Jeremy Sage in an old Calvin Klein commercial with Brooke Shields.
Thank you Davie Kaufmann for showing me this a few years ago.
For those of you not familiar with Jeremy’s Place, it was the premiere children’s birthday party venue on the Upper East Side when I was little. Jeremy’s Place was run and hosted by Jeremy Sage who played Jesus in Godspell in 1977, and Thomas Garbutt who, during the party, acted as Jeremy’s sidekick, Chief. Located in a brownstone on East 81st Street (which is now a consignment store) you entered through a gift shop where the birthday kid’s parents picked out the contents of the party favor bags. My favorite was the glow-in-the-dark spiderweb with suction cups.
Upon entering the main room, the first thing you saw was a large vitrine holding a complex train set which was running and making noises. From my childhood memory-
we kids were seated on the floor in front of a red plush stage where Jeremy and Chief performed magic tricks, gags, told jokes, and gave out prizes. Actually, the birthday kid sat next to Jeremy on stage. Then we all moved to another area to eat cake, but first the room became dark and a real robot came out and joked with Jeremy, and then there was a dancing hula doll and the birthday parents had to talk into an echoing microphone.
A few years ago I posted some photos on facebook from my two birthday parties at Jeremy’s Place. I then received a message from a girl I went to Spence with and hadn’t seen for at least ten years, saying she was sorry to inform me that Jeremy had died of A.I.D.S., which he had contracted from his sidekick, Chief. Now, I hadn’t spoken to this girl in years and didn’t remember her having a dark sense of humor- but still, if you knew what Jeremy’s Place was (despite the creepiness of the Calvin Klein ad), this smelled like a sick internet rumor. And it was.
It was 2009 and I set about finding the true whereabouts of Jeremy Sage, whom I had last seen at my 6th birthday party in 1988.
I came across an article in the New York Times, April 2, 1995, (which at one point I somehow figured out was researched by Steven Garbarino years before he was to become editor-and-chief of various publications) which reports that after the pair were “dissatisfied with the standard cookie-cut vomit and plastic-looking doggy do,” Chief (Thomas Garbutt), who it turns out was the technical genius behind the scenes, created a way to “freeze sticky substances with a polyester compound” in order to create better looking fake spills and messes and that Ben & Jerry’s actually uses Sage & Garbutt spills for it’s own gag gift.
At this time, if you visited jeremysplace.com you found an extensive catalog of fake food ranging from baguettes to salad, and a special category of silly spills. Here’s a pic I grabbed when it was up.
Now it appears to be a blog for a temporary fencing and port-a-potty company. It’s really pretty confusing.
In 2009, I found a Jeremy Sage listed in the phone book on East End Ave, near the former Jeremy’s Place. He did not return my message but I then got confirmation from a family friend of his, that he was alive and well.
I don’t have any updates but just thought I should post this sooner or later.
If you have any of your own Jeremy’s Place memories, please share them below or e-mail me at rebeccaschiffman at gmail dot com.