Ron Patterson, the man who created the first Renaissance fair in America, died on January 15 in California. He was 80 years old, and — if his obituaries are any indication — lived a pretty funny and cool life.

Patterson created the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in California in 1963, which spread across the country and spawned hundreds of similar events where court jesters, knights and other tights-wearing people gather to reenact ye olde times. You could also give Patterson some credit for the Medieval Times restaurant chain. The Times describes the way Patterson held court in his heyday:

The family continues to operate the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a Victorian-themed extravaganza founded by Ron and Phyllis Patterson in 1970, held each holiday season in San Francisco.

There, in a secret parlor on the fairgrounds known poetically as the Opium Den, Mr. Patterson held forth eruditely on divers and sundrie subjects as Champagne flowed, Master of the Revels to the last.

The San Francisco Chronicle quotes one of Patterson's friends, "The man was a workhorse in tights. He cajoled discipline out of parades, merriment out of passing crowds, humor out of impending chaos."

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[NYT; SF Chronicle]