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PCR #178  (Vol. 4, No. 34)  This edition is for the week of August 18--24, 2003.

"The Cosmic Muffin"....Sole Surviving Boeing 307....Clyde and Niki Butcher's Labor Day Gala 