Phyllis Patterson, co-founder of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, dies at 82

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Phyllis Patterson, who with her husband, Ron, originated the Renaissance Pleasure Faire as a summer class in her Los Angeles backyard before it grew into a national corset-and-codpiece phenomenon, has died in a hospital in Northern California's Marin County. She was 82.

Patterson, who lived in Novato, had been in declining health before her May 18 death from pneumonia, her son Kevin Patterson said.

In 1960, she left her job as a high school English and history teacher to care for her baby son at home. With all the world a stage, she took a part-time job with a neighborhood youth center doing backyard drama-and-art sessions for fifth- and sixth-graders.

Within a few years, it was no longer about preteens pronouncing commedia dell'arte and doing elaborate Punch and Judy shows under the oaks. The Pattersons' effort became the Renaissance Pleasure Faire -- a lusty, countercultural gathering where thousands in period costume would show up at an old movie ranch to hawk crafts, banter, hoist ale, whirl around a Maypole, gnaw on turkey legs and make merrie.

"The whole idea is to get people to play the living history game," Patterson told a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1987.

"Our motto is to tickle into learning with a laugh."The Pattersons divorced in 1980, but Phyllis continued running the Faire. Other survivors include son Brian; two grandchildren; and a brother, Vaughn Stimbert. Ron Patterson died in 2011.

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