Pirate ship is Burbank's buried treasure

Anne and Richard Lainhart love to throw big parties. But not just any kind of parties. The couple throws massive themed parties, sometimes hosting up to 150 attendees, that require great attention to historical details, including the sets, costumes, games and food — lots of food.

Several years ago, when the Lainharts wanted to celebrate their 50th birthdays with a joint soiree, they came up with a pirate theme. After all, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” was a monster hit and everything was coming up pirates. Besides that, the two shared a love for all things scalawag and Renaissance.

To make the party happen, Richard Lainhart, who has worked in construction most of his life, rounded up a crew of stout-hearted friends and began building a pirate ship in the Lainharts’ backyard on East Angeleno St.

Construction of what became the Red Dragon’s Revenge started in August, 2004, after the concept was blessed by city inspectors and most of the neighbors. It was finished in six months.

“But we’re always working on it,” he said. “Something always needs repair or improvement.”

To the city of Burbank, the Red Dragon’s Revenge is a “flagpole with [an] accessory play structure.” That is city-speak for a pirate ship with a 27-foot mast, including a crow’s nest 22 feet up the mast, five sails, and a below-deck galley. The ship is in dry dock, four-feet below grade in a sea of solid concrete. It has had as many as 60 people on board. The entire port side of the vessel is wide open, allowing it to hold the rigging during the rainy winter and spring months.

In addition to the ship, the Lainharts’ backyard includes a makeshift bar called the Tipsy Toucan, a small would-have-been storage structure that the Lainharts turned into a pub and decorated with souvenirs collected by the couple on their adventures at Renaissance fairs, Irish and Scottish games, and travels.

Richard Lainhart, who has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers since 1994, designed the ship, but he and his crew did not work from drawings. Instead, he studied the geometry of the plastic models of a schooner and a Spanish galleon, explained Anne Lainhart, who works as a paralegal at a Culver City law firm.

“That’s how I build things,” said Richard. “It’s all in my head.”

While Richard is the builder, Anne prefers planning, cooking and ironing out the details. As a soprano, she also enjoys sharing songs she has written with her guests for the occasion at hand. She prepares in the music room inside their Craftsman home, which houses a Victorian upright piano and period sideboard.

Cheryl Avirom, a long-time friend who by day is a Long Beach attorney, sewed the ship’s sails. She dedicated her shears and sewing machine to the Lainharts’ pirate ship project and became a “plankholder” in the process.

Many of the plankholders, or those who helped build the ship, have been friends of the Lainharts for at least 20 years. They share a love of Sherlock Holmes and are members of the Curious Collectors of Baker Street, the Los Angeles area Sherlock Holmes society.

The Curious Collectors celebrated its 20th anniversary on June 11 at the Lainharts home, where the backyard was transformed into Old London as the setting for the society’s Blackguard Banquet, where games were inspired by some of the more infamous villains of Sir Conan Doyle’s stories.

Reenacting another era has become an integral part of the Lainharts’ lives, and they enjoy nothing more than sharing it with others.

In August, they will throw a wedding reception on the pirate ship for a friend as a wedding gift.

“They really are wonderful people,” said Avriom. “They have hearts as large as all outdoors, and they have a pirate ship in their backyard.”

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