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John Dixon Paragon (December 9, 1954 – April 3, 2021) was an American actor, writer and director known for his work on the television series Pee-wee's Playhouse, where he portrayed Jambi the Genie and voiced Pterri the Pterodactyl. He was also a writer and director on a number of episodes.
John Dixon Paragon
December 9, 1954
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
|Died||April 3, 2021 (aged 66)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Paragon was born on December 9, 1954 in Anchorage, Alaska, but grew up and attended schools in Fort Collins, Colorado. He graduated from Fort Collins High School.
Paragon got his start in the Los Angeles-based improvisation group The Groundlings alongside Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman.
He played Jambi the Genie on the children's TV show Pee-wee's Playhouse. In addition to writing many of its regular-season episodes, he co-wrote (with Reubens) the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special in 1988, for which they were nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Children's Special.
His other roles include Cedric, one half of the couple Bob and Cedric on the television series Seinfeld; the title character in the children's movie The Frog Prince; the sex shop salesman in Eating Raoul; and the owner of a strip-o-gram business in the 1986 film Echo Park.
He collaborated with fellow Groundling Cassandra Peterson on numerous Elvira projects, including the recurring role of The Breather, an annoying caller, for her first television series on KHJ-TV-Los Angeles.
He also made multiple appearances at Knott's Scary Farm with Elvira at the Good Time Theater. One of the show's highlights was when he walked amongst the audience as Ramone Azteca.
Paragon worked with Walt Disney Imagineering on ways to incorporate improvisational performance into attractions at Disney parks. In this capacity, he performed as the keeper of Lucky the Dinosaur during test runs of the animatronic figure.
He returned to his performance as Jambi the Genie in the Broadway outing of the Pee-wee Herman stage show that began performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theater on October 26, 2010.
Paragon died on April 3, 2021 at his home in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 66. His cause of death was heart disease and chronic alcoholism. News of his death was not made public until June 18 of that year. He was cremated and his ashes were in the possession of Cassandra Peterson until they were interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on November 15, 2022. His urn is "a perfectly crafted depiction" of the purple-and-gold Jambi the Genie box.
|1980||Cheech and Chong's Next Movie||Yes||Director|
|1982||Eating Raoul||Yes||Sex Shop Salesman|
|Things Are Tough All Over||Yes||Red Carpet Man #1|
|Airplane II: The Sequel||Yes||Economy Flight Attendant|
|1985||Pee-wee's Big Adventure||Yes||Movie Lot Actor|
|Get Out of My Room||Yes||Robert Walters||Direct-to-video mockumentary|
|The Frog Prince||Yes||Ribbit / Prince of Freedly|
|1988||Elvira: Mistress of the Dark||Yes||Yes||Gas Station Attendant|
|1992||Double Trouble||Yes||Yes||FBI Agent|||
|Honey, I Blew Up the Kid||Yes||Lab Technician|
|Ring of the Musketeers||Yes||Yes||Air Traffic Controller Manfred Wenzel|
|Twin Sitters||Yes||Yes||Yes||Loan officer|||
|1996||The Rich Man's Wife||Yes||Maitre D'|
|2001||Elvira's Haunted Hills||Yes||—|
|2006||Red Riding Hood||Yes||Fisherman|
|2016||Pee-wee's Big Holiday||Yes||TV Cameraman|
Also production consultant direct-to-video ThrillerVideo (1985).
|1981||The Pee-wee Herman Show||Yes||Yes||Jambi / Pterri (voice)||Television film|
|1981–2011||Elvira's Movie Macabre||Yes||Yes||Breather||6 episodes as actor; 1 episode as writer|||
|1982||Madame's Place||Yes||Holistic doctor||1 episode|
|1983||The Paragon of Comedy||Yes||Yes||Various||Television film|
|The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour||Yes||Various|
|The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show||Yes||(voice)|
|1984||Last of the Great Survivors||Yes||Beef||Television film|
|Cheeseball Presents||Yes||Yes||Breather||Television film|
|Welcome to the Fun Zone||Yes||Himself||Television film|
|Elvira's MTV Halloween Party||Yes||Yes||Breather||Television film|
|1985–2011||Saturday Night Live||Yes||Yes||Pterri (voice)||1 episode as actor, 1 episode as writer|
|1986||Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills||Yes||Raddichio||1 episode|
|1986–90||Pee-wee's Playhouse||Yes||Yes||Yes||Jambi / Pterri (voice)||41 episodes as actor; 25 episodes as writer;
20 episodes as director
|1987||Cheers||Yes||Grif Palmer||1 episode|
|1988||Sledge Hammer!||Yes||Durward Monroe||1 episode|
|The Cheech Show||Yes||—||Television film|
|1991||On the Television||Yes||Various||1 episode|
|1992||Ring of the Musketeers||Yes||Yes||Yes||Air Traffic Controller||Television film|
|1993||The Elvira Show||Yes||Yes||Voice of 'Reinfield'|
|1995–96||Night Stand||Yes||Bachelor #3 / Dr. Ed Burns||5 episodes|
|1996–98||Silk Stalkings||Yes||—||10 episodes|||
|1997||Pacific Blue||Yes||—||1 episode|
|1999||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Yes||Bokar||Episode: "Prodigal Daughter"|
|Mega Babies||Yes||—||2 episodes|
|2001||You Don't Know Jack||Yes||—||Also consultant|
|2011||The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway||Yes||Yes||Jambi / Pterri (voice)||Television film|
|2014||13 Nights of Elvira||Yes||—||Also producer and music supervisor|
- ^ Barnes, Mike (July 18, 2013). "Shout! Factory Nabs 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Distribution Rights". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ a b Shafer, Ellise (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon, 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Star, Dies at 66". Variety. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ a b Gaines, Caseen (2011). Inside Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon. ECW Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-1550229981.
- ^ "John Paragon – Broadway Cast & Staff". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ Udell, Erin (September 27, 2016). "Meet Jambi of Pee Wee's Playhouse fame in Fort Collins". Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ a b Udell, Erin (June 21, 2021). "'Pee-wee's Playhouse' actor and Fort Collins High School grad John Paragon dead at 66". Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
- ^ a b c d e f Hughes, William (June 18, 2021). "R.I.P. John Paragon, Pee-wee's Playhouse's Jambi the Genie". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ Evans, Greg (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon Dies: Jambi The Genie Of 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Was 66". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 18, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ Sestito, Maria (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon, 'Elvira' writer and genie on 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,' died in Palm Springs home". The Desert Sun. Archived from the original on June 18, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
- ^ "ELVIRA aka CASSANDRA PETERSON - WTF Happened to this Horror Celebrity?". YouTube.
- ^ https://boingboing.net/2022/11/18/pee-wees-playhouse-actor-john-paragon-laid-to-rest-in-a-fitting-urn-a-jambi-the-genie-box.html
- John Paragon at IMDb
- John Paragon at AllMovie