A couple day ago I was looking through old photos to upload to this new Amazing Strangers Gallery and by chance I stumbled across pictures and video I’d taken on the day I’d met Jeffery Babbitt. In September 2013 when I’d heard one of the regulars had gotten killed at Union Square, I looked up the victim’s name. I was immediately saddened when I recognized him.
Jeffery was one of those guys who never made a nuisance of himself. He stood out because despite being a little odd looking he had a memorable style. He was a Greaser. His pompadour and sideburns harked back to the early 80s and made me think he was probably into Sha Na Na or Fonzie. In the 80s (Jeff would have been in his early 30s) there was a resurgence of that 50s Outsiders style. Combine that with his love for fairies, which he wore sewn to his coat, with pink, aqua or lavender colored tee shirts, I likened him to Emilio Estevez’s “Two-Bit” character’s ironic obsession with Mickey Mouse.
After finding the photos and watching the video again for the first time in years, the memory of meeting him that day came back clear as day.
My friend Samir had brought over her new pet mouse, Fitz, and while I was filming Jeffrey came over and started petting it. I was really happy he’d finally come over because before that I’d always wanted to take his picture but never had reason enough to ask.
In the video you’ll notice that he’s a little hesitant to walk away. That’s because while I was filming I was smiling, and wanting him to hang around, but I also wanted the video to look natural, so I let him walk away. Before he got out of earshot though I turned off the camera, called him back over and asked to take his picture. I told him how I’d been seeing him around for as long as I could remember, dug his style and would it be okay if I took some photos. I made sure to get good shots of both sleeves.
Jeffery obviously deserves to be counted as one of the Union Square originals. He should have made it to the postcard years ago. So yesterday when Shaggy said I should add him to the drawing I’ve been working on of all the characters from postcards past, I thought it was a great idea. He suggested I draw him flying up to heaven, which was inspired, because up until that point he had no idea about Jeff’s love for fairies. Drawing him ascending up to the Union Square in a sky with fairy wings truly completed this piece.
He was as gentle of a man as he appears in the video. It’s a travesty his life was taken a couple years later in such a violent and ugly crime. I hope these images and video are seen by the people who love and miss him most.