How Twisted Sister Ended Up in ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’
The Long Island band made a cameo in 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure that stemmed from an earlier connection frontman Dee Snider made with Paul Reubens, the comedian behind Pee-wee. They ran into each other at an MTV party on New Year’s Eve one year and expressed their mutual admiration. After exchanging numbers, they moved on.
But a bond was forged. When Twisted Sister came to California to play a string of sold-out concerts at the Long Beach Arena opening for Iron Maiden in early 1985, Snider received a phone call. “Pee-wee heard that we were in town, called up and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this movie,’ [speaking] n a very normal voice, no Pee-wee voice,” Snider recalled during a 2022 interview. “He said, ‘Would you do a cameo?’”
After Snider said he was interested, Reubens shared his vision for the scene. “‘The idea is that we’re on the Warner Bros. set, I’m being chased by Santa Claus and Godzilla,’” he recalled Reubens telling him. “‘I’m on my bicycle, and we come riding through a Twisted Sister video shoot.’”
He knew Reubens was a fan of the band's music, so Snider tried to zero in on what song Twisted Sister would perform in the scene. “What, like ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ or ‘I Wanna Rock’?” Pee-wee goes, “No, man. ‘Burn in Hell’,’” Snider recalled. “I’m like, ‘Yes, Pee-wee! ‘Burn in Hell!’ Metal!”
Watch Twisted Sister's Cameo in 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'
They had much in common, according to Snider. He noted how Reubens developed the Pee-wee character in the ‘70s but was working to appeal to college audiences, not children. “Twisted Sister wasn’t going for a kids' crowd either,” he explained. “We were playing fucking biker bars. It was like I was fighting for my life every night. It wasn’t about little kids -- even though little kids wound up getting into what we did. The same was true for Pee-wee.”
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure made more than $40 million at the box office and quickly became a cult favorite. And Reubens started attracting more, and younger, fans. "[It] changed his course for his whole life,” Snider said. “He became this child’s comedian instead of a teenage comedian.” (Reubens died on July 31 following a battle with cancer.)
The moment provided an important point of inspiration for Snider, who remained grateful to Reubens. “It was an incredible experience to see filmmaking at that level,” he told the Huffington Post in 2015. “[The experience] gave me the bug to start writing screenplays and things like that. And, I guess, led to the point where I wrote a musical," Dee Snider's Rock and Roll Christmas Tale in 2014.