North Beach icon Captain Cool, also known as Patrick LeBold, passed away last week, aged 70. No cause of death was been released, but LeBold was fighting throat cancer for the last few years of his life.
Born on October 4, 1946 in Aberdeen, South Dakota, LeBold realized early on the challenges of growing up different in conservative middle America. Just before the 1967 Summer of Love, LeBold bolted for San Francisco on the suggestion of a police chief in the small town, according to a 2013 Chronicle profile.
Settling in North Beach, LeBold enjoyed a long career as a general contractor, only semi-retiring in 2008 after he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Residents and visitors recognized Captain Cool’s signature style: leather pants and vest, skull belt buckle, ornamental cane, pirate boots, long brocade frock coat and tall top hat that he’d imported from South Dakota—out from under which tumbled the full, curly locks that caused him so much trouble back home in the 1960s.
While he usually ventured out alone and parked himself at either Vesuvio or Specs in the late afternoons, he counted among his tribe a diverse array of North Beach regulars and friends. Some say it looked like he was holding court.
Another memorable feature was the electro-larynx he used to communicate for the last decade, due to his ongoing struggle with throat cancer.
“His voicebox echoed through the bar while I was trying to serve tourists,” said former Vesuvio manager Michael Manson. “But most of all my memories of Captain Cool are of his quiet grace, his patience, his incredible heart and affection for those of us who worked at Vesuvio."
According to Manson, strangers were fascinated by "this mysterious North Beach Willy Wonka in dark sunglasses with a pint of Guinness in front of him."
Captain Cool had the air of a celebrity, Manson said. "People would ask me about him when I was behind the bar: ‘What’s his story? Can I take a picture of him?’ I always just directed them to his table. ‘Ask him,’ I’d say, ‘He’s Captain Cool and very approachable.’”
Vesuvio owner Janet Clyde agreed. “He was a man who loved his friends and had a wicked sense of humor.” Across the street, Specs bartender Maria Pham often hosted LeBold for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, and was with him the afternoon he died.
“My kids grew up thinking there was nothing weird about this well-dressed man sleeping on our couch. But my favorite story was when he offered to help us cut down this 60-foot pine tree by our house," said Pham
"We rented a chainsaw and he tried to climb up to where he would cut the tree, but he couldn’t quite make it. At some point, he fell out of the tree and crashed into a nearby bush," Pham
Clyde recalled. "He wasn’t hurt, and there was something really sweet about it.”
Lebold’s daughter, Pam Lebold, said he was particularly good with kids. “Every child gravitated toward him. Kids can sense a kind soul, I think, no matter what you look like.”
Both she and Pham noted that one of the last things he did was give them a wide smile. “I was supposed to take over the hospice duties the day he died, and I just think he didn’t want me to go through that, so he passed peacefully before I could," she said.
LeBold will be missed, but his presence is still felt. “If there were a Mt. Rushmore of North Beach, Captain Cool would definitely be on it," said Manson.
Patric LeBold is survived by his daughter, Pamela, his grandchildren, Riley Bryn Wood and Miles Emerson Wood, his sister Margaret, and brothers John and Peter.
Sometime in the next month, Specs will share plans regarding a memorial A memorial is planned at Specs tomorrow at 7pm.