Pirates have a perennial hold on the popular imagination, at least if I’m using the right word. If I have mistakenly suggested something alarming concerning pirates, their grip and an embarrassing yet perfectly natural part of human anatomy, please forgive the hell out of me. What I mean to say is people like pirates. They always have. After all, what’s not to like about a cultural subset consisting almost exclusively of violent, alcoholic, maimed, amoral professional murderous thieves? My point is, it’s easy to get all swoony over Johnny Depp. Actual historical pirates are harder to crush on, as these brief biographical sketches will illustrate.
AKA Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, Edward Drummond. Born in Bristol England around 1680, he served in the royal navy during the War of Spanish Succession. When the war ended, loathe to give up setting other people’s ships on fire, he turned to piracy. Known for the fearsome and reasonably stupid practice of shoving burning cannon wicks in his hair and beard, The legendary Pirate king commanded a small fleet of vessels from the decks of the forty gun “Queen Anne’s Revenge” a slang term of the day for Syphilis.
“Arrr, Matey, soon me whole face will be on fire!”
After an extended Plundering of the Bahamas, he moved on to the Carolinas. But Good ever triumphs over Evil, as the highly civilized Royal Navy proved when the hunted him down, killed him, sawed off his head, mounted it on their bowsprit and sailed into Williamsburg harbor, where seagulls almost certainly pecked out and ate the eyes from his severed, lifeless head.
JOHN BARTHOLEMEW ‘BLACK BART’ ROBERTS
Navigator under famed Pirate Howell Davis, Captain of “The Princess”, Roberts assumed command after Davis succumbed to a severe case of giving a Pirate ship a really effeminate name. During his four-year reign of terror, ‘Black Bart’ looted and sank nearly 400 ships. A man of many contradictions, he dressed well, employed classical musicians as part of his crew, and never attacked on the Sabbath, but was also extremely fond of torturing people to death and had a scandalous May/December romance with the Governor of Virginia’s Wife’s pet monkey, Mister Skibbles.
“Nothing goes better with Bach’s Fourth Cantata in G Minor than whipping a naked sailor to pieces and dangling him by a rope into shark infested waters whilst romancin’ a monkey.”
At the height of his career he commanded 500 men, but his luck ran out in 1722. During a fierce battle with the HMS “Swallow” he was fatally distracted by considering the many hilarious scenarios that might have led the Queens Royal Navy to overlook what an outrageous name “Swallow” was for a ship belonging to a country already internationally notorius for what was then considered the scandalous behavior of it’s sailors.
THE BARBAROSSA BROTHERS
Aruj, Khier ed-Din, Isaak and Zeppo, were all born in the 1470’s on the Greek Island of Lesbos. Make your own cheap jokes; it’s a matter of historical fact. Taking the name ‘Barbarosa’ a word that apparently means ‘Red Beard’ in Italian, they grew beards and dyed them red so the name wouldn’t seem weird.
“Arrrr, see how the author don’t mention we’re Muslims to avoid playin’ into racist stereotypes, arrrrrrr.”
Aruj, a former slave, worked out his issues by enlisting his brothers in the systematic terrorization of the Aegean Sea. He went on to become Sultan of Algiers in the traditional fashion, killing the Sultan of Algiers. The Spanish Navy hunted down and killed Aruj, but were disappointed to find entire Navies ineligible for Sultanship under Algerian law, a job that now fell to the next eldest brother Khier ed-Din. Isaac, known as ‘The Quiet One’ had no interest in politics and contented himself with finding people on ships, taking all their stuff, killing them, violating them, setting them on fire and throwing them in the ocean, often in that order. Little is known of Zeppo, save that the youngest Barbarosa was considered handsome and appeared in only the first few films.
From 1648 – 52, the ‘Leggy Terror of the Tortuga’s’ commanded the dreaded ‘Embarrassing Fantasy’ inspiring fear, terror, frightendness and furtive shamefaced hurried self-abuse by unpleasant men and boys even to this day. Long thought to be mere legend, it turns out she totally was. I mean, come on. Seriously.
“The Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans”, “The Corsair,” “The Buccaneer,” “The King of Barataria,” “The Terror of the Gulf,” “The Pirate With The Most Nicknames”. Infamous for his brutal piracy in the Gulf of Mexico, yet revered for his heroism in the Battle of New Orleans, he is mostly remembered today as the basis for Jean LaFeet, the French, barefoot, Crunchberry thieving archenemy of Cap’n Crunch.
“Arrrr, I needs a job, I ain’t been seen on tv since the late Seventies!”
EDWARD “LADY LIPS” WILSON
Legendary for brutality, cunning, and the skillful, dexterous, mastery of his wiener. Believed to be J.M. Barrie’s inspiration for ‘Captain Hook’ and the actual author of the “Man from Nantucket” poem.
“Note to self: Come up with real funny ‘poop deck’ joke before submitting article”
Okay, I made that last one up.