Friday, September 18, 2009

Random top 10 list: best pirates

In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19), here is my list of the best pirates (or groups of pirates) ever:

#1. Captain Jack Sparrow

The first movie in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise was a five-star surprise in 2003, and while the sequels have not been as good, they have still been essential viewing if only for Johnny Depp's superb portrayal of the eccentric, tricky Captain Jack. No matter how dire the situation, you can be assured that Captain Jack will find a way out - and make you laugh in the process! (Geoffrey Rush is also fantastic throughout the films as rival pirate Captain Barbossa.)

#2. Captain Hook

Scottish playwright James M. Barrie created a masterpiece when he created the Peter Pan story in 1904. The story has taken many different forms as it has been told throughout the years, but no matter the telling, Pan's arch nemesis is always Captain Hook. The 1953 Walt Disney movie version of Hook may be the most well known, but he is such a classic literary character that he lends himself to good storytelling regardless of the media. Yes, he is evil, yet he is handsome and elegant and strangely sympathetic. And he has a legitimate reason for hating Peter Pan, who cut off his hand and fed it to a crocodile!

#3. Long John Silver

From Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel Treasure Island comes one of the greatest pirate characters- and pirate names - of all time. Want to know where the traditions of peg legs and pet parrots come from? Look no further. Besides being larger than life throughout the novel (ans subsequent movie adaptations), Long John Silver lent his name to an awesome fried fish fast-food restaurant. (As a side note, I traveled to Singapore last year and was amazed to see a Long John Silver's restaurant on every corner. There are 31 of them there - more than any other city in the world.)

#4. Pittsburgh Pirates

Of all the pirate-themed teams in sports (which includes the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, etc.), the Pittsburgh Pirates have the most history, tradition and claim to piracy. They are one of the oldest Major League Baseball teams, originally founded in 1876. In 1891, they took the name "Pirates" to make light of accusations that they signed away players from rival leagues. The name stuck. They have gone on to win five World Series (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979) and have been the home of dozens of Hall of Fame players, including Honus Wagner 1900-1917) and Roberto Clemente (1955-1972). They have also historically featured a unique uniform style and a rabid fan base, and in 2001 they opened a fantastic new stadium.

#5. The Dread Pirate Roberts

The Princess Bride is an all-time classic book and movie. The legend of the Dread Pirate Roberts is both an integral part of the story and one of the best pirate tales ever spun. ("Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.") The Dread Pirate Roberts manages to defeat brains, brawn and skill, but in the end it is "true love" that saves the day.

#6. Captain Morgan

Sir Henry Morgan was one of the most famous and dangerous pirates in the Caribbean during the 17th Century, and blah blah blah. All that matters is that his name and legend were adopted by the world's most popular brand of spiced rum. With a killer logo, slogan ("Got a little Captain in You?") and television ads, Captain Morgan rum has made it cool to be a pirate again. Well, a drunken pirate anyway.

#7. Blackbeard

Another real-life pirate of the Caribbean, Blackbeard (real name Edward Teach) has gone on to be the most famous pirate name of all. He was a legend in his own time, and that legend has continued to grow throughout the years. He has made cameos in such classic fictional works as Treasure Island and Peter Pan (Captain Hook was said to have been his boatswain), and continues to do so to this day. When I asked my six-year-old who his favorite pirate was, he immediately answered, "Blackbeard." When I asked where he'd heard of Blackbeard, he said, "Johnny Test, of course!"

#8. The Pirates Of Penzance

If you haven't seen this Gilbert and Sullivan musical, do so. It opened in 1879 and has continued to be a popular production ever since. It concerns Frederic, a boy who through a misunderstanding becomes an apprentice to a band of pirates. He is bound to serve them until his 21st birthday, but upon turning 21 he learns that he was born on Leap Year Day, so technically he has only had five actual birthdays and must continue to serve the pirates until old age. It is a funny play and contains some wonderful musical numbers ("I am the very model of a modern Major-General").

#9. The Ice Pirates

A campy 1984 Star Wars rip-off starring Robert Urich, The Ice Pirates has become a cult classic. It is very goofy and low-budget, but entertaining. It's biggest contribution, however, was putting pirates in space - where they belong!

#10. Ol' Chumbucket and Cap'n Slappy

In 1995, John Baur and Mark Summers were playing racquetball in Albany, Oregon when one of them got hurt and yelled out, "Aaaaaarrrrr!" And thus International Talk Like A Pirate Day was born. The event, which is celebrated every September 19, rocketed to prominence when humorist Dave Barry mentioned it in a 2002 column. "Ol' Chumbucket" (Baur) and "Cap'n Slappy" (Summers) have continued to promote the holiday, and deserve credit for proving without a doubt that everyone likes to talk like a pirate.

Honorable mention: Eugene H. Krabs

Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob SquarePants' boss at the Krusty Krab may not be a pirate, but there is no character on television today that sounds more like one.

Honorable mention: Pirate Party

This is a real political party in Sweden, founded with a goal of reforming copyright and patent laws. Whatever their political beliefs may be, any group that would name themselves "Pirate Party" is OK with me. Also, check out their cool logo, which mimics a pirate ship sail!

The flip side: worst pirates

Modern-day Somali pirates aren't fun at all - and they don't even talk like pirates! (Boooooooo! Hissssssss!)

Finally, here is a great online guide to talking like a pirate. Enjoy the holiday!

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