Phyllis Patterson RIP – She changed my life!
Many Tributes have been posted for a remarkable woman who passed away yesterday morning. Here is mine:
On May 11-12, 1963 schoolteacher Phyllis Patterson held a class activity in the backyard of her home in the Hollywood Hills. She and her husband, Ron Patterson presented the first Renaissance Pleasure Faire as a weekend fundraiser for radio station KPFK to 8000 people. The Faire was designed as an actual spring market fair of the Elizabethan period.
NOTE: Today is Monday, May 19.
“Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.”
My life changed in Spring 1980 when a friend from high school brought me to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire workshops at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura. I worked for the Living History Centre for the next 14 years, so her influence on me, my life, my ideology, and my reality is profound (as it is for so many others).
“You’re not special, and neither is your problem.”
I came to Agoura workshops and started performing at the Faire with the Mongers (The Guild of St. Swithin’s), hung out with folks from St. Helena’s (the peasants, middle and lower class characters), St. Minerva’s (Washerwomen), St. Blaise (Cryers), St. Paul’s (the Thieves & Cutpurses) and made a lot of new friends. The thrill and memory of doing live street improv in Witches’ Wood with Greg the Obscene Juggler for hundreds of people is one I can’t forget. The memory of performing in a night show or two, I wish everyone could forget…but I know there are pictures, because I have some.
“Don’t gamble if you can’t afford to win.”
“This is a Costume.”
In 1982, I got my first Crew job with the Costume Department (Much love to Carolyn, Chriss, Deborah, Vicky, Louise RIP, Freida RIP, Mary Jo RIP, Todi, Daria, Gretchen and Leslie!) and quickly made friends with all the theme characters, stage show performers, CREW and key Staff members.
“There’s no reason for it, it’s just our policy.”
“All the Faire’s a Stage!” – “Eat, Drynk & Be Merry!”
“Whip me, beat me, show me you care. Make me work the Renaissance Faire.”
In Agoura, I joined the original Sea Dogs at DAW-SOB in 1982 with Captain Charles Taylor RIP. (Actually I was “Shanghai-ed” by Virginia, because I was good friends with her brother) I was in attendance at Julie & Tracy’s wedding, Cat & Charles’ wedding, the weekend long 4th of July parties in Camarillo and the Antelope Valley, Christmas at Virginia & Mario’s (and the birth of their 3 children), and many New Years Eve parties at KJ’s mom’s house.
“Oh no, not another learning experience.”
“As long as you’re having a good time.”
“This is a good day to go to jail” –
“Ripe” – “Saucy” – “Juicy” – “Stewed” – “Seedy is as seedy does”
I was a Monger and a Soldier in Worthington’s Company-of-Foote (the original St. Michael’s) up north and was a Queen’s Chair-bearer for a couple years (yes, I was the left rear wheel on the Tudor sedan!).
“I’ll see your attitude and raise you one.” – “When I want your advice I’ll beat it out of you.”
I worked for Costumes and worked for Security at Dickens’ Fair in 1983 at the Fox Theatre in Oakland (and again in 1984) and the Southern Faire. So, I probably approved your costume or checked your passes at one time or another in the 1980s.
“Martyrdom is not as useful as you think.” – “We don’t care, we don’t have to.”
“No Scudi, No Booty.”
I was a proud member of the Fool’s Guild (and the Lord Mayor’s Fool in Agoura sometimes), I partied with Jack, Toby Jo, Jonnathon, Skip, Clay, David and Andy at the Guildhall at Fountain & Harper and the Griffith Park Boys Camp! And later was involved in the American Puppet Theatre fiasco!
“Ya-Ta-Heh” – “I don’t care how you did it last Faire.” – “I can make your night a living hell.”
“Sudden prayers make G-d jump.”
“We are amused.”
“Only if you brush your teeth.”
I camped in Pig’s Gulch and on Cardiac Hill (and slept in Actor’s Camp and a few other places too). I hot tubbed in the PIG. I dated one of Billy’s daughters. Maybe we shared a hooch, tent or shower stall? I had a hooch on-site in the Crow’s Nest above Drench-A-Wench by the snow fence in Agoura for a few years. Later relocated to a hooch behind New Forest and The Maze. “Sleep is for Sissies!” So for the years I was on Night Security, I only slept a little during the day (while commuting north and south to boot).
“Operating outside of design limitations.”
“Instant Authority Complex, Just Add Radio….And Stir.”
“What part of NO, don’t you understand?”
“Are you going to come quietly, or shall I pass out earplugs?”
I worked Living History Centre Security as a tunic and walking guard in 1983-84, and then as Walking and Front Gate Lieutenant, Night and Mobile Security in Oakland, San Francisco (Pier 45), and Novato until 1987; and in Agoura and Devore until 1994. Jim Hayes was my walking partner up north, and Michael C. taught me the art of “night walking”. In summer 1987, I lived one mile off-site with Richard, Jason and Okai in a house in Novato while working on-site during the week as Mobile Security, as well as Days/Nights on weekends.
“Of course I remember you – we tore up your pass last week, right?”
“When you’re up, you’re up and when you’re down the security guard bites you.”
“It’s love making fun.” – “Yes, Yes, No.” – “Forgive me Father, for I have funned.”
We all were temps…but I still prefer the term “Seasonal”. I did have the experience of going from an honorarium of a few food tickets per day (Scholarship at the College of Renaissance Delights) to being one of the highest paid regular hourly employees at LHC.
“My face is my pass.” – “Your face is not your pass.” –
“I’m not real excited about being awake.”
Oh yeah, I still have my radio with a “Thys’ll Killya” sticker on it.
“It all started when he hit me back.”
I also still have my John Schulp’s knife, my Suzy Cooksey Hat O’Leather, one of Robert and Frannie’s Whales, my old CREW t-shirts, framed gate and camping passes, old costume pieces, weird props, psychedelic toys, miscellaneous paraphernalia, a collection of fine jewelry, and a box of buttons with funny slogans and catch phrases.
“I don’t care if you respect me in the morning.- But you will.”
And of course, I have the memory of the unique communal experience of road tripping north and south, camping on-site, sharing everything with others, workshops, privies, hay bales, ring-out, water trucks, earwigs, Faire boogers, pre-Faire build/post-Faire teardown, and the time spent in-between waiting for workshops to start again.
“Drop back 400 years and punt.” – “Carry out your own dead.” – “Fairegate”
“Eating and Drynking are the Three Best Thyngs.” – “Do the cocktail.”
I remember the smells and tastes of coffee, chai and baklava at Don Brown’s; cinnamon buns in the morning, Stan’s turkey legs and beef ribs; Manny’s artichokes, churros and Monday brunch; Steak-on-a-Steak, Fish & Chips, Scarpone, Bangers, Piroshki, Toad-in-a-Hole, French Onion Soup, Fruit Ices, Tryfle, Strawberry Crepes, Truffles, and the rest of the unique Faire food (and the pleasure of knowing the people who cooked and served it). I can say for a fact that the Faire inspired the love I have for great food today.
“I’m Mad over Madalyn’s!” – “Consuming Passions – Born to Ball, Live to Dip!”
“No Blood, No Foul.” – “Where’s my booth?” – “Cruel & Unusual”
I also remember the taste of Faire dust, stale metallic water and fire retardant. And the smell of fresh pumped privies, bodice sweat mixed with essential oils; the Horse Tourney, wet earth, hay and burlap; melting ice, warm ale, apple cider, and watered down lemonade; dill pickles, green grass, blooming mustard and warm oak trees!
“No good deed goes unpunished.” – “As long as you’re having a good time.”
“Is the screwin’ you’re getting’ worth the screwin’ you’re getting’?”
I’ve met and have the memory of amazing and talented artistic people who were entertainers, performers, designers, builders, artists and makers of fine clothing, arts and crafts. I worked for little pay alongside a crazy dedicated CREW of unique and eclectic characters. I enjoyed the fun of storytelling, night shows, Ale Stand parties, and “after-hours” activities! I’ve had Faire romances, and had my heart broken many times.
I’ve experienced a “Carbon Condition”, a radio gone “D-Watt”, and a “Safety Meeting” (all more than once, LOL). I searched for Tabitha, and celebrated at the Hedonist’s Picnic. I know what “Bubba Bud” and “The Spam Feed” are all about. I saw a ghost at the Fox Theatre, was on the lot when the Water Truck crashed down Gray Barn Hill (“Roll Over & Play Ed”) and was there when Six-Pack fell in the mud (and got a new nickname), and I’ve even seen real Orange Sunshine!
“I don’t want everything, I just want more.” – “I used to be special but then I grew up.”
“Insanely Zealous.” – “A filthy mind is a terrible thing to waste.” – “No, me first.”
The Faire also instilled in me a deep love and appreciation for Theatre (stage, street, improvisational and guerrilla), Shakespeare, free thought, questioning authority, alternative lifestyles and religions, holistic medicine and massage, ribald humor, healthy sex, strange and unusual people, historical reenactment, living history, juggling, and English history, music, and dance (although I don’t juggle, play music or dance, and I still tell people I don’t know how to sew…LMAO.)
“We’re laughing’ now, mate.” – “Don’t forget, I love ya.” – “One Boss Potato”
I’m sure there’s a lot I can’t or don’t want to remember, and there are things I’ve seen that I’ll never forget. It’s all living as history now in my head. When my family broke up in the 80s, my close friends at Faire became my surrogate family.
“Why yes, I am a rocket scientist.” – “The Pros of Con” – “One Boss Tomato”
I earned a B.A. in Theatre Arts in 1987 with an emphasis on Design/Tech and Film from the University of California, Santa Cruz (and I also worked for UC Performing Arts while I was a student). My first film job in Hollywood (after working as a Production Assistant on a few PSAs, music videos and commercials) was as a Men’s Costumer and Wardrobe Assistant. After twelve years in production, and ten years as a Talent Manager, I left the entertainment business in 2007, returned for a short time in 2009, and left again in 2010.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.” – “Are we having fun yet?” (Zippy the Pinhead)
The truth is that I did not know Phyllis well. My direct contact with her was very limited. I was frequently in her proximity while backstage or in the Costume trailer. I knew her a little and knew ‘of her’ a lot, and I know she knew me. Because my circle of friends overlapped Staff, CREW, actors and Security, I heard most of the stories, gossip and speculations from different points of view, but avoided the politics and in-house drama as much as possible.
I knew Kevin, Leslie, Robyn and Brian, but always maintained a little distance, because they were “the Owners” and I was their employee. My deepest condolences go out to all of them and the rest of Phyllis’ family….and her friends, and her extended Faire family as well. We are all connected through our shared experience!
If you’ve read all the way through this blog, the impact of Phyllis Patterson and her Faire on my life and the lives of others is pretty clear. Phyllis touched many peoples’ lives, both directly through the LHC and indirectly through her little idea of a Renaissance Faire, which has spread across the country, throughout the world, and has become indelibly embedded in our history, philosophy and culture!
Rest in Peace Phyllis Patterson and thanks for the friends, the experiences, the memories, the rewards, and the super fun party!
HUZZAH! FARE YOU WELL! MAY THE FOUR WINDS BLOW YOU SAFELY HOME!
JoshWillTravel is a “Charter member of St. Silas’ Guild”, a alumni of “Doctor D’s Traveling Medicine Show”, and also a member of the Loyal Order of Turtles, Mr. Pickwick’s Box Seats and the Golden Grommet Guild. “There are no martyrs, only saints…”
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