`Pee-Wee Herman' Pleads No Contest

SARASOTA, Fla. - Looking more like clean-cut Pee-wee Herman of Saturday morning TV fame than the bedraggled Paul Reubens of his police mug shot, Sarasota County's famous son pleaded no contest to charges of indecent exposure yesterday.

The judge, citing Herman's creative genius, fined him $50, ordered him to make an anti-drug video and expressed hope that she never see him in her courtroom again.

Reubens smiled bashfully as he entered the courtroom full of about 100 reporters and curious star-gazers. He wore a nicely tailored gray-green suit, with a green tie decorated with yellow squiggles, and black crocodile boots. He was clean-shaven, and his black hair was cut short, although not quite as short as the buzz cut favored by "Pee-wee."

Reubens, 39, looked as well-scrubbed and innocent as the character who lived in the zany playhouse for several years on Saturday morning TV, a distinct contrast from the long-haired man with the goatee in the mug shot deputies took after his July 26 arrest at Sarasota's XXX Adult Theater.

In court, Reubens said only four words: "yes," "yes," "yes," and "no," in answer to questions from Sarasota County Judge Judy Goldman. She asked whether he understood the plea agreement, whether he was making his decision voluntarily, whether he agreed with it, and whether he had any questions.

Reubens' attorneys agreed to the plea - which will keep the charge off his record - because they said he didn't want to go through what promised to be an intensively publicized trial. But they maintain his innocence, and said the deputies who claim they saw Reubens masturbating while watching "Nancy Nurse" and "Turn up the Heat" in the triple-X movie house were mistaken.

Assistant State Attorney Don Hartery said he was ready to go to trial - armed with a videotape he said clearly showed Reubens in the theater lobby that night. But Hartery said the plea agreement was similar to those reached in other misdemeanor cases.

"Mr. Reubens was given no special consideration or treatment due to his celebrity status," Hartery said.

That didn't extend to the Sarasota Sheriff's Department. The same agency that hauled Reubens to jail - even after he offered to do a benefit show for the sheriff's department - spent $2,000 in overtime pay for 10 deputies who protected Reubens at the courthouse, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Bill Stookey said.

While two dozen photographers crowded around a black limousine that looked like it might be holding "Pee-wee," deputies surrounded another car a block away, took Reubens to a private elevator and escorted him to the courtroom.

Reubens sat on the front bench, his hands folded on his lap, while Goldman heard a few other cases. Reubens whispered to his bodyguards, and rubbed his right eye with his finger.

After his five-minute hearing, he was whisked away by deputies.

Reubens grew up in Sarasota and was back in town visiting relatives when he was arrested. It was his third arrest in the county since 1971.

That year, he was arrested for loitering and prowling near an adult theater. Those charges were later dropped. In 1983, Reubens was placed on two years' probation for possession of marijuana, although adjudication was withheld.

Larry Goldman, Reubens' spokesman, said "Pee-wee's" career will get back on track now.

"We have established his innocence to his fans and the public," Goldman said.

He wouldn't comment on exactly what "Pee-wee" will do next, or whether he's in the new Batman movie, as has been reported. Nor would he say how many offers for work Reubens has gotten.

"Let's just say it's many," Goldman said.