WAYNE WHITE has two words for F. Scott Fitzgerald's contention that "There are no second acts in American lives": Fuck you. As any child of the '80s can recall, Pee-wee's Playhouse blew tiny minds and furrowed parental brows when it exploded onto children's TV screens. It was psychedelic-level bizarre, creepily annoying, and it was where White got his first big break. A few years down the line, the same kids were watching White's art direction in the video for Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight." And then things started to peter out.
In Beauty is Embarrassing, a documentary that frames itself around a one-man autobiographical show that White has performed around the country, we're given his story in typical rise-and-fall fashion, but instead of the heavy substance-abuse dramas of celebrity biographies, here there's a stable marriage and supportive family. Perhaps it's this network that allowed White to reinvent himself by embellishing thrift store paintings with pithy, F-word-laden phrases and becoming a star again, this time in the "legitimate" art world.
Affable and earnest, Beauty succeeds in its aim to be a source of advice and reassurance to creative professionals—with the added bonus of a peek behind the original Pee-wee's roots as a sketchy, coked out warehouse project in Warhol-era Manhattan.