PHILADELPHIA -- In the halls of Bishop John Neumann High School, and on the narrow streets throughout the city's Grays Ferry section, the talk was this: "Fast Eddie" was a man known not just to these teen-agers but to the generation before them, their fathers, their uncles.
Even mothers, as schoolgirls, had heard of Edward I. Savitz, the AIDS-infected businessman arrested last week on charges of corrupting the morals of minors. The mothers had told their children to stay away. Some heeded the warnings. Others did not, lured to his Center City high-rise apartment by the promise of quick cash.
"There are guys in the neighborhood who are 35 years old and used to go see him when they were kids," said a burly, red-haired Neumann High School senior named Paul, who asked that his last name be withheld.
He wrapped himself against the wind as he talked, one of about 15 students hanging out near the school.
All -- including the younger boys -- said they were familiar with the ways of the neighborhood ritual of going to Fast Eddie's.
They had known about Mr. Savitz for years; six of them, the older ones -- 16 and 17 -- acknowledged visiting Mr. Savitz's apartment.
A preliminary hearing on the charges against Mr. Savitz is scheduled in Philadelphia Family Court tomorrow. The charges include deviate sexual behavior, promoting prostitution, corrupting the morals of a minor and sexual abuse of children by photograph.
Yesterday, Mr. Savitz's lawyer asked a Common Pleas Court judge to reduce the $20 million bail.
Since Friday, AIDS hot lines have received a flood of calls from people concerned about infection.
But of the 12 youths interviewed yesterday who acknowledged visiting Mr. Savitz, all denied having sexual contact with him. All said Mr. Savitz had never assaulted them or forced them to do anything.
"He used to give me $31," said Paul, 18, almost wistful, knowing his source of quick, easy money was gone forever.
"When I was 8, my friends would go to him," said Bob, age 18. "They were 11, maybe 12 years old. He's been around at least 25 years -- my mother knew about him from when she went to school. She said, 'Stay away from him.' "
Mr. Savitz's arrest has sobered the minds of some of his frequent visitors.
"It was a joke, it was easy money, we didn't think anything of it," said a Neumann senior named Steve. Then he paused. "Until this thing hit the fan and we found out he had AIDS. If I get AIDS, I'll go to hell."