Jimmy Webb is the Pope of punk pride. For years, he was the reigning Mayor of St. Marks Place. A self-described "runaway boy," he arrived in New York in 1975, penniless. Last year Webb opened his very own rock'n'roll boutique aptly named “I Need More” on Manhattan's Lower East Side at 75A Orchard St.between Broome & Grand. Boy Scout talked to Webb about his best friend Iggy Pop, desperation, bravery, and Barry White.
Boy Scout: If you arrived in New York City in 2019 filled with great ambition, how might you ascend to your artistic summit?
Boy Scout: If you arrived in New York City in 2019 filled with great ambition, how might you ascend?
Jimmy Webb: How would I ascend if I arrived in New York City in like 2019? It would be completely different, because the world is so different. You gotta remember when I got to New York, there were payphones and they were 25 cents, the Subway was 35 cents, and you kind of walked everywhere, and there was no Instagram stars, you had to look up your history as you were learning it. You know, my big run away line was from “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” When I heard it, I was 13. I ran away to New York City at 16 with the clothes in the pillowcase… I didn't shave my legs (ha ha ha)….
Oh, I did shave my legs..! (ha ha ha).
You just lived life differently. I was talking to Iggy (Pop) about it a couple of years ago, and we were like “Wow! Could you still do it the way we did it?” … you could run away with nothing, and then survive, and become whatever you want to be. But it would just be different. You know everybody’s got a cellphone from mommy or daddy, and it's just so expensive here… it's probably why they have one? You know, technology has made things so easy to grasp, look for stuff, the way you used to have to go out and look for it. You know, or study for it? Or find places and things to do. You had to really live it. You couldn't covet it. Everything's very coveted now. You know, they look at a picture of something, or they’ll get something from Jim Carroll and just quote it without even knowing the pain, joy, or suffering behind that.
So, how would I ascend? Hopefully the same way. Curiosity, desire, hard work, willingness, never giving up, faith, tenacity, willing to be hungry, willing to be really, really hungry... physically and spiritually. The desire for more. And wanting to live like.. what I call the beauty in truth.. you know? So how would I ascend? I would just fucking do it, dude! You got to be rock'n'roll, you just got to do it. When you fall down, you got to get up. You've got to do it again. You’ve got to believe in what's in the sky. You gotta believe what’s in the future.
So how would I ascend? I would just do it. The world is different around me, but I would just do what I had to do to become the most I could be, and touch the world the way we’re each supposed to touch the world. I don’t know if that makes any sense but I was out Debbie (Harry of Blondie) the other night… at the Christmas party… If you ever told me that I would be sitting at a Christmas dinner with Debbie Harry I would have told you you were crazy… and just like her, she just did it. Her and Chris Stein they just did it. They followed their truths... and one thing she said to me was -- I've asked her about something else, something about happiness or whatever -- and she said “it’s so good to be singing music at this point in life”… Gratitude.
The Ascension, the ascending… would be filled with curiosity, wanting to know more and gratitude. So believe in your dreams, they do come true.
Boy Scout: The late Harry Dean Stanton believed “Everything is predestined. Nothing is important. Life is an illusion. It’s all a movie. Nobody’s in charge” which is lovingly referred to as his Appreciation of Nothing. Do you have a guiding life philosophy that keeps you on the path?
Jimmy Webb: God bless Harry Dean Stanton... and you know he was amazing... and he is who he is, but, that's the diversity of people. But, do I have guiding light? Like, Iggy’s a guiding light, Ewan McGregor's a guiding light. God, as I see it, is a great guiding light. Jackie Kennedy.... the most amazing guiding light in the world! Talk about punk rock! Wearing that great, pink outfit... getting off the plane? Waving to the world! Blood and guts all over her! Refusing to take the outfit off? Dignity and grace her whole life! Woo! Do I have inspiration? Do I have guiding light? Absolutely! Barry White singing “Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe?” Big, fat black guy, just doing it……Whoa! Talk about truth? Talk about punk rock! Debbie Harry “Within/Without Roots?”, Come on! Amazing. And within those people is when God talks… you know and I mean? It's like, you have to believe in every star in the sky, and all the… you just have to believe. I've been close to death too many times… literally close to death… I had to learn to read and write again at one point from a breakdown from a mental institution from drug addiction. Took six months to teach me to learn to bathe... and another read and write… When I came out of the cardboard box, after being in the mental institution. Talking about Iggy-inspired... or not being alone. So yeah, there's guiding lights. Everything is divinely inspired in my life.
