L.E.S. Jewels, godfather of crusties, is dead at 43
A vintage black-and-white portrait of L.E.S. Jewels by the late Bob Arihood, who extensively chronicled the homeless punk’s antics on his Neither More Nor Less blog. Photo by Bob Arihood
BY GERARD FLYNN AND LINCOLN ANDERSON | Joel Pakela, a.k.a. L.E.S. Jewels, was the leader of sorts of the East Village’s homeless crusty punks, which he liked to call the “gutter pirates.” Last Friday night, Jewels, 43, was found by Ninth Precinct police on Avenue A across from the park, “smelling of alcohol.” Suffering from unspecified “health issues,” he was taken to Beth Israel Medical Center where he died the next day.
There were rumors that he also may have been assaulted. But the medical examiner’s office said he had no fresh injuries, though a fall may have contributed to his death. The M.E. said it will take about three weeks to determine the cause of death.
While Jewels was engaging and intelligent when sober — and even gave poetry readings at Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place — when drunk he could turn violent. He did jail time for assaulting a pedestrian he was trying to panhandle change from on Avenue A, and also for attacking a man who he had met in a Second Ave. gay bar and accompanied home — Jewels broke the man’s orbital bone with his cane.
Despite his dark, troubled side, Jewels was a well-liked figure by many in the neighborhood. A memorial is planned in Tompkins Square Park, this Fri., Sept. 20, at 8 p.m.
Crusties and PEOPs artist Fly (in sunglasses) gathered on Sunday in front of the memorial to L.E.S. Jewels at Ninth St. and Avenue A outside the park. Photo by Gerard Flynn