Back when Pee-wee was just starting to catch on, he was a frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman, taking part in bizarre bits that only further cemented his rise to superstardom.
Since my own obsession began with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, I missed the earliest of those appearances, featuring a version of Pee-wee that was somehow even weirder than the one I grew up loving.
As it turns out, sleeping through those Letterman spots was a huge mistake. You see, on Halloween night in 1984, Pee-Wee showed Dave his COLLECTION OF GREMLINS MEMORABILIA. WHAT!
Many thanks to my buddy Bayou Babylon, who found this video and very accurately predicted that it would change my life. The whole thing is wonderful, but if you just want to see the Gremlins stuff, skip to the six minute mark.
After a devil-costumed Pee-wee delights Dave with everything from a pumpkin mug to a Barbie magazine, he rummages through his prop box, and begins parading an absolute smorgasbord of vintage Gremlins goodies. OH. MY. GOD.
I felt a tremendous personal responsibility to catalog everything in Pee-wee’s Gremlins collection:
Humorously noting that Spielberg even managed to get his name on the damn cereal box, I don’t think this was any sort of sneaky partnership with Warner or Ralston. Paul Reubens just randomly decided to use his critically important spot on Letterman to talk up Gremlins Cereal. How can you not love that?
Bendable Stripe Figure!
Most of the toys Pee-wee championed were from LJN, which didn’t have exclusive rights to Gremlins playthings, but certainly made the bulk of ‘em. This bendable Stripe figure sadly eluded me as a child, so no, I never knew the pleasure of pretzel-knotting an evil Gremlin.
Watch the video closely, and you’ll see Pee-wee inadvertently reveal the figure’s single weakness: Shaky feet. Bendable figures often have trouble standing, and if you mess with their legs one too many times, it’s over.
Collectible Stripe Figure!
Looking much like the bendable version, this Stripe figure was smaller, non-poseable, and part of a glorious three-pack that I reviewed eons ago. That three-pack also included Gizmo, and a second Stripe in his Mogwai form.
If I remember correctly, buying that set was the only way to get a Mogwai version of Stripe. In 1984, that was a big deal. As for the Gremlin version that Pee-wee played with, that’s one of the few action figures that I’ve managed to hold onto since childhood. And yes, it’s now very grimy.
Stripe Gumball Dispenser!
Pee-wee wasn’t messing around! The Stripe gumball dispenser is one of the strangest Gremlins collectibles ever conceived, and even in the movie’s heyday, not the kind of thing you’d buy unless you were a serious fanatic.
The gumballs were hidden in a gaping wound on Stripe’s belly, and only obtainable by moving the figure’s right arm upward. After you did that, all of the gumballs would spill out and roll everywhere, making this somehow one of the best and worst gumball dispensers of all time. (I still own the Gizmo version, which works in exactly the same way.)
Gremlins Candy Container!
This Gremlins candy container was just one of the seeming hundreds of “candy heads” made by Topps in the ‘80s and ‘90s. (You can see several more in this old Dino Drac review. Virtually every character with even the most arguable “kid appeal” got one.)
The candy inside was best described as “thematic Smarties” — chalky, colorful and not very good. Of course, kids only wanted these things for the containers, because there were few glories finer than buying a piece of candy and ending up with a makeshift Gremlins finger puppet.
Poseable Stripe Figure!
Easily the best toy spun from the first movie, this monster was large, articulated and very well-made. I’ve spent virtually my whole life wanting one. Unfortunately, it’s among the most expensive Gremlins toys, and I just can’t convince myself to trade a week’s worth of groceries for one big ass Stripe doll.
Some readers may recall that I spotted a boxed version at the 2013 Monster-Mania convention. Almost two years later, and I still regret passing on it. That hundred bucks was gonna be gone either way, and considering what people on eBay charge, I missed out on a steal.
There have been many amazing Gremlins toys produced since 1984, and they largely outshine in the originals in every conceivable way. Still, I rate this particular Stripe as the very best Gremlins toy ever made. Oh, those demonic ruby eyes!
Gremlins Water Hatchers!
OH I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS. Leaving no stone unturned, Pee-wee drops a pair of Gremlins Water Hatchers on Dave’s desk. He doesn’t identify them as such, but that’s what they are.
The set consisted of a Gremlins-themed “egg” containing two tiny figures that would multiply in size when left in a bucket of water. (Finally, Gremlins that were supposed to get wet!)
I actually reviewed these on X-E back in 2003, and though I don’t trust my shoddy old code enough to link the review, it’s still online. If you’ve been reading me forever, you might remember that I tossed each figure into a water-filled jar to let nature take its course. I don’t know what happened to the “Gizmo jar,” but I’ve somehow managed to hold onto the “Stripe jar” for nearly a dozen years. I never thought I’d have any reason to mention that, but here we are:
Stripe’s showing his age. Most of his flesh has turned into semitransparent goop. He still looks like Stripe, but specifically Stripe from the final moments of the film, where he was bloody and slimy and melting and dead.
Part of me wanted to open the jar for a closer examination, but a bigger part of me felt like I should wait another ten years.
Thanks for being awesome, Pee-wee. I know it’s a little late to compliment you on your Gremlins collection, but you may consider yourself officially forgiven for stealing my photo of a WWE Ice Cream Bar.