Rickey The Pirate, A Downtown Icon, Dies

rickey-pirate.jpg
Rickey the Pirate (Photo by Frederick Guerrero via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Sad news for downtown, friends, family and fans of Rickey "the Pirate" Taylor: the downtown icon died yesterday after a battle with cancer.

Downtown News reports that he died Tuesday at a low-income housing facility in the Central City (fair warning: the link has only been working intermittently for us). He had recently turned 67 60.

If you've spent any amount of time in the Historic Core, you've probably run into Taylor. You might have even offered him a few bucks for the head shots he hands out that feature him in his trademark pirate hat. He was always outgoing, friendly and often smiling or offering up an "argh." Heck, even if you've never stepped foot on Spring Street, you might have heard about him: I was surprised when my cousin from the Midwest asked me about Rickey The Pirate—turns out he'd read about him in one of those gentleman mags, like GQ.

Taylor had been homeless for three decades until 2009 when downtown residents and the county finally helped to find him a place to stay through Project 50. They had been worried after he got into a fight that ended with him getting broken teeth and a bloody eye, according to Blogdowntown. He was born in Texas and grew up in Watts. At the time, he told Blogdowntown that he was suffering from health problems that exhausted him. His mother showed up at his housewarming to make her famous peach cobbler, and she said, "Thank God there were so many looking out after him. This is the most beautiful affair."

Some of the local businesses offered him odd jobs, and artists would paint or snap shots of him that he could sell. Artist Robert Vargas shared an album of photos and drawings of Taylor and wrote:

He was the very first person I drew at the DTLA art walk ten years ago, and over the years Rickey & I became close friends. He was such a special soul... I compiled this album of photos of us, mostly of me drawing him. I am consoled by the knowledge that it brought him as much joy as it brought me to draw him, and I drew him many many times over the last decade.

He told the Downtown News: "Everybody Downtown has a Rickey story. This is a definite blow to the culture down here."

Janene M. Zakrajsek of Pussy & Pooch wrote a kind of goofy and sweet remembrance of him:

He was always so proud and happy to guard our corner and keep a watchful eye over us, especially in the early years when there was much less activity on the block. We regularly gave him work in/outside the store...he took great pride in his work and tidiness. We fondly remember he was the 1st human to use our self-serve dog wash tubs. He loved our peppermint & tea tree shampoo, loved the 'tingle' on his head. Although we never did try his Mama's 'famous peach cobbler', we know it must have been awesome... Just like Rickey. We'll miss you bud and all that you have inspired in our neighborhood!!

Downtown News says there's a memorial set up with his picture at the electric box at Sixth and Spring: