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

St. Mary’s Hospital in Minnesota was dreary and institutional, like going back to grade school, a bubbling cauldron of bad smells: urine smells, vomit smells, the smell of sickness everywhere. All the mattresses were covered in plastic. The cafeteria was horrible.

Before seeing Warren, I had to participate in group therapy, so I would be prepared for our new life together once he got out. I thought it was touchy-feely bullshit. I’d been through this with my sister before she died, overdosing on scotch and liquid methadone. You can’t save people, you just can’t. And needy doesn’t turn me on. Needy does not do it for me, even if it’s me someone needs. I did not want to see Warren like this. When I finally did, in group therapy, he grabbed me with sweating hands, and my heart was breaking. Apparently he’d told everyone in the group all about me, and my picture had been hanging up on the wall in his room. As we went around the room, each story was worse than the one before it. When it came my turn to “share,” I took the gloves off.

“I just don’t see how this whole thing is going to work,” I said. “How are any of you going to be able to walk out of here and resist the urge to drink or do drugs just because you had a little warm-and-fuzzy session with the rest of the derelicts?” Not exactly what any of them needed to hear.

Warren ran to his room. I followed. I sat next to him on the bed. He pulled one of my t-shirts from under his pillow — he’d taken it out of my drawer before he left. I told him I just didn’t think it was going to work and he shouldn’t come back to Philly. But I remember thinking that if I left Warren there, he wouldn’t die on my watch.

Somehow, Warren didn’t see this coming. He asked me to leave. I went to the counselor’s office, and they asked me who I knew that could replace me as Warren’s “co-dependent.” There is only one person to call, I said, one person who is un-fucked-up and responsible enough to handle this.

“Call Jackson Browne.” And then I packed up my shit and got on the plane.

So Jackson took over and made living arrangements for Warren out in Hollywood after he got out of rehab — in Oakwoods, the place where all the rock stars wind up after their divorces. They cater to that. Fully furnished, flexible leases, no questions asked. Warren called me to say, in a very serious, matter-of-fact voice, that Jackson and Darryl Hannah picked him up at the airport. “I just wanted you to know that Darryl said when I smile, I remind her of Ryan O’Neal. Goodbye.”


Anita Gevinson works for Shadow Traffic in Los Angeles. Jonathan Valania is a writer and musician living in Philadelphia.