cutter. After several grueling rounds of tryouts, I outshone the competition and was chosen to fill the starring role. (In reality, I think that maybe three other kids tried out, and I only won because I had the loudest voice.)
The winter concert focused on Pee Wee travelling through “Holidayland.” Basically, Pee Wee and his friends would briefly discuss one of the fall holidays, and then the other students would sing a song about it.
The show was a hit and received rave reviews from all of the parents. (Although really, what were they going to say? Sorry, kids, but that show absolutely sucked! You guys can’t sing. At all.) I think most of them were happy that it deviated from the usual school concert formula in which the kids sang a few Christmas songs (and don’t forget the token Chanukkah song!) and called it a night.
I became a school celebrity. Everyone knew my name, and the younger students would stare at me with adulation. It was as if they couldn’t believe that Pee Wee himself actually walked among them.
My fame grew even larger when Pee Wee returned for the spring concert. (This time, the concert was based around an episode of Pee Wee’s TV show Pee Wee’s Playhouse.) The music teacher said she considered letting someone else play Pee Wee in the spring, but she realized that they would likely end up being unfairly compared to me.
At the end of the year, the school held a ceremony for the graduating fifth graders. I was presented with awards in several categories: Academics (I made the Honor Roll!), athletics (Meeting the standards for the Presidential Fitness Award!), and band. (Honestly, I’m not sure why I got this one. I was lousy at the clarinet.) In addition, the music teacher presented me with a special drama award.
I felt like quite the star that day, and why wouldn’t I? I had basically “won” elementary school. Little did I know that my status was going to take a major hit the next year.
Some kids arrive at middle school and quickly figure out how to become popular. I remained mostly oblivious to the fact that the social landscape had changed. The most prominent change was that many (most?) of my peers were now primarily concerned with the opposite gender. Here’s something I quickly learned: Pee Wee Herman may be many things, but “chick magnet” is not one of them.
If you’re a fan of the show Full House (and who isn’t?) you may remember that there was an episode based around this theme. There was also an episode where DJ had her first kiss, and this was a VERY BIG DEAL among my peers. I remember discussing this episode in-depth with some of my classmates.
My role as Pee Wee proved to be the height of my acting career. In sixth grade, I tried out for the drama club’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, but I was only assigned a few token supporting parts.
I can’t really blame them for not giving me a prominent role. While my 11-year-old voice might have allowed me to do a suitable impression of Pee Wee Herman, I’m sure it wasn’t exactly pleasing to the ear when I tried to sing.
I didn’t even bother trying out in following years because drama club interfered with the various sports I was trying to play. That’s kind of a shame, because in eighth grade, the music teacher who ran the drama club said she had a role that I would have been perfect for.
Since then, fame and fortune have continued to evade me. At my age, it seems unlikely that I’m going to be breaking into a professional sports league, and my dreams of becoming a famous actor died in 1998 when I tried out for a supporting role in a local film production and never heard back. (However, I did make it into the Hall of Fame of my kickball league, so I got that going for me!)
Oh well. Maybe it happened when I was relatively young, but at least I had my fifteen minutes of fame. Most people don’t even get that.
Besides, I’ve got kids now! Everyone knows that the best thing to do with failed dreams of fortune and fame is to simply push them onto your children!
Pageant circuit, here we come!