a maudlin post
October 30, 2013
So, River Phoenix died twenty years ago, tomorrow.
He was my favorite actor when I was a teenager. I think I still have that giant poster of him stashed away somewhere.
I found out…badly. A good friend of mine who was well known for spinning ridiculous but convincing tall tales told me he’d died. I didn’t believe her. She knew I adored him, but she just kept saying, “No really, I’m not joking.” Which was exactly what she said to convince you her lie was truth. I refused to listen to her until she found a newspaper and showed me.
This was during my junior year abroad in York. I spent the rest of my college years in Los Angeles, and there are two momentous things that happened in L.A. that year that I missed — the Northridge quake, and Phoenix’s death. I would have been one of the groupies lighting candles outside the Viper Room. So it’s just as well I wasn’t there.
I’m still pissed off at him, and still upset that he’s gone. I keep wondering about all the movies we never got to see. I know every generation has their tragic fatality, their young icon gone too soon. River Phoenix is mine.
If I had to name just one of his movies as the best? Well gosh, all of them, but if you could only watch one I’d say make it Running On Empty. Or My Own Private Idaho, or Stand By Me, or Sneakers…