WASHINGTON, D.C. Courting controversy in the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute of his Presidency, Barack Obama yesterday granted an end-of-term pardon to Pee-wee Herman in exchange for Herman’s 8-foot high aluminum foil ball, which will become part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
“It’s time for America to put the past behind us and honor one of our greatest living artists,” said Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who brokered the deal. “Should someone be banned for life from hosting children’s television shows just because he likes to spank the monkey in movie theaters? I think we as a nation are better than that.”
Herman was arrested in 1991 on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct after he was caught masturbating in an adult theater during a showing of Nurse Nancy, a pornographic film. He paid a fine and made several public service announcements, but the arrest and resulting charges have not been expunged from his record.
Herman’s return to the public eye has been cautiously orchestrated, beginning with a Broadway show and culminating in a so-called “weblog” or “blog,” such as the one you’re reading right now. He has also appeared on a late-night talk show wearing an abstinence ring and worked as a celebrity usher at the Naked Eye Cinema in the Combat Zone, Boston’s adult entertainment district.
Presidential pardons are often controversial because they are not reviewable by the other two branches of government, and thus give the nation’s chief executive the latitude to do something really stupid. Notorious pardons include Bill Clinton’s pardon of his brother Roger Clinton for cocaine possession, and Gerald Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon for wearing wing-tip shoes on a federally-protected beach.
Herman’s foil ball is reputed to be the largest of its kind in the hands of a private collector, and has been coveted by Obama since he first saw it in an episode of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” “It’s the Holy Grail of foil balls,” said Eric Montrose of Sotheby’s, a fine art and collectibles auction house in New York. “You would hate to see it broken up into pieces and used to freeze hamburgers or fish.”