So are things random? Are they divinely inspired? Let me tell you, just like flowers for bloom and birds flower soar to the sky, I mean, everything is like divinely inspired in my life, everything.
When I got “I Need More” tattooed on my back, let me tell you, this was Valentine’s eve, and I was in another city, and I just kicked this intense dope habit, and was getting like healthier and stronger, "I Need More" now stands for: I need more forgiveness, I need more for compassion, I need more integrity, I need more character, I need more tight pants, I need more jewelry, I need more pink shoes, I need more love, I need more understanding, I need more. And yet, simultaneously, I have more than enough.. but, anything is usually internal at this point rather than external. But I gotta tell you, I love shit too. I love my stuff and more stuff never hurt anybody.
Boy Scout: You seem to be having the time of your life with your new retail store “I Need More.” It’s a real fairytale of New York. What does the phrase "I Need More" mean to you?
Jimmy Webb: "I Need More" came from the deepest place within my heart, I was at Carnegie Hall with Iggy (Pop), you know Iggy is such a big inspiration in my life, he's one of my biggest spiritual mentors, and I said “You know what, Jimmy? You have to do like Iggy did, you have to reach for a star higher in the sky, you have to look for it, you have to grasp it, and you have to swing from it. So, you just gotta go. And I'm like… whoa, how do you get there? You run and you dive. Just like Iggy. You do that stage dive of faith… there's a leap of faith and there's an Iggy Pop stage dive of faith. And I just have to take the stage dive of faith and just go. And leave everything I'm doing, not know where I'm going, and just go and do it…” And I knew that like Iggy, I'd land in just the right spot. So, here I am at 75A Orchard Street …which is another whole story… the number 75. What year did I run away to New York? 1975. Where am I standing now? At 75A Orchard Street. Owning a store called “I Need More.”
Boy Scout: Does Punk still make you proud?
Boy Scout: So authentic punk rock, musically, I still love. It still floats my boat. No matter who I'm playing in the morning, right? At the same time… as I said... you heard what I think punk rock is? I could be playing Barry White... and that's so fucking punk rock it’s crazy … Am I screaming “No Future” in 2019? Should you be dead drunk on the floor “yeah, fuck you... fuck you” … that's the lamest, most fucked up shit in the world ever! I’D TOTALLY PUT THAT IN THE BIGGEST, BOLDEST PRINT IN THIS INTERVIEW, EVER! That's so not punk rock 2019. Why don't we be really punk rock… and, yes… I do believe in punk rock… and 75A Orchard Street proves it. And really say… you know what? “We are the future. We are punk rock we will live forever. And we will spread love” I don’t want to get into any political things at all right now, with all the ugliness going on, all the hatred …that's bullshit, not punk rock. So, don't scream “No Future.” Let's go to Carnegie Hall save some monks and be the future.
Yes, I believe in punk rock! Yes, I have a nice store! Yes, I have manners! Yes, I say “Please & Thank You,” Yes, I am thankful! Yes, I went through three sets of staff till I have the best staff ever! ….and I need more… you know why? Because I'm punk rock and I believe in punk rock.
Boy Scout: Punk, which crystalized in New York, was angry, hilarious, incisive and immediate. Much like your fashion. What does personal style constitute for you? Can you still be an authentic punk?
