Mourning the ‘Man in White’ on the Lower East Side
Orchard Street won’t be the same.
There has been an outpouring of grief in the week since Jimmy “Blanco” Becker, the so-called “man in white,” passed away from Lymphoma. News of his death seemed to touch a nerve on the hyperlocal level. You may not have known him personally, but his presence – dressed in handmade clothes of all white – always seemed a steadfast constant in a swiftly changing neighborhood.
Perhaps this connection of sight spurred everyone from neighbors to those who fleetingly crossed paths with the enigmatic Becker to share a memory.
A longtime resident of upper Orchard Street, Jimmy “Blanco” Becker attended NYU before succumbing to mental illness at some point in his mid-twenties. According to one of his neighbors, his ability to live in the apartment was owed to an arrangement between his parents and the landlord.
Through it all, Becker was lucky to have a tight-knit group of people looking out for him.
Vicki Rovere, curator of the Ludlow Street Free Store:
I regularly ran into Jimmy on the street late at night as I was scavenging the trash, collecting items for the Ludlow St. Free Store. I always said hello but never got an answer. But several years ago, he stopped and said, “I know who you are!” Ever since then we would exchange greetings; sometimes Jimmy initiated them. I got a few pieces of info from neighbors, but I’m happy to hear he got such great support.
Adrian Wilson, local artist and man about Ludlow Street:
Sad. Often saw him checking and rechecking and rechecking something extemely important in his own mind on random walls. He was obviously not all there but never really dirty and his stubble was always the same length!
One of his neighbors on Orchard Street:
RIP Jimmy. I’m so glad he got this lovely memory and that he made such an impression on people. He had his demons but I believe he loved his neighborhood and appreciated the people who acknowledged him.
— John Norris (@Jonnynono) January 18, 2019
— Tom Barbaro (@tombarbaro) January 19, 2019
Rest in Power Jimmy Blanco you Lower East Side Legend known as the “Man in White.” Jimmy never spoke much and seemed a true lone wolf but Zig always made him smile. I remember watching them & thinking that Zig was truly a bee charmer. 🐝🐝 @boweryboogie https://t.co/YbWyxYs8Hv pic.twitter.com/npXwcqeEuz
— 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚊 𝚂𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚍 (@marisaschein) January 18, 2019