dogfight-film

In the Summer of 1990, I was hired to assist with props and minor special effects for the film Dogfight, featuring Lilly Taylor and River Phoenix, which was filming in Seattle  River and I eventually migrated towards one another as we had many interests in common. Mutually we were both big fans of the English band, XTC.  While on the set, and sometime between takes, one of us would sing a line from an  XTC song, and the other would sing the next.  The rest of the crew was mostly baffled by our spontaneous musical flurries.  During lunches, River and I would often go to his trailer to eat, smoke American Spirit cigarettes and fiddle about on guitars.  He was a fantastic musician and song writer.  With our days off, we would grab some food together, then head to his house to drink a few beers and jam.  We spent our time exchanging musical ideas and improvising.  We even wrote a couple of songs together.   By the end of the film, River and I had become close. The evening during the wrap party, I was sitting at a table with him and some of the crew.  At one point he opened his wallet to pull out some cash for tips or something, and pulled out his U.S. Armed Forces Military identification card that was a prop for the film.  I asked if I could look at it. He handed it to me. When I attempted to return it to him, he waived his hand and said, “keep it.”     Over the next couple of years, we kept in touch.  The last time I saw him was in 1992, backstage at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, where I was doing flaming helmets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That next year I sent him an invitation to my wedding.  He responded, saying he could not make it due to his filming schedule. River died on October 31st, 1993.  I was married on the same day. I miss him a lot.