Neighbors Say Former Residence Was A Magnet For Young Toughs

Posted: March 29, 1992

Before the fancy apartment in the Wanamaker House, there was the rundown brownstone on stately St. James Place.

For years, neighbors there knew Ed Savitz only too well.

When the "For Sale" sign went up on the house on St. James two years ago, they waited a few months, then worked up the nerve to tour the place that had for so long attracted a parade of street-wise young men.

Even now, it is the basement of the mild actuary's property that sticks in the mind of one woman.

"It was a dungeon," the neighbor recalled. She remembers a chain and handcuffs attached to the white walls. Marijuana roaches scattered on the floor. Pornographic magazines stacked by a door. The woman needed to see only one publication to know not to look any further.

Its cover showed the back of a naked woman in chains.

Mary Genovese, a real estate broker who once tried to sell the building, never got as far as the basement. "It was . . . spooky," she said. "There was a dog living in the house at the time. The house was covered with dog mess, throughout the whole house. The stench was unbelievable.

"I couldn't get out of there fast enough."

About the same time, Savitz was being quoted in Money magazine, on the wisdom of converting corporate retirement plan proceeds into annuities.

That was the pin-striped side of Edward I. Savitz, 50, then a principal with Retirement & Employee Benefit Consulting Associates, a division of the now-bankrupt Laventhol & Horwath accounting firm.

Friday, the Philadelphia district attorney went public with the seamier side of Savitz, the one they called "Uncle Ed" or "Fast Eddie," the one arrested two days earlier and accused of having sexual relations with hundreds of young men and boys - despite having had AIDS for the last year.

Savitz paid teenage boys for sex, for photographs, for their underwear and socks and even for bowel movements, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham alleged at a news conference Friday.

Authorities yesterday rearrested Savitz - who had been free on $3 million bail - on seven additional charges that he sexually abused two teenage boys.

On Wednesday, police broke down the front door of his 23d-floor condominium in the Wanamaker House near Rittenhouse Square - to which he had moved from the St. James Place home. Found with him were two fully clothed 15-year-old boys, sources said.

Police also raided a locker he rented in a storage warehouse. They found 187 trash bags with soiled underclothing inside.

Police had begun investigating in October, on the strength of a tip.

Abraham, in her news conference, said Savitz may have had sexual contact for several years with hundreds of males ranging in age from 15 to 19. His attorney, Barnaby Wittels, said Friday that Savitz never had oral or anal sex with anyone under 16, the age of legal consent.

Wittels said he had tried to persuade authorities to place his client in a mental hospital.

Savitz was "a perfect gentleman," Genovese, the real estate broker, recalled, when she complained to him about the squalor of the vacant house on St. James Place.

Savitz cleaned up, but soon, the magazines reappeared throughout the four- story house. Genovese, who lives in the neighborhood, would see young men going in and out of the house at night - even though no one supposedly was living there.

Savitz had owned the property since at least 1981, city records show. He told Genovese he had inherited it.

In interviews over the last two days, seven of his neighbors told The Inquirer that they had long been wary of Savitz and the rough-looking young men who lived in the building and streamed in and out, often hanging out on the steps across the street, working on their souped-up cars on the sidewalk, blasting rock music out the windows.

St. James Place is a narrow residential street of Centennial-era brownstones, some of them palatial single-family homes, one of which sold recently for $750,000. Most of the neighbors are professionals. At least 15 young children live on the block.

Savitz lived in a first-floor apartment of his own building until an incident more than two years ago, his neighbors said. He left soon after one visitor attacked him with a tire iron and nearly severed one of his thumbs. Another tenant of the building had to take him to the hospital.

Neighbors told of continually calling the police - when the music was too loud, when cars were blocking the sidewalk, when they suspected that the steady visitors were dropping by to score drugs.

"There were kids coming in and out of here all the time," said one neighbor, a father of young children. "I'm talking about primarily teenagers, ranging from 13 or 14 to 20 or so. . . . Year in and year out." He described them as "teenagers from the Taney Park area, young sort of tough . . . kids."

Sometimes he would find boys' underwear on the sidewalk or even in the trees out back. Police say Savitz would pay young men and give them new underwear if they would agree to leave him their briefs.

One young mother who lives on the street described Savitz as a mild man who made awkward attempts at small talk with families on the block.

Yesterday, inside her home of high ceilings, oriental rugs, gourmet cookbooks and early American furniture, she looked at Savitz's mug shot in the newspaper and paused.

"He wasn't a mean or nasty person. He just sort of gave you the creeps. He looked a little 'off.' His wig was always askew. He was pasty."

*

By midnight Friday, already the news was flashing between the male prostitutes working the street corners in Center City. "Everybody's talking about him out here - Fast Eddie, the old guy," said one hustler, on the corner of 16th and Pine Streets. He said he'd never had sex with Savitz - known on the street as Dr. Feelgood - but knew he picked up younger boys, 16 and 17 years old.

"I've seen him pick them up," he said. "He knew he had AIDS. He kept trying."

Sometimes Savitz walked the streets, the hustler said. Sometimes he drove, joining the slow stream of cars that circle the block. The last time this prostitute saw Savitz was about a month ago.

"He'd walk right up to you and ask you for your socks. Thirty, forty bucks for socks," he said. "He came down here. I got money off him. I didn't do anything. He'd buy socks, underwear, all that. . . . I took them right off my feet. Right where I'm standing. Right here on the sidewalk. . . . That's his game."

Another prostitute said he was invited back to Savitz's home at least three times. "He wants my dirty underwear and socks for money? . . . He can have them. I've got plenty more at home. . . . You go in the bathroom, take off your underwear, pull up your pants, button them up, take the elevator down with $20 in your pocket. That's it. . . . I never did anything with him, so I don't have AIDS."

Savitz' lawyer has told police his client "would be willing to help us identify these kids," said Lt. James Mooney of the Sex Crimes Unit.

Savitz kept extensive records, a police source said, with names and dates of liaisons, all of which have been confiscated.

Investigators intend to check them out, one by one.

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