Born 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.
Sebring’s birth-name was Thomas John Kummer. After graduating from Southfield High School in 1951, Sebring joined the Navy for four years, during this time served in the Korean War. After his time in the Navy he 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.
Sebring was considered a lady’s man and took numerous women to his residence in the Hollywood Hills. Sebring had a fetish, he loved to tie women up with a small sash cord and if they agreed, he would whip them, after which he would undress them and have sex. He was a well-known user of cocaine, staying high on the drug most of the time.
Sebring put on a big front, living in a large house with a butler, an expensive foreign car and at times hosting expensive parties. It is believed that all of these actions were to impress potential backers of his corporation. During the homicide investigation detectives discovered that in fact Sebring’s capital resources were “very limited.”
At a time when barbers charged $1 or $2 for a haircut, Sebring charged $25 to $50 and more. His clients included Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Jim Morrison, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, and Henry Fonda. Sebring flew to Las Vegas once a month to cut Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr’s Hair. At Kirk Douglas’ request, Sebring did the hair-styling for the movie Spartacus.
Sebring received Martial Arts lessons from Bruce Lee. He passed a videotape of Lee on to a client , William Dozier, the producer of the television show Batman. Dozier gave Lee the part of Kato on the Green Hornet which set off Bruce’s acting career.
Sebring himself had occasional acting roles. One was a cameo in a Batman episode where he played the part of Mr. Oceanbring, a character based upon himself. Sebring also appeared in a 1967 episode of The Virginian, playing a frontier barber.
Sebring was introduced to Sharon Tate at a party in Los Angeles in 1964. They fell in love and started dating. The relationship lasted for about two years.
Tate went to London in 1966 to work on The Fearless Vampire Killers with director Roman Polanski. Polanski wrote in his autobiography that the two bonded during an LSD trip one night, and by dawn, they were in love.
Tate ended her relationship with Sebring over the phone. Sebring immediately traveled to London to win her back, however Tate decided to be with Polanski.
Eventually Sebring and Polanski became friends. After Jay and Sharon parted as a couple they continued to see each other as close friends.
It was no secret that Sebring was still in love with Sharon and he stayed in love with her until the day he died.
Sebring was killed shortly after midnight, on August 9, 1969. Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson tied Sebring and Tate together with a piece of rope, Sebring protested to the rough treatment of Tate, Tex Watson then shot and stabbed Sebring several times. Sebring died defending the woman he loved…
Funerals for Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring took place on the same day. Steve McQueen gave the eulogy at Sebring’s funeral.
Sebring is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.
Walk-through: The Tate Murders