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

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

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

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14 Responses to L.E.S. Jewels, godfather of crusties, is dead at 43

  1. Merry Mirth, Great Girth! +RIP Jewels+

  2. Wow, I can't believe he's gone…

  3. NY wont be the same.

  4. Good riddence the park children are safe from his exposing himself in front of the palyground

  5. Duke and Dutchess

    Rest in peace, brother~

  6. "I'm glad you're dead you bastard, you!" Comments better reserved for Margaret Thatcher & Henry Kissinger… Children can take it — it's uptight boozhies who can't stand difference, only if it stays indoors and out of sight. I'm not a crusty, nor a particular fan, but I like the idea of them — and I like places where they tend to go to… at least, so far. "No flies no meat, baby."

  7. For the people who say insensitive things like “good riddance” and “neighborhood’s a beter place”, you have to realize that the LES was gentrified around people like Jewels. He was there way before you’re children and little dog park. He was a symbol of an ideal that we are losing in country. That one has the right to do and live how they want. Though his police record paints one picture, it does not let outsiders see the good stuff: drunken sing alongs and dance parties, how jewels would help a crusty (no matter how new to the city) if he was capable of doing so… this is a public forum, and most people rreading this article are doing so because of their mourning. RIP Jewels ( I love you bro but you ain’t my leader lol…..”this is my F*CKING park”….

  8. How many times i saw him give away his last dollar to someone in need
    He helped everyone who needed it
    And when he jacked up that child-molester!
    Miss you jewles.

  9. LES JEWELS 4-EVER! He lives on in our hearts and memories. I love you brother!!!

  10. Awahhh, Rest in Paradise, Jewels. i hope you are finally now at peace. Me & Matthew and my son, Aiden Skye will miss you! Love

  11. Life is a precious things, and everything with a heart deserves the right to it, not everyone lives to respect it though. jewels was a terrible person. this is coming from someone who has hopped trains with him, spanged for change played guitar to his favorite song (admittedly) hank williams I'm so lonesome i could cry while he sang, with a rusty voice. We lived in paradise(city) together c squat tenacity Ratrails …, built squats, and drank endlessly. I remember him smoking his first salvia smoking experience, and could go on for days about him but his redeeming qualities are overshadowed by the massive amount of shit he did, stealing , raping, fuck , if the cops are listening he stole a car off walnut i philly and crashed it into a bridge then drunkenly walked away car totaled. case solved and theres a slew more. he stole from friends he would get violent and wave a revolver around your face , he'd swing his candy cane at you if you didnt agree. yeah he loved music, yeah he was smart …wise even. He's a punk through and through and i never expected anything from him but the worst but thats how we were able to spend so much time together and in the end after years i had to walk away just another one of his victims . anyone one on here that remembers him fondly didn't spend enough time with him. RIP jewels, you're gone but not forgotten.

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