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East Side Story

"She was in heaven," Betsy remembers.

Several weeks later, while Betsy was in the Hamptons with a friend of Levin's named Edwina, they got another call from Levin. "Guess what?" Levin asked.

"Edwina and I were laughing 'cause we knew," Betsy says. "She said she'd gone back to Rob's house, that she'd wanted to go, and that it had been incredible, she had such a good time. She said he was amazing."

During the summer, Chambers kept telling friends that he was trying to reorder his life and that he was planning to take courses that fall at Columbia as a general-studies student, in the hope of eventually enrolling at the college.

But as August was ending, Chambers hadn't enrolled in school or found a regular job, and he was still drinking until late at Dorrian's. His girlfriend tried to help him, but, friends say, he stole money from her and lied about his whereabouts and his efforts at reform. Two close friends recall that he seemed to be at the end of his rope—guarded about his activities and bitter about the scene he couldn't escape. "He hated it," one says. "He thought the people were phony and superficial, but he would say things like he wanted to come back in twenty years and show them. The last few times I saw him, I thought he was about to explode.

"I knew he was unstable. He was living two lives: one, his mother; the other, social. He had so many stories to keep straight with different people, he was like, having to become a compulsive liar. He wanted so much to have control over his life, but he just couldn't grasp it."

On August 21, Chambers spoke to his former parish priest, Monsignor Wilders, for the first time in more than five years. Wilders asked him to call back the following Monday to arrange an appointment. Chambers didn't, and that Monday night—the night of Levin's death—he went again to Dorrian's.

Later, Wilders would visit Chambers in prison and ask him why he had called, and Chambers would tell him what in essence he had told so many others during the past year: His life was in disorder. He had hoped the monsignor would help him find a job to pay for his college expenses. He had wanted to turn things around.

Levin, meanwhile, was in high spirits as the summer wound down. After leaving her job at Fluties, she flew to California for a holiday with friends, and when she returned in late August, she headed for the Hamptons, where the scene had moved during the summer.

What's more, Brock Pernice had returned from Europe and their reunion that week was a great success. They confessed their summer indiscretions—Levin admitted her fling with Chambers—and they rededicated themselves to the promises they had made in June. Pernice would be at Northeastern University in Boston that fall, and Levin said she wanted them to spend lots of time together. "Her thing with Chambers was no big thing, just a crush," Pernice says. "She told me, 'It's not like being with you.' "

'When we were alone," says her boyfriend, "I really felt love."

When Levin arrived at Dorrian's shortly after midnight on August 26, she was euphoric. She had returned that afternoon from the Hamptons with Alex LaGatta, whom she had been staying with, and they had dinner with LaGatta's father. Instead of going home—she is said to have argued with her father that weekend but to have made up with him the night before—she borrowed a white tank top and pink skirt from LaGatta. The two girls went to meet friends at Juanita's, a Mexican restaurant on East 75th Street, where Levin drank two large margaritas. Someone sent a bottle of champagne to their table, and Levin drank some of that too. Despite her reconciliation with Pernice, she was looking forward to meeting Chambers. She told her friends how much she liked him and that she wanted to go home with him later.

Friends remember Levin sweeping into the bar, "psyched about going to Boston next week," as one put it, kissing and hugging friends she hadn't seen during the summer, or that she wouldn't see after she left for college. One young man who met her for the first time that night says, "She was very flirtatious, definitely outgoing. You could tell by the way she flashed her eyes. She kissed me when we were introduced, and she didn't even know me."

Chambers, meanwhile, was drinking alone at the bar. Later, in trying to explain his mood that night, he told a friend that he was depressed because he'd just found out that a companion from the drug rehabilitation center had committed suicide. In any case, for over an hour he hadn't paid any attention to his girlfriend, with whom he had a date. When she finally approached him, the confrontation included an unpleasant scene. Friends say she threw a bag containing packages of condoms in his face, and people heard her say, "Use these with someone else, because you're not going to get a chance to use them with me."


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