Jimmy Webb, the iconic manager and buyer from famed New York clothing store Trash and Vaudeville who later opened his own shop named I NEED MORE, died Tuesday morning at the age of 62. Webb’s friend Heart Montalbano confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, adding that the cause of death was cancer.
While not a musician himself, Webb counted rock royalty like Iggy Pop, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, Joan Jett and Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein as customers and friends. Following his death, numerous musicians paid tribute to the flamboyant New York City denizen.
“We are all going to miss our wonderful friend Jimmy Webb,” Harry said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “There goes a lovely unique NYC character. I feel lucky to have known him.”
“Jimmy Webb was a great friend of mine,” Sebastian Bach wrote. “I bought every pair of Cuban-heeled boots that I wore from 1987 – 2011 at Trash & Vaudeville from Jimmy. Rest in peace brother, we will miss you. You came from the time of true rock and roll.”
“This is a heartbreaker. Jimmy, you are a treasure of New York. Always a positive energy. You always lived out loud,” wrote Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, while McKagan added, “The sweetest man and pure punk f*cking rock n roll. Jimmy has SUCH a story, and my family and I feel honored and loved to be a small part of his triumphant tale. We love you Jimmy…we will miss you, brother.”
Webb began working at Trash and Vaudeville in 1999 and soon rose to become the store’s top employee, as well as a manager and buyer. With an eye for the perfect-fitting skintight jeans and authentic style, he pulled together looks for punk rockers to pop stars alike, including outfitting everyone from the Ramones to Beyonce and Justin Bieber. The looks he had fashioned have been featured in Rolling Stone, MTV and Vogue.
“He was one of a kind. He wasn’t a famous, wealthy rock star. He looked like one, but actually worked his ass off at essentially a nine-to-five. But the pleasure he took from making everyone look fantastic and feel great seemed to be all he lived for. Lucky for him, he was really damn good at it,” says Jasper McGandy, Webb’s friend who worked with him at Trash and Vaudeville for two-and-a-half years. “It was fun to watch him interact with all the celebrities who would come in to shop, but it was even more enjoyable to watch him give discounts or hide a pair of pants for a kid that you knew had to save for the next six months to afford them. The man had a heart the size of his head.”
Prior to serving as a fashionista for the rock and roll set, Webb struggled with drug addiction and homelessness. Reared in Wynantskill, New York, he moved to Connecticut for a short stint in community college after graduating from high school. He told the that when he moved to New York, he got a job “delivering cocktails in a gay bar, and I could see where that would lead, and I wanted more,” Webb said. “I wanted to dance and live, so I took off into the streets by myself with all the other runaway boys. No fear.”
The self-described “runaway boy” loved dancing, something for which he took lessons for as a child, and frequented clubs like Studio 54. He would spend hours crafting his outfits before hitting the clubs. He told that he long wanted to work at Trash and Vaudeville, but it wasn’t until after he got clean in 1999 that he was hired to work there.
In his time at Trash and Vaudeville, his audacious style and character resonated with his clientele and the neighborhood — he became, as called him, the “reigning Mayor of St. Marks Place” and “punk rock’s unofficial shopkeeper.” In 2017, he opened his own boutique called I NEED MORE, where he worked until his death.
“Dressing is all about the whole look,” he told the New Yorker in 2007. “If one thing stands out, you’re a beautiful coat walking down the street, or a pair of pants on the subway. With everything on, even if the elements are different from each other, it blends. You can’t cross that line to Bozo, though. That’s my new term, the Bozo line. You must never cross the Bozo line. I could look like Bozo right now, but instead I’m totally fabulous. I just happen to look fabulous with thousands of dollars of clothes and jewels and a $20 shirt.”
Our friend, Jimmy Webb, a legend and a St. Marks St. legend, stylist of the punks, famous and not, has passed. I’m so very sad and we’ll all miss your energetic, warm soul. The city will not be the same without you. pic.twitter.com/RI06gv8f0C
— Joan Jett (@joanjett) April 15, 2020
Jimmy Webb the last day of Trash and Vaudeville on Saint Marks NYC 2016.
Rest in rock peace Jimmy. 💔 pic.twitter.com/t3shMtEEPd
— Chris Stein (@chrissteinplays) April 14, 2020
Farewell, dear Jimmy. The sweetest, kindest, rock and roll soul. I’ll never forget you. pic.twitter.com/iTuq0Qw4gc
— Maureen Van Zandt (@MVZaGoGo) April 14, 2020
The death of Jimmy Webb will be breaking many hearts today. He was a beautiful man of rare soul and grace with a huge heart. Unforgettable Character. Sweet Temperament. We will all remember!!xxxxx pic.twitter.com/40YyuTZJcX
— Mick Rock (@TheRealMickRock) April 14, 2020