Why is this interesting? The Remembering Jimmy Webb Edition

On style, enthusiasm, and an East Village institution

Colin here. Back in April, which seems like a long time ago, New York City lost a really important fixture of its cultural scene. Jimmy Webb, of the East Village’s Trash and Vaudeville store was a New York City institution: a larger than life, punk/glam rock figure in skintight jeans who was equally kind to both famous rock stars and the recent transplant into the city. The store became his spiritual home and platform so much that it was hard to tell where one began and the other ends.

He was in equal parts, a shopkeeper, a steward of an ethos and scene, a curator, and a friend and confidant to many. And his appeal and connections grew to extend far outside of the immediate circles of the East Village. On his passing, the remembrances came from a who’s who—from Iggy Pop, to Debby Harry, to the New York Dolls, to former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach who tweeted, “Jimmy Webb was a great friend of mine...Rest in peace brother we will miss you. You came from the time of true rock and roll.”

According to Vogue’s remembrance:

Trash and Vaudeville first opened its doors on St. Marks Place in 1975, the same year Webb arrived in New York City as a teen runaway. He began working there in 1999—after having begged the owner, Ray Goodman, to hire him. “Coming into Trash and Vaudeville my first time, I knew I’d found a home and I wasn’t crazy,” he previously told the New York Times. Webb’s responsibilities at Trash and Vaudeville grew over the years, and his unwavering eye for pin-thin jeans, studded accessories, and all things leather went on to make it the spot for serious rockers to get their gear. Webb’s influence extended far beyond the world of rock and roll; he was known to dress well-known drag queens as well as the queen bee herself, Beyoncé.

Why is this interesting?

I didn’t have a deep relationship with Jimmy Webb, though I did meet him several times and he was a fixture in the East Village when I lived there. But I do remember a warm, all-encompassing enthusiasm that applied to everyone—not just if you were a bold faced name headlining down the street at Webster Hall. There was equal opportunity energy for his scene, his aesthetic, and world view. And what was most interesting to me is every city has these types of people: those that help transplants and lifers evolve into who they want to be. A guide, a shaman, a curator, a connector. In this case, Webb served as the personal style consultant for kids taking the bus into New York to knock around on St Marks and buy some clothing, and evolved into helping even the biggest names and attitudes (like Iggy Pop and even Beyoncé) manifest the vibe they were going for. 

According to the Times remembrance

Stylists from MTV and Vogue relied on Mr. Webb for his punk sensibility. “If you needed 30 Beatle boots in all colors, he’d hook you up,” said Bill Mullen, a fashion stylist whose visual touchstones include Lou Reed, Patti Smith and the Ramones. But Mr. Webb was no snob. He helped generations of teenagers find their inner rock star, too. It was common to find gangs of girls in their school uniforms wriggling into peg-legged jeans in candy colors, encouraged by the antic patter of Mr. Webb, who ran the store like a heavy metal Auntie Mame.

While New York was in the throes of COVID and distracted, it might have missed one of its true, vibrant, characters having departed. But his generosity behind a perhaps imposing facade, unbridled enthusiasm and passion for that particular stretch of the city is something that is worth remembering with love. (CJN

Photo of the Day: 

A photo from Retracing Our Steps, an ongoing project to document the Fukushima exclusion zone by Guillaume Bression and Carlos Ayesta. “This series is a record of the abandoned streets of Fukushima; swallowed up by nature.” (NRB)

Quick Links: 

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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