Jimmy Webb: My era was an amazing, gorgeous, wonderful era. To come here in the 70s, was a beautiful blessing. When the freedom to dress anyway you wanted to dress, you could… to find who you. And that's why we're inspired. The era before me I found really inspirational. Then there was an era before that that I find just as inspirational…. like fashionwise… like, you know? The Candy Darling’s, the Holly Woodlawn’s, the Edie Sedgwick’s… those earrings, touching like her shoulder blades, looking gorgeous… (I sleep under a picture of her)… or look at Candy? Absolutely gorgeous. Debbie (Harry) was telling me Candy was one of the most beautiful things she's ever seen in her life. So, that fashion? Going to Studio 54 dressed right out of the fucking garbage ….waved right in, looking fucking awesome! I mean, there was a lot of assets... so there was safety pins holding my shit up... went a little crazy with rhinestones, and know? Crazy Glue... but I had a ball, you know? And the inspiration of fashion, of wearing whatever you wanted, what made your soul feel right… was beautiful. And I think that's still exist, and that's what's made Jimmy, Jimmy, you know? If you want to step outside myself. That’s what's made me successful… as I said earlier… I just find what's in you and and bring it out.
So, I think punk rock fashion, or fashion that was inspired… I mean, that whole Basquiat Mudd Club, Danceteria, like even, Studio 54... amazing! Look at how everybody dresses! Look back at the images. The old tranny bars… the little hustler’s on fucking 8th Avenue and their little fucking leather jackets, and their crops little shirts… that style!
Boy Scout: All of the great thumb nosers of our time. From the Bowery Boys to Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten, there is something innately important about troublemakers who aspire. In finding your way with nothing in your pockets, was desperation a great motivator?
Jimmy Webb: Desperation can lead you to beautiful things and it can be very motivating, but desperation can always lead you down the road to… There's no quick fix for anything… you gotta go straight through. There's no shortcuts climbing up the mountain. You have to climb up the mountain. So, desperation is amazingly motivating to me… not that I want to be desperate all the time because I don't … but you know it's been good for me when it came be drug addiction. You know, I’m clean now. And I'm happy. And I'm thankful. And I'm not even saying everyone has to be clean… I'm just saying it works for me and desperation got me there.
Boy Scout: Anthony Bourdain’s wrenching “Parts Unknown” finale takes place in New York’s lower East Side where a good deal of your history resides. In that episode, Lydia Lunch says: “People were beautiful, doing things because they had to do it—not because of any other grand idea. Happiness was not the goal; satisfaction was the goal, as it still is. . . . We had to do something because we were burning; our blood was on fire.” Lunch made very clear that in the present day, she wastes no time pining for that bygone time—but Bourdain seemed a little more wistful. As a cultural significant, are you ever wistful for an older, grittier New York?
Jimmy Webb: Do I have beautiful, beautiful memories of an older New York? Do I wish it were here? Easier to survive? …Even talking to my driver today in the car that brought me here, you know, my lift, or whatever they have nowadays… As you know, New York at Christmas was a little better like 20 or 30 years ago, although you know what? It's New York at Christmas! And it's magical. And it's wonderful. And it's gorgeous. And if we don't grow and change with the times --and we're constantly wishing for an older New York -- everyone says that “Oh, I wish, I wish” … “We we're better in this era, we're better in that era”… I can't agree with that. I want to live in this moment and cherish each … and love New York for what it is right now… and be what I'm supposed to be to it, and it's supposed to be to me. You know? Yeah, I miss all the clubs… I miss dancing in the street, I miss … know what I miss one? One of the things I miss the most? I miss traffic in Times Square going in all directions…. I hate all those walkways in New York …and they frigging have lunch in the middle of the street …and a little fucking table, and shit like that. New York’s, New York! It should be lots of traffic… going really fast, and you know, horns beeping… like people being amazing… and tons of passion …and tons of people. You know? Those things I miss, but it is what it is, you know? Why am I going to wish for something that doesn't exist anymore, you know?
Boy Scout: Has your bravery grown through the ages?
Jimmy Webb: I would have to say I can clearly face more things and I've ever had to face before. You know, it's like my mom just passed away… My dad passed away a few years ago. And not that it was that traumatic for me… I mean it was great that I could be there, and be the good son in their lives … Remember, I'm the one that ran away at 16… So, there's a reason I ran away and I'm not talking shit about them, I'm not even going down that road… but I was alone for many years, so to be able to care for them long distance was amazing. With bravery. Face that part in my life was pretty intense…
Oh my God! It's pretty fucking brave to leave everything you know ...and a paycheck... and go to zero money, and borrow a bunch of money from friends... so I can open the store! You have to pay that back! Remember, I said punk rock is all about integrity and character? That means, when you go out on a limb, you have to sew it up clean! So yeah, bravery’s definitely stronger.
You know I've been through that whole era… you know, everyone dying of aids.. I’m looking around... I was a junkie then... and everyone's dying. You know, that's a memory you hold. Or what about September 11th? ...On September 11th, I lived four blocks from the World Trade Center, on the corner of Wall & Water. Woah, and the inspiration… and a bravery… of seeing all on those people that ran into save people… are the memories that I have to live with. The people jumping out windows… hearing their screams as they jump to their death … and their taste of death … and all that stuff's like... woah, woah.
Their precious bravery. The bravery in that instance right there, actually... Is those people aren't here to like sing and dance anymore...
So what I get to do every single fucking day of my life is; I get to go out and live for those that can't live anymore. Whether it's aids in the 80s, whether it's September 11th… someone had to jump out a window that had no choice… or ran into save someone and had no choice… I had to be brave enough to live for them.
Or, one year Cyndi Lauper, another dear an amazing friend, had me be on her float, when she was like the Grand Marshal of the Gay Pride March… well baby…. I've never been on a float in the Gay Pride March… I used to go years ago, and I just don't go anymore... A couple years I went and threw flowers in the water for those that aren't here anymore ….. But, going down Fifth Avenue on a float with Cyndi Lauper? Who’s the Grand Marshal?! Honoring everybody from the past who’s not here?! Oh God… it was the year Gay Marriage was passed! Oh my god, I’m never going to forget it! And the moment we stopped for silence in front of the Stone Wall and I danced and sing, like giving and taking of love, it was like Ibiza or when I was in Paris. Like Slash, the give and take of his 20-minute “Rocking Queen” solo, in a sold-out house… that's fucking bravery… living through that… Raver’s beating on those floats, bravery! Being there for all those that aren't here to live anymore… remembering everything from the past and taking it into the future.
Yes, so courage and bravery totally have be a part of your life… of everybody's life, yes.
Boy Scout: What is your greatest fear?
Jimmy Webb: Whoa! You want to make me cry, don't you? You are making me cry. I don't know if there is a fear… because I fall into fear, like, you know, I quit... but that old devil called ‘doubt’ shows up every once in a while and shoves his pitchfork up your butt, you know? Hey! I don't know if there is really, really any fear because I’ve learned you have to walk off fears and you have to hold your head high… again that Jackie Kennedy thing… What I don't like is..? God forbid anything should happen to someone I'm close to like Slash… if I couldn't call Slash and wish him a "Merry Christmas" or say “Hey, how are you? You want to go to the movies?” or you know, if I couldn't get a call from Iggy, you know? This one time, we were talking and he was feeding the stray kitties at this house in the Cayman Island, and I’m thinking, "Oh my God, Iggy Pop feeds stray kitties... how crazy is that?" And he’s kind of yelling at them as he does it. Trying tp get them some in an orderly fashion... this is amazing… if I didn't have moments like that...
I wouldn't want to not have moments like that.
But again, you have the memories of moment. So, I don't know if I could have a biggest fear. I want this store to be a major success. I want to spread love the way I want to spread love. But again, you have to walk through all fears.
Remember, I told you earlier.... I said earlier it took six months at one point in my life to teach me to bathe … an intense heroin habit… I have tried to commit suicide… and a full year to read and write again.. and that’s no exaggeration. After walking through that, and many other things I've had to face, I don't know if you can let your like take over your life …you shouldn't… I don't think I really can. I'm blessed with enough good people in my life that that just wouldn't happen.
Boy Scout: How would you like to be remembered?
Jimmy Webb: I want to leave the Earth a good, fucking guy… Other people will say “he was an asshole,” I knew you were going to say Jimmy was an asshole because that's just what they do, and not everyone gets it … I just want to be remembered as a good guy, and I want to be a man of integrity, and I want to be a man of character, and I just want them to say “Jimmy was a really fucking good guy,” That's what I want to do, you know? And I want to leave good memories within people, and some kind of inspiration, even if it's just not to be a litter bug. You know, it's like, when people throw litter on the ground? They're my friend and I yell at them and make them pick it up. I think that would be a good thing to be too… I just want to be a good guy.