By Duncan Collins
Pic: Gabi Falanga
If you are a Rhodes student and you have not bought a Pirates pizza, then consider your time here wasted. It is a brand for the students by the students and a rite of passage into university life. Think about it. The pirates that bring you these pizzas were once sitting exactly where you are sitting now, eating res food and hoping no one steals your toast.
The story of Pirates Pizza is one of legend and myth, but mostly legend. I warn you now, the tale I am about to tell is not for children or vegetarians. A long time ago, on a hill where the weather is constantly changing, two students, Geoff Waugh and Daniel Hocutt, were stumbling up after a night at the ale house. Between them, they discussed some of life’s most important questions, mainly, where can people get food at this hour? A moment later, a drunken epiphany came over them and Pirates was born.
Why the name Pirates? The one reason is because, at the moment of creation, both men were perfecting their remarkable pirate accents. Along with the desire to make their own pizzas came the memorable slogan “We put the garr in margarita”. There is more to the story though. Waugh explains that he and Hocutt have always been anti-establishment. “We have always been cavalier in what we do. We think first, act later. It’s [with] that buccaneer attitude that we realised the name Pirates Pizza really reflected our own personal values and attributes,” he said. Doing things their own way is a characteristic that Pirates Pizza will always value. This represents how they run their business. The challenges they have experienced are evident in their in-your-face attitude. Waugh explains the relationship he feels Pirates has created and nurtured with the students, locals and University over the years. He best describes the type of pirate he is as a Robin Hood/commercial type of pirate that still has values. “The only reason you start as a pirate is because you are not doing it everyone else’s way,” he said. They are the people’s pirates. The sea to greatness has always been wavy, yet the ship’s course has never altered. Pirates has, at times, literally fought death, which never fights cleanly or alone. Death is usually partnered with the University.
Pirates began in room 30, Cullen Bowles residence, right next to the common room where the smell of pizzas flowed to the top floors. The rules they had to adhere to were that they had to be within reach of a fire hydrant. This almost proved useful, as one time, Hocutt left his chicken kebabs cooking while he had an involuntary power nap. If Cullen Bowles was actually flammable, there might have been some concern, but there is more chance of Chuck Norris catching on fire than that hilly fortress. Needless to say, Waugh ran to the rescue after waking up to a smoke-filled building at 07h00.
With much hard work and negotiational skills, Waugh and Hocutt obtained a tuck shop licence. They also had to remain close to an exit in case of an emergency. To set up operations, the two had to get around some by-laws of the University. They were only supposed to be warming up frozen pizzas and selling them. After time, though, the menu started growing as did the demand for some classically named pizzas. Frozen pizzas were just not good enough anymore so the Nazi Surrender, Margarita Deluxe and Nachos Supreme were created. Their reputation started to spread from the residence to the rest of campus and beyond. Lines began forming outside their room and pizzas were often sold out before midnight. After four months the university came knocking on the door to put a stop to the business. As we all know, this was never accomplished.
Plans to make Pirates bigger were already underway before the University came along to interrupt students’ hungry stomachs. This has been a characteristic trait of the Pirates story. Like true pirates dodging the law in history by being one step a head, so did Waugh and Hocutt. The worst thing that you could say to these two is to tell them they cannot do what they want. The University has tried and every time it fails, Pirates becomes more popular.
The new shop was something special. It was a statement to the University saying you can try to shut us down, but we will never go away, not as long as there are students out there. For Waugh, opening the shop was one of the biggest highlights of his life. “It was freaking amazing, dude. To have our own shop was literally a dream come true. It was going from having a bedroom in Cullen Bowles, to owning our own shop. It was freedom, freedom from the University’s jurisdiction, financial freedom and freedom with our market,” he said. Another highlight for Pirates was making eTV news last year.
An area of controversy surrounding Pirates is their advertising campaigns. It is on this front where everyone can see the aggressiveness of Pirates and their intentions. “Anyone can advertise using ordinary mediums with ordinary messages, but that is just not effective in today’s world. People really have become so brainwashed with advertising or marketing in general, that they don’t accept what they see. They react negatively to someone trying to sell them something and in a way you can’t expect to communicate with people using ordinary mediums,” said Waugh. The first campaign was one of the most memorable, as it was the release of the Pirates logo. No one, except the owners, knew what was happening. The first step was posters featuring the fleur de leaf. This represented the three pirates at the time. The next step added a scroll and two ships. The ships were taken from the yard arm in Cullen Bowles, representing where they came from. The next day they added the skull and cross bones. It didn’t take long for the University to get involved, as they were waiting to find out who was responsible for this massive campaign that had stirred up so much hype. Even though the campaigns have been controversial, they always come with a student message and are linked to student culture.
The latest news with Pirates is the opening of their new restaurant called “The House of Pirates”, which promises to live up to every expectation a student would have of another student. It will be en entirely student-run entertainment venue, which is every Rhodent’s dream. “To be honest, it really is the reality of a dream for us and it’s been a long time coming. It is a milestone we have reached,” said Waugh.
There is also a new member to the team known as Pirate Ducky, or P Ducky for short. This loveable member was born in the Isle of Tortuga and is the reason why the dodo bird became exstinct. Legend has it that when all the girl dodos saw Pirate Ducky, things just went downhill. When asked to explain this myth, P Ducky said, “Well, like I always say, safety first – let’s burn rubber.” There is nothing Pirate Ducky can say that he can’t get away with. Note that these are P Ducky’s words, not mine. He advises students to “eat Pirates Pizza, or you will die”. Pirate Ducky takes responsibility for his words and Waugh and Hocutt have no control of this poultry madness.
Pirates’ message for students is to “stick it to the man” and they promise students that, “Pirates will never compromise their integrity in the pursuit of profit.” They are the most professional unproffessionalists in the country and have no plans of slowing down. Ever.