Debi Mazar and Paul Reubens Had a "Platonic Love Affair" in the '90s

The Younger star opened up about supporting the comedian after his 1991 arrest.

On July 31, the estate of Paul Reubens announced that the actor and comedian had died at the age of 70. He was best known for playing the character Pee-wee Herman in movies and on the series Pee-wee's Playhouse, though he also took on other acting roles. According to a statement posted on Instagram, Reubens died after a battle with cancer. The announcement also includes a quote from the late star himself about his decision to keep his diagnosis private.

While Reubens will be most remembered for creating Pee-wee, he became the target of countless tabloid stories in the early '90s after he was arrested and charged with indecent exposure while at an adult movie theater. Amid the negative media attention, the star retreated from public life for a time. He also got into a relationship with actor Debi Mazar, who opened up about supporting Reubens during that dark period. She also explained that while their relationship was "a love affair," it was also purely platonic. Read on to find out more.

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Mazar said they had a "cerebral" romance.

During a 2018 appearance on Andy Cohen's Radio Andy show, Mazar looked back on her unique relationship with Reubens.

"Yes, we dated. But, you know, we didn't consume," Mazar said. The host corrected, "You mean you didn't consummate" and Mazar confirmed that was what she meant.

"We were best friends, and the truth of the matter is, basically, we had a love affair that was just cerebral," Mazar said. Cohen added, "Platonic," to which the Younger star said, "Yeah. And it was great. So we spent, like, a year or two inseparable. Driving everywhere. Doing everything together. He's fantastic."

She supported him during the fallout from his arrest.

Debi Mazar and Paul Reubens at "Sunset Boulevard" the musical circa 1994
SGranitz/WireImage via Getty Images

Cohen asked Mazar if she dated Reubens when he was still playing Pee-wee. "It was the time that he came out of hiding. I got him out of the house," she responded. "I'm one of the people that got him out, like, 'Come on, let's get back on the horse. Come on. Like, big deal. Big deal.' But, you know, it was a very difficult time for him."

Reubens was arrested in 1991 on the indecent exposure charge. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to community service and a fine. Still, he continued to argue his innocence to the public. "I maintained at the time that it didn't happen and I maintain that still," he told NBC News in 2004. He said he entered the plea that he did to get an embarrassing situation over with as quickly as possible.

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Reubens said he "fell in love" with Mazar.

Debi Mazar and Paul Reubens at the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in 1994
Catherine McGann/Getty Images

In a 2010 interview with Playboy, Reubens looked back on his 1991 arrest and his 2004 guilty plea to another misdemeanor for obscenity. This charge was connected to a child pornography investigation, though the child pornography charge against Reubens was dropped. It was related to his "vintage erotica" collection.

"What finally pulled me out of my shell the first time was that I fell in love," Reubans said of the aftermath of his arrest. "I met a woman, an actress—Debi Mazar—at a movie screening toward the end of 1993 and was just so incredibly completely smitten that it was like, Boom, I'm back!"

He continued, "It was so powerful; it was a gift. I would be all funky and dark, but she was able to just say a bunch of stuff to me, like 'Come on! Up, up, up, up!'"

More recently, Reubens and Mazar's history was noted in a 2016 New York Times profile of Mazar. A description of the home she shares with husband Gabriele Corcos includes a mention of a "lava lamp that was a wedding present from her close friend Paul Reubens, a.k.a Pee-wee Herman."

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Reubens shared a final message with fans.

Paul Reubens at an event for "TRON: Uprising" in 2012
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

The news of Reubens' death was announced on the Pee-wee Herman Instagram account. "Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit," the statement reads in part. "A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit."

Alongside this statement was a message directly from Reubens. "Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years," he wrote. "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." The post also notes that Reubens requested that "any expressions of sympathy be made in honor of his late parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations involved in Dementia and Alzheimer's care, support, research."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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