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

During the concert in Denmark, Warren won over the crowd, but all he could see when he was onstage was a guy giving him the finger and a kid waving the white U2 flag, and he fell off the wagon again. When he came offstage he was inconsolable, then drunk, then passed out. On the way back to the hotel, this girl got on the bus, and she was in the back, giving everyone blowjobs. In the past I might have been able to laugh that off, but I’d had enough.

Things went from bad to really fucking bad. In Ireland, Warren tried bravely to get through his shows, but he was too fucked up from pills and drink. Warren was the worst kind of drunk for show biz: He knew how to get onstage, but not how to get off. He ended every show in Ireland by offering a refund to anyone who didn’t like the concert. That’s about where his self-esteem was. Giving it away for free.

When the tour ended, we headed to France to get Ariel, Warren’s daughter. The headmaster at her boarding school looked at us suspiciously — especially Warren, walleyed, bearded, and sweating out all the booze. Ariel hadn’t seen her father in three years and didn’t recognize him. But then we headed out to the car, and Warren pulled me aside and said, “Let me drive,” to impress his daughter. He walked her around the back, put her suitcase down, and put her in the passenger seat. Then he got in the driver’s seat, put the car in reverse, and backed up over Ariel’s suitcase. And Ariel turned to me and said, “That’s my dad.”

Back in the States, I’d take Ariel to WYSP with me every day because Warren was up all night and sleeping all day. You know how animals can sense storms before humans? Children have that ability, too. One day Ariel drew me a picture in crayon. It was of Le Chateau, a tall building with a big waving tree and a little girl outside. And it was raining. What makes a little girl draw pictures of the sky raining on our home?

It was pretty much down to the last straw. One day Warren got mad and picked up a glass of ginger ale and threw it against the wall. Ginger ale? That’s not very rock-’n’-roll, is it? But that was it. I told him I was leaving, and I stormed out. I was wearing my fur coat, and I strode across the Square in tears, and I stayed at the Warwick that night. I remember being so physically sick from all this worry and depression and stress that the only thing I could keep down was a vanilla milkshake. I was lying in the dark on my bed at the Warwick in my fur coat, slurping a vanilla McDonald’s milkshake, mascara running down my cheeks.

When I went back to the apartment, his things were packed. He was sitting on his suitcases with his overcoat on. He was going into rehab, he said, and they would be calling me in a few days. “Don’t tell ’em anything they want to know,” he said with a wink, before walking out the door.