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East Side Story

At some level, Chambers was apparently aware of his problems with the scene. A friend from Hunter who had been accepted at Colgate for the spring term recalls walking with him in Central Park one day last winter. "He said he really admired me being a February freshman at Colgate," the friend says. "And he told me, 'I put myself in a hole. Now I have to dig myself out of it.' "

In April, Chambers flew down to Palm Beach to visit Flanagan. After he left New York, a friend says, his mother found drug paraphernalia while cleaning his room, and when Chambers called home, she told him to return immediately, that someone in the family was "sick." When he got back that day, he told his parents, "I'm the one who's sick, aren't I?" He quickly left for the Hazeldon Foundation, a drug rehabilitation clinic in Minnesota.

When he got back to New York in May, he told friends that he had kicked his cocaine habit. On several later occasions, he refused offers of the drug, and he's said to have counseled some friends against it. Meanwhile, he started working for Eve Murphy.

Still, he continued to struggle. "In a way, he was too positive," a close friend recalls. "Most people, when they get out of rehab, are realistic. But Rob always wanted people to think he could handle anything. He was drinking a lot and smoking pot. And he was always out, hard to reach. That means to me he didn't want to sit and think.

"He was under pressure in a lot of ways. He was trying to break away from his mother. But he was scared of disappointing her. It was like he'd try so hard he'd screw up. He was trying to please everyone, trying to be perfect. He'd always wanted to make a lot of money, but now he was realizing it wasn't so easy. The world out there scared him a lot."

Like many others in her social world, Levin came from a broken home.

Last spring, Levin went to Boston to visit colleges with a friend named Betsy (who asked that her last name not be used). While they were there, they stayed with Flanagan, who was taking courses at Harvard. Levin had been accepted at Chamberlayne Junior College, a small local school, and Betsy had already enrolled at Boston University. Betsy says the two of them had so much fun together over the weekend that Levin decided to go to Chamberlayne.

In May, Levin got a summer job as a hostess at Fluties, another South Street Seaport restaurant. "She had to wait three or four hours for an interview," says Betsy, "and when the guy saw her, he told her she wasn't right for the job. So she just grabbed him by the shoulders and told him that she was great with people and about all the jobs she'd had selling, and she made him fall in love with her."

At about this time, Pernice was ready to leave for Europe. He and Levin resolved to continue seeing each other when he got back in August.

Chambers's romantic fortunes were not faring as well. His on-again, off-again girlfriend of two years, Kristen Gesswein, had broken up with him, and friends say he was crushed when she began seeing Moby Banker, a veteran of the scene. Typically, however, Chambers refused to let his emotions show. "When he actually saw Moby, he just looked at him and laughed," Flanagan says.

In fact, Chambers had already met a girl at a graduation party. Now they began seeing each other regularly, and she became his latest girlfriend.

Levin and Chambers first met at Dorrian's on a night toward the end of June, according to Betsy. "He was sitting about four tables away from me," Betsy says, "and he kept looking over and smiling—'Hi,' 'Hi'—and finally he said to me, 'I just want to tell you I think your friend is so beautiful.' He said he wanted to talk to her, but that he couldn't do it in public, that he had a girlfriend. I told him he should just go up and talk to her, and he said, 'I can't. Tell her to meet me outside.' "

That night, Betsy says, Chambers and Levin just talked, but something "clicked" between them. "I remember her face turned a different color," she says, "and how he turned his head to the side, his hands in his pockets, almost smiling—trying to maintain his coolness."

They met again at Dorrian's during the second week of July, and this time they spent the night together at his house. The next morning, Levin called Betsy and told her that she and Chambers hadn't made love, that "he was very gentle, he didn't force me to do anything. He just complimented me."


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Nov 10, 1986 issue of New York
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