A Jam-Packed Trip Through a Strange, Campy America

Feb 14, 2020

About 10 years ago, traveling through San Antonio, I visited the Alamo. And one of the first questions I asked the tour guide was, “So how many people ask to see the basement?” He rolled his eyes. “At least one a day,” he told me.

There is no basement at the Alamo, but in the 1985 movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it’s a key plot point. Of course, there are about 28 different plot points in the movie—it’s a jam-packed, madcap trip through a strange, campy America. The journey includes scary truck drivers, giant roadside dinosaurs, a quirky dance to the 1950s instrumental “Tequila,” and one man in search of his stolen bicycle.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure comes to town this month with Pee Wee Herman himself (Paul Reubens) discussing the making of the film afterward. If you want a reminder of just how surreal American culture can be, I wholly recommend it. That’s on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Masonic in San Francisco. Details here.—Gabe Meline

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