I never intended to become a pirate. I grew up about as far from the ocean as one could. The rolling waves and salt spray of the the briny deep held no allure for me. Sure, I read Treasure Island and watched Captain Blood as a child, but I was never fascinated with pirates. I didn’t run around outside playing “pirate” with my neighborhood friends. My most vivid, formative ocean experience was an unfortunate incident with a jellyfish in the Padre Island surf, circa 1973.
I did jump aboard for celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day (which is just a supremely cool and goofy idea) upon reading Dave Barry’s 2002 column. That’s mainly because I do funny voices and had a suitable accent at the ready.
But in 2006, I took a position on faculty at Park University, and their mascot is The Pirate. When ITLAPD came around, I found out they didn’t yet observe it. Well, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to really put on a show and generate some free publicity for the University. I had most of the costume pieces and the weaponry already lying around from previous roles, so this was a natural. I convinced a few faculty to join me that year and fun was had by all. Each year it grew until in 2011, my last ITLAPD on faculty at Park, we had an entire Park Talk Like a Pirate Week (“Too much pirattitude for just one day!”) celebrated at campuses all across the country!
Over the years, I began reading up on the Golden Age of Piracy and developed an encyclopedic treasure trove of pirate trivia and knowledge of the era. I wanted to make my pirate (then “The Dread Cap’n Payne”) as authentic a reenactment as possible, so I concocted a plausible backstory and peppered it with illustrative events.
Then in 2013, I had the great good fortune to be cast as Richard Noland in the Real Pirates Exhibit (from Premiere Exhibits and the National Geographic Society) at Union Station Kansas City. Noland was a real Irish pirate. He was Quartermaster of the Whydah fleet, Captain of the Anne Galley, and recruiting officer for Benjamin Hornigold. He was one of the first to take up piracy at the end of “Queen Anne’s War,” survived the Nor’easter that laid the Whydah low, and (wise enough to see the way the winds of history were blowing) took the pardon from King George. He kept a good deal of his treasure, retired to the colonies, and even appeared as a character witness in the trials of his former shipmates (trying to help them avoid the noose). Altogether, a remarkably successful pirate.
We had an exceptional crew and being pirates was too much fun. So when the run ended, as Captain and Quartermaster, Paul Craig and I felt the responsibility to keep the crew together. Now, we sail under the Black Flag as The Real Pirates of Kansas City. We provide pirates for all occasions: parties and events, of course, but also a murder mystery dinner theatre, stage shows, and a whole boatload of associated shenanigans.
I’ve even written the curricula for corporate training (for business, organizations and entrepreneurs) and life skills training (for children, youth, and adults) because there’s a lot we can learn — both about how to live and how not to live — from the real pirates of the Golden Age. If you feel the need for a bit of piracy in your life, then contact me! <link>
• “A Real Pirate’s Life: Business Lessons from History’s Most Extreme Entrepreneurs”
• “A Real Pirates Life: Life Lessons from the Original American Revolutionaries”
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