Rickey "the Pirate" Taylor, a Downtown resident known as much for his iconic skull-and-crossbones cap as his toothy smile and black-and-white glossy head shots that he peddled in the Historic Core, has died.
Taylor suffered from cancer and passed away Tuesday at a low-income housing facility in the Central City. Taylor moved indoors in 2009 for the first time in 30 years, thanks to money raised by the Downtown community. He was a ubiquitous part of the area's culture, having walked the neighborhoods and met passersby and business owners for more than a decade, said artist Robert Vargas. Vargas first painted Taylor 10 years ago at the inaugural Art Walk.
"Everybody Downtown has a Rickey story. This is a definite blow to the culture down here," he said Wednesday.
Vargas, who assembled a Facebook album of his works featuring Taylor, said Taylor was his friend and his muse. Taylor was formerly homeless, but several community members rallied together to pay for housing. Vargas called him an "entrepreneur," as the gregarious Taylor hawked Polaroids and other photos of his Downtown-famous face for $5.
Taylor also supported himself by selling pieces that artists, such as Vargas, would paint of him free of charge.
On the DTLA Facebook Group, Janene M. Zakrajsek of Pussy & Pooch was one of scores of locals who posted about the eccentric Taylor. She called him a "dear soul" who would be greatly missed. And the pet store at Fifth and Main would know: He was the first human to use their self-serve dog wash tubs, she wrote, noting he took great pride in his work and tidiness.
"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," she wrote.
A memorial with candles and flowers continues to grow at the electric box at Sixth and Spring. The box is adorned with Vargas' painting of Taylor's face, topped with a pirate's hat.
Former Downtowner Jenson Nelson, who attended Taylor's 2009 housewarming party at the Rainbow Apartments, created a funeral fund to help Taylor's family pay for services. Donations may be made at giveforward.com. As of Thursday afternoon, $865 of the hoped for $5,000 had been raised.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014