By Jack Williams
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
February 18, 2004
Richard Allen Pesta
As Captain Sticky, a caped cartoon character come to life, Richard Allen Pesta was hard to ignore. Massive in girth and flamboyant in personality and Superman-style costume, he proudly played the role of one of America’s wackiest watchdogs.
Based in San Diego, Mr. Pesta campaigned against everything from rental car rip-offs and sugar-coated cereal to abusive nursing homes, attracting widespread media attention in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I am America’s only practicing caped crusader,” he told the San Diego Tribune in 1984. “That is the role I desire to maintain for the rest of my life.”
Mr. Pesta’s fiancee, Lynne Shiloh, said this week that he died Dec. 12 of complications from heart bypass surgery at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He was 57.
The couple had been vacationing when Mr. Pesta became ill and underwent surgery. Although his chances of recovery were said to be favorable, he developed an embolism in his leg, Shiloh said.
By the late 1990s, Mr. Pesta had turned his focus from Captain Sticky enterprises to a career as a La Jolla-based entrepreneur specializing in environmentally friendly soil products.
The products, marketed under such labels as Organa and Am-Kel Farms, are sold at various nurseries and home and garden centers, Shiloh said.
At the peak of his Captain Sticky popularity, Mr. Pesta drove a bubble-topped Lincoln with flags and flashing lights that he called his Stickymobile. Wearing a gold cape, glittery matching boots and blue tights, he took his causes to Sacramento and to media outlets.
In 1977, he was credited with helping to launch statewide investigations into nursing homes, resulting in tighter regulations for long-term health care.
By the early 1990s, he was promoting the Real Man’s Midlife Crisis Tour of Thailand, offering what he called “drinking, debauchery and fun stuff.” The Thai government forced him to shut it down.
“He pretty much let that Captain Sticky identity go,” Shiloh said. “What he was doing on the side came to the forefront.”
Mr. Pesta was born in Pittsburgh and moved with his family to Escondido as a child. He graduated from high school in Redondo Beach.
“His dream was to alter the course of history,” Shiloh said. “He was a huge man with a huge heart filled with love for everyone.”
After battling a weight problem for much of his life, Mr. Pesta underwent surgery in the late 1990s.
“The good doctor pulled my stomach way back and filleted me,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1998. “They took two five-gallon pails of fat from me.”
Mr. Pesta leaves no immediate family. He was cremated in Thailand, where his ashes were scattered at sea.
Jack Williams: (619) 542-4587; jack.wil[email protected]
By Jack Williams