river viper

‘’You struggled for peace, lived for love. You were committed to changing this world of suffering for humans and animals. You carried so much weight for your whole life. Never condemmed, never denied a soul. I know you found direction around a corner. (…) If only the whole world, everyone on planet Earth, had your spirit and consciousness.’’

[Grafitti outside the Viper Room in River’s honor.]

‘’In the 1990s, River taught a generation of young actors that there could be a different approach, one that placed greater value on artistic integrity and personal politics. Even today, when a young performer advocates for environmentalism or vegetarianism, it’s a ghostly echo of River’s life. His absence got filled by other performers - Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, his own brother Joaquin. Looking at them, we can see the ectoplasmic outline of what sort of man River might have become - and looking at thim, we can better understand the world he left behind.’’

[Excerpt from ‘Last Night At The Viper Room’ by Gavin Edwards].

“Acting is like a Halloween mask that you put on.”

- River Phoenix

On this day, October 31st 1993, 23 years ago, River Phoenix left us. 

‘’The people who knew him, in whatever context, agreed on one thing, even if they fumbled for the vocabualry to describe it - River had a special quality, they said. Some called it a spark, some called it a light, some called it a soul.

He was the kind of guy, said one friend, ‘’that if you walked outside and it was snowing, you knew the first thing on his mind was making a snowball.’’ 

River loved to embrace his friends in massive bear hugs, sometimes surprising them by lunging at them from behind. But if somebody hugged him, he’d quickly squirm away. He wanted any embraces to be on his terms. 

Dermot Mulroney, who acted in two movies with River, thought that River’s lazy eye expressed a fundamental dichotomy in his spirit. He said, ‘’His eyes made him the focus of energy in every scene, the centrifugal force so strong you didn’t even try to duel him for control. The off-center eye read as madness, and the other read pure sanity. In a close-up, from one side he was the guy next door, and from the other he was absolutely insane.’’

[From Last Night At The Viper Room by Gavin Edwards]. 

He had very long hair and he struck me - as he came out of an elevator - as an angel, some kind of supernatural being. An angel could be Gabriel, but an angel could be Lucifer too. He would as readily delve into the deep, dark recesses as he would fly up to the lofty, illuminated places.
—  The last night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood he left behind

“You would have thought he was ninety and had died in his sleep. The people who were saying this felt a tremendous guilt that they had contributed to his death.“ She wasn’t any happier about how his death was being discussed outside Micanopy: "He’s already being made into a martyr,” she complained. “He’s become a metaphor for a fallen angel, a messiah. He was just a boy, a very good-hearted boy who was very fucked up and had no idea how to implement his good intentions. I don’t want to be comforted by his death. I think it’s right that I’m angry about it, angry at the people who helped him stay sick, and angry at River.” -Martha Plimpton