Captain Sticky: America’s Only Practicing Caped Crusader!

By on March 4, 2015

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Meet Captain Sticky! “I am America’s only practicing caped crusader,” Captain Sticky — his real name was Richard Pesta, and he was born in 1946, in Pittsburgh, PA — told the San Diego Tribune in 1984. “That is the role I desire to maintain for the rest of my life.”

Beginning sometime in the 1970s, Pesta — who was apparently quite wealthy, a self-made entrepreneur who made his fortune (and he apparently retired, at age 28) after inventing “corrugated fiberglass” which was often used in translucent patio roof construction in Southern California — could be seen driving around in the late evening hours on the streets of various Orange County cities, and especially down in his hometown Escondido, near San Diego, wearing a bright blue jumpsuit. His choice of transportation? A customized bubble-topped Lincoln Continental he called “The Stickymobile.”

We are not making this up.

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In addition to the crazy golden paint-job and the flashing lights and wind-whipping flags, the good Captain’s tricked-out Continental had two strategically-placed squirt guns, located in the hidden compartment, right beside the car’s headlights. He operated the guns from inside the car — they didn’t shoot bullets though: one shot out a stream of peanut butter and the other shot out a stream of jelly, accurate to within an eighth of an inch at a range of five feet. Captain Sticky would also shoot peanut butter and jelly streams at kids he’d come across late at night who were trying to steal hubcaps off of parked cars, or spray-paint graffiti on public property, which is closer to vigilante-style justice. Captain Sticky was also apparently armed with “peanut butter grenades” made of peanut butter, vinegar and alka seltzer.

A 1974 news report revealed that Pesta’s moniker came from his fondness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – which may have been one reason he weighed an estimated 350 pounds. His full title, by the way, included “Supreme Commander in chief of the World Organization against Evil,” otherwise known as WOE, and claimed 20 members at one point, all volunteers in the never-ceasing war against crime, corruption and nastiness. Pesta was really kind of self-proclaimed consumer advocate, you see. He’d mostly “fight crime” by exposing shoddy auto mechanics or car rental shops who were trying to rip-off unsuspecting customers. In 1977, he was credited with helping to launch statewide investigations into nursing homes, resulting in tighter regulations for long-term health care.

The big man also had a big heart: he would make public appearances at events like carnivals for mentally handicapped youth. Sometimes Captain Sticky would be written up in the papers for doing good deeds, like helping stranded drivers who were stuck on the side of the freeway. They’d need a set of jumper cables or something and Captain Sticky would pull over in his Stickymobile and save the day!!

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Whenever Captain Sticky showed up at an actual “crime scene,” in full costume and cape, the news media went a little crazy trying to interview him. He was one of those colorful characters that no reporter could resist. He’d seize the microphone from them on the scene and start in with the Sticky schtick, warning kids that might be watching at home on TV to not eat too much sugar-coated cereal, and he’d tell them to behave their parents, that sort of thing. TV news crews loved to interview Pesta, who would stay in character the entire time.

He was apparently not popular with the police community, however, when they were called to extract Captain Sticky – and the media – from whatever business he’d charged into.

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Captain Sticky with Stan Lee at a 1975 comic convention in San Diego

At one point, Marvel Comics was interested in publishing his various exploits, and writer-artist Don Rico was assigned to tag along with Pesta and get his story down on paper, but nothing ever came of it because Pesta found out that Marvel had expected him to cover their costs of the issue — in other words, they’d help him promote his Captain Sticky schtick for a comic book, but because he was rich, they expected him to pay for the privilege. So there was never a Captain Sticky comic.

In July 1975, he was written up in a two-page story in an issue of NME, the UK’s New Music Express.

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Here’s an excerpt:

What Sticky is armed with, however, is a shrewd acumen for the peculiar appetites of the news media and how to manipulate its power for the purpose of his freelance do-gooding. This, plus the fact that underneath all the gimcrack and chickenfat, Sticky is deadly serious.

“There is a philosophical difference between do-gooders and actually doing good,” he cloudily pontificates. “A do gooder is pure at heart but naive to power politics. I’m sophisticated in tactics which intimidate bureaucracies which I feel are the festering sources of evil in our society.”

With a true sense of schmaltz he declares, “If I were to wear a pinstripe suit while trying to aid the oppressed, I would have no efficiency. Thus my characterization. When I stage a surprise raid in my costume, you can be sure I’m not ignored.” It would take a strong person indeed to remain oblivious to a bearded, crash-helmeted Rasputin running wild in nightmare pajamas, gold lame boots and a peanut butter bazooka. You can be sure wherever he treads, the news cameras aren’t far behind.

The TV series Real People also briefly made a celebrity of him in 1983, and Pesta is credited with cameo appearances in a couple of risqué sex-comedies, appearing as Superman in The Sex O’Clock News (1985) and as “Tunz A Fun” in a lesbians-in-lingerie women’s prison flick, Caged Fury (1990).

There was even a Captain Sticky theme song — “Stick with Captain Sticky” — which appeared on the Rhino LP compilation Circus Royale.

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In the early 90s, Pesta apparently had had enough of his crime-fighting life and he put his Captain Sticky costume in mothballs. He started a business selling eco-friendly products for gardening. The products, marketed under such labels as Organa and Am-Kel Farms, are still being sold at various nurseries and home and garden centers.

Pesta began to focus on the seedier side of his private persona, and began promoting the “Real Man’s Midlife Crisis Tour of Thailand,” offering what he called “drinking, debauchery and fun stuff.” The Thai government eventually forced him to shut it down. He had also invested in a chain of brothels in Nevada. And, at one point, he was also investigated by San Diego police for letting his three-story home in Mission Hills, at the northern part of the San Fernando Valley, be used to film an X-rated movie (Pesta also had a home in La Jolla — no idea if any porn was filmed there, though). He testified against the film’s producer in exchange for immunity. You can read about it at the L.A. Times.

Pesta passed away on December 12, 2003, of complications from emergency bypass surgery. He was 57 at the time, and vacationing in Bangkok, Thailand with his fiancée, Lynne Shiloh, who said of Pesta:”He was a huge man with a huge heart filled with love for everyone.” She also said, another time, “His dream was to alter the course of history. He was a huge man with a huge heart filled with love for everyone.” Apparently peanut butter clogs up a big heart, no matter how many good deeds you do. He was cremated in Thailand, and his ashes were scattered there, at sea.

We’ve always thought the Captain Sticky story would make a cool movie — starring Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame perhaps?

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Jess Cameron

    I have a Captain Sticky comic. So even though Marvel didn’t make one they where made.

  • The Valeyard

    Were they? Mark Evanier says everyone backed out of the project once it was revealed that Marvel was expecting Pesta to fund the first issue.

    “Maybe…but he was also constantly trying to get writers and artists to whip up pilot issues of a planned Captain Sticky comic book and blanched at the suggestion that he pony up a bit of cash. Around the time of the above photo, Marvel was interested in publishing his exploits, and a fine writer-artist named Don Rico was engaged to produce the first issue. This lasted until Don discovered that Marvel was expecting the Good Captain to underwrite the costs, while Sticky was expecting Marvel to shower all with currency. Don quit, I turned it down and so did everyone else I knew.”

    If you actually have a copy, I would seriously love to see it! I love obscure comics.