Rock ’n’ Roll: Rittenhouse Square’s Excitable Boy

In her forthcoming memoir, former WYSP deejay Anita Gevinson, the self-described “sex kitten of the airways,” remembers the high times and blurry Philly nights she shared in the early 1980s with the late rocker Warren Zevon

I always said there are two kinds of men: those that don’t want to go home, and those that never want to go out. Warren started out in column A, but as his drinking got out of control, he wound up in column B. He never wanted to be seen drunk in public, and that eventually meant he could never be seen. Ever. And so we never went anywhere. And that could be fun, too. We would sit around in our favorite pajamas and bathrobes and watch Bronco Billy or The Godfather over and over again. He was such a creature of habit. Eating a beef roast with potatoes in his bathrobe, he was like a pig in shit. Sex? I was just happy to get through dinner without some crisis or someone calling with some good news about one of his rivals that would set him off and he’d wind up locking himself in the back bedroom with his bottle.

We kept completely different hours. He was sleeping when I was awake, and vice versa. I remember when he was asked to sing the national anthem before a Sixers game, and he was up all night bellowing “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” with headphones on. Thank God we lived next door to a deaf woman. It was making me crazy. It got to where some days I didn’t want to come home from work — to the man I was going to marry.

Meanwhile, people were starting to send us engagement presents. I realized I needed to put the brakes on, now. I’d said yes to him for all the wrong reasons: for my parents, my girlfriends, and for revenge — to prove wrong every guy who didn’t consider me marriage material. I called up my parents and had them meet me in WYSP’s parking lot so I could talk to them without Warren around. It was sort of like meeting Deep Throat in All The President’s Men. I told them I couldn’t go through with it.

Before I could break off the engagement, a package came from Crystal in France. Crystal was out to make him hurt. She was angry about how their marriage turned out, and I couldn’t blame her. Warren told me a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when she was signing the divorce papers and knew Warren would be supporting her, she turned to her lawyer and said, “Where’s the most expensive place in the world to live?”

“I don’t know. Paris?” he said.

So Paris it was. Crystal moved there with Ariel, their daughter, when Ariel was three. Warren hadn’t seen his daughter in three years. The package from Crystal contained a tape. It started with Crystal saying, “What do you want to say to your daddy?”

And then you hear this little-girl voice saying I don’t have a daddy, why doesn’t my daddy love me, why won’t he come see me? Warren hit stop, popped the tape out, and padded to the back bedroom in his bathrobe. I could hear him playing it over and over all night.

I always hated bringing Rolling Stone home. At that point, a good article about Jimmy Buffett or Randy Newman would set him off on a jag and he’d be back in his robe, padding around the apartment for days, rudderless, full of vodka and ruin. He was on the outs with Jackson, and anything good that happened to Jackson Browne was bad, bad, bad. Warren was pea-green with Jackson envy. Who didn’t want to look like Jackson Browne? Everything was so hard for Warren that was so easy for Jackson and Don Henley. Out of nowhere he would just blurt out to me: “You know, Jackson’s first name is Clyde, and Henley gets all of his ideas from the phone book, you know that, doncha?” I’d just roll my eyes.

But the worst issue of Rolling Stone was the one that had a little blurb in the Random Notes section that read WARREN ZEVON DROPPED BY ASYLUM. This was the first he’d heard of it. He grabbed the magazine, got up and stormed to the back bedroom, and slammed the door.

I didn’t see him for three days after that.