Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In 1988, Pee-wee Herman became an honorary member of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall's Black Pack

Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd. (Getty Images)

Hot on the heels of the delightful and very viral Movie Premieres Unlimited account comes another Hollywood-centric hub, this one centered around the forgotten movie merch of yesteryear. It is, appropriately, called Movie Promotional Merch Unlimited, and you can (and should) follow it here.

Among its nostalgic pics of Wedding Crashers’ cameras, Mr. Woodcock tees, and Weekend At Bernie’s inflatables, however, emerged a photo that the moderator calls “my biggest discovery in all my time studying Hollywood,” which means something from a guy capable of drudging up Lord Of The Rings-branded 7-Up cans.  

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In it, Paul Reubens—in character as Pee-wee Herman—stands alongside TV host and actor Arsenio Hall and actress Valeria Golino, holding a plaque declaring his honorary membership in the Black Pack. The Black Pack, as this 1988 L.A. Times article outlines, was “a clique of successful black comedians made up of Murphy, Robert Townsend, Arsenio Hall, Paul Mooney and Keenen Ivory Wayans.” And, apparently, Pee-wee. Not Reubens, Pee-wee.

“Dear Pee-wee, life at the top is one big circus and we have selected you to become an honorary member of the Black Pack,” the plaque reads, “to join the rest of us brothers on this 21st day of July 1988.” It’s signed by Murphy, Hall, Townsend, Mooney, and Wayans. Our first question: What? Our second question: How does Cowboy Curtis feel about this?

Though the cultural consciousness seems to have forgotten this odd milestone in Reubens’ career, Pee-wee sure hasn’t. Earlier this year, the character’s official Twitter account tweeted out a #waybackwednesday post about it.

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While it was clearly a stunt to help promote Reubens’ and Golino’s Big Top Pee-wee—the photo comes from the premiere—the context remains deliriously unclear. Nobody from the Black Pack is in the movie, per IMDB—though we’d like to note that Dustin Diamond and Benicio Del Toro are—and there’s little online to suggest what the link might be, outside of Reubens’ Herman having guested on Hall’s talk show.

And so it shall remain an industry curio, a photo to gaze upon as you would a work of art. There’s much to admire, after all, from Pee-wee’s protruding bottom lip to Arsenio’s casual side-eye to Golino’s general air of confusion, which, frozen in time, shall forever mirror our own.  

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.