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

When the money started running out, Warren went back on the road. Money may not buy happiness, but on the road you could rent it for a few weeks, with the right plastic. Thing is, with renting, you eventually have to give it back when your cards are maxed out. And with no record company to pick up the tab, we were maxed out when the tour ended in L.A. That night I went to sleep early, and Warren went out. I remember hearing voices and opening my eyes and seeing Warren sitting on my right and a black girl in hot pants with a huge Afro on my left. “I told you I didn’t do girls,” she said to Warren. “And what do you even need a hooker for when you got a girl like this, she looks like a Playboy centerfold?” 

I sat upright and asked Warren the most overused question of our relationship: What the fuck is going on here? And then I turned to the hooker: Do you really think I’m pretty enough to be in Playboy? She nodded slightly, and I smiled sweetly and asked her to wait in the other room. Warren was fucking drunk again, and I was livid. “I told her it was your birthday,” he slurred.

“But it isn’t my birthday! Do you mean to tell me you paid a hooker? We’re broke and you gave her money to come here? How much?”

“A hundred dollars.”

“Well, go get it back from her and get her out of here!” Suddenly we heard the door slam shut. The hooker was gone, along with my jewelry, which had been sitting on the coffee table. Happy birthday to me.

Despite Warren’s shaky fortunes in the States, European promoters were hungry for a tour. They even offered a slot at an enormous show in Denmark with some band called U2. Right around that time, Warren got another letter from Crystal. She had put Ariel in a boarding school in Chamonix for the summer. Now would be a perfect time, she wrote, for Warren to come to Europe and take Ariel back to Philadelphia for a long visit. We were both really excited about Ariel coming to stay with us. So Warren booked the tour. He started writing. He even got his drinking under control again.

And then something very strange happened, something I should have seen as a screaming red flag. A couple of days before we were to leave, I decided to get my hair cut. We still lived in the Le Chateau building, and there was a hair salon on the ground floor. The hairdresser said I should cut my hair short for the trip. Fine, I said. Snip away. So I went back upstairs to the apartment, and Warren went berserk. He was always looking for an excuse to lock himself in the back bedroom and drink, and this was a perfect one. He disappeared for a couple of hours. The next day, as I was leaving the apartment building, I noticed that all the windows at the hair salon had been shattered. I thought: That’s strange. On ritzy Rittenhouse Square? Then one day in Europe, I don’t even remember what prompted the confession, Warren blurted out that he was so angry about me cutting my hair that he went downstairs in the middle of the night and smashed every window in the salon. I was shocked and appalled and, deep down, a little flattered.