Ron Patterson, who with his then-wife Phyllis founded the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in 1963, which showcased traditions of 16th century Elizabethan England, has died. He was 80.
Patterson died Jan. 15 in Sausalito, Calif., where he was receiving hospice care at the home of a friend, said his son Kevin. He had been in declining health for several years.
For the first festival, which was held in North Hollywood, the couple enlisted fellow improvisational actors, craftsmen and others who dressed in their best approximation of Elizabethan-era costumes and intermingled with visitors.
That fair, a fundraiser for radio station KPFK that managed to attract 3,000 people, grew out of a children's play at the couple's Laurel Canyon home.
"He was a lover of the arts. He was a painter. He was a performer," Kevin Patterson said of his father. "He married a woman who shared that passion and together they had a tremendous following of people that discovered they had similar interests."
"They loved living an improvisational life. And encouraging others to join the parade."
Ronald J. Patterson was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, 1930, and raised in Studio City. The eldest of three sons, he graduated from North Hollywood High School in 1949 and UCLA in 1954, where he majored in commercial art. As a student, he helped design the school's large-scale card stunts at football games, in which spectators held up cards spelling out cheers and creating elaborate drawings.
After graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Memphis, Tenn., where he met and married Phyllis Stimbert. The couple moved back to Los Angeles, where Patterson began working as art director at a Hollywood advertising agency.
In 1962, Phyllis left her job as a teacher and started a summer drama program for children, which her husband costumed. The productions were based on historical periods, and for the Renaissance era they created a mime and minstrel show. It was such a success that a national theater organization asked the couple to make it available to the public.
Looking for ways to stage the play, she saw a drawing of a comedia wagon surrounded by a small market fair and began imagining the first festival.
Two and a half years later Ron Patterson quit his job to help oversee the fair.
In addition to helping produce the fairs, Ron Patterson served as "Master of the Revels," wearing a custom-designed suit that was part ringmaster, court jester and peacock. His job was to caper about the fair, cajoling and inspiring others to take part in the festivities, his son said.
Judy Kory, a longtime friend who met the couple at the first fair, often performed with Ron Patterson.
Neither knew much at first about accurately portraying the Elizabethan era they purported to represent, Kory said.
"We made it up," she said, inspired by movies such as Errol Flynn's "The Adventures of Robin Hood".
"They were less historically authentic in the beginning," Kevin Patterson said. "The attention to historical detail improved over the years."
The fair moved in its third year to Paramount Ranch near Malibu and remained there until 1988, when it moved to San Bernardino County. Under its current ownership, the fair is held in Irwindale.
The Pattersons divorced in 1980 and Phyllis continued running the fair for several years until the company was sold in 1994. The family continues to own and operate another festival, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, which the couple started in 1970.
Kevin Patterson said he set up a secluded den at the most recent Christmas fair for his father to share stories with friends.
"He was a true bohemian gentleman until the end," he said.
In addition to his son Kevin of Novato, Calif., Patterson is survived by son Brian of San Francisco; two grandsons; and brothers Duane of Visalia, Calif., and Gary of Cloverdale, Calif.
Ron Patterson dies at 80; co-founder of Renaissance Pleasure Faire
He and his wife started the fair in 1963, enlisting improvisational actors and approximating Elizabethan-era costumes as best they could. The fair's historical accuracy improved over the years.
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