Thomas John Kummer|
October 10, 1933
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
August 9, 1969 (aged 35)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Jay Sebring (October 10, 1933 – August 9, 1969) was an American hair stylist for celebrities, and the founder of the hairstyling corporation Sebring International. He is also known as one of the murder victims of the Manson Family.
Born Thomas John Kummer in Birmingham, Alabama, Sebring was the son of an accountant, Bernard Kummer, and his wife Margarette. He grew up with one brother and two sisters in a middle class home in Southfield, Michigan.
After graduating from Southfield High School in 1951, Sebring joined the Navy for four years, and during this time served in the Korean War. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he changed his name to Jay Sebring: Jay, after the first initial of his middle name, and Sebring after the famous Florida car race.
In Los Angeles he graduated from beauty school and promptly "invented a whole new way of cutting men's hair". His innovations including shampooing men's hair before styling it, cutting their hair with scissors instead of clippers, and using blow dryers, which were popular in Europe but not well known in the United States. He even used hair spray, in an era when Brylcreem was the accepted hair product for men. In Los Angeles, Sebring's modish salon and his style of cutting hair proved popular. He taught his methods to others who then opened Jay Sebring Salon franchises; his styling techniques were still being taught 40 years after his death. In 1967 he opened the company Sebring International to franchise his salons and sell hair care products.
At a time when barbers charged a dollar or two to cut men's hair, Sebring charged $50 and up. His hair styling clients included Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen. He flew to Las Vegas every three weeks to cut the hair of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. At Kirk Douglas' request, Sebring did the hair styling for the movie Spartacus. He later designed The Doors' Jim Morrison's free-flowing style.
His business, Sebring International, was flourishing by the late 1960s, with profitable salons in West Hollywood, New York and London. Sebring maintained a playboy lifestyle, with high-profile Hollywood personalities like Beatty among his closest associates. Adjacent to his salon on Fairfax Avenue, West Hollywood, Pat Woolley ran her iconic fashion shop, catering to musicians and movie stars including Mia Farrow.
Sebring had a hand in launching the film career of Bruce Lee, after meeting him at the International Karate Championships in Long Beach in 1964. He introduced Lee to his producer friend Bill Dozier, who started Lee's career with The Green Hornet. Though not seeking an acting career himself, Sebring made a cameo appearance in the December 1966 episode of the TV show Batman, playing a character based on himself called Mr. Oceanbring. Sebring also appeared in a 1967 episode of The Virginian titled "The Strange Quest of Claire Bingham", playing a frontier barber.
Sebring wanted a union for cosmetologists and presented the idea to the State Board of Cosmetology in Sacramento, but the idea never happened.
Sebring and Sharon Tate
Sebring was introduced to Sharon Tate by journalist Joe Hyams in October 1964 and they began a relationship. Sebring bought the former home of Paul Bern, husband of Jean Harlow, on Easton Drive in Benedict Canyon, then owned by Sally Forrest. Tate spent much of her time there, and was also remembered by Sebring's clients as a constant presence in his Los Angeles salon.
Tate went to London in early 1966 to work on The Fearless Vampire Killers with film director Roman Polanski. They began a relationship, and Tate ended her relationship with Sebring, who travelled to London to meet Polanski. He befriended Polanski, while remaining a friend to Tate. Polanski would later comment that despite Sebring's lifestyle, he was a very lonely person, who regarded Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski as his family.
In the summer of 1968, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate introduced Sebring to Polanski's friend Wojciech Frykowski and his girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, who had recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. Folger later invested in Sebring's hair-care products for men.
In early May 1969 Sebring opened a new salon at 629 Commercial Street in San Francisco and a champagne reception followed. Guests included Abigail Folger and her mother, Ines, as well as Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward.
Death on Cielo Drive
On August 8, 1969, Sebring, Tate, Frykowski and Folger went to El Coyote, a Mexican restaurant, together. After they returned to the Polanski residence on Cielo Drive, Charles Manson's followers Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Charles "Tex" Watson entered the home. After coercing the four occupants of the house into the living room, they ordered them to lie face down on the floor. Sebring protested and asked the intruders to consider Tate's advanced pregnancy. He was then shot by Watson, who kicked him several times in the face as he lay dying, breaking his nose and eye socket. He was then stabbed seven times and killed. The group then murdered Frykowski, Folger, and Tate.
On Wednesday, August 13, funerals for Tate and Sebring took place the same day; the funerals were scheduled several hours apart (first for Tate and then Sebring) to allow mutual friends to attend both.
- White, Carrie (2011). Upper Cut: Highlights of My Hollywood Life. Atria Books. p. 53.
- Tannen, Mary (August 18, 2002). "Message In A Shampoo Bottle". New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- Eubanks, Bob; Hansen, Matthew Scott (2004). It's in the Book, Bob!. BenBella Books. p. 63. ISBN 1-932100-28-8.
- "Would you pay $50 for a haircut?". Star-News. August 3, 1963. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- "Jay Sebring". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- Dunne, Dominick (April 2001). "Murder Most Unforgettable". Vanity Fair.
- Biography at Sebring International website
- Jay Sebring at the Internet Movie Database
- Beautiful People, proposed (2013) biographical film about Sebring, with James Franco as director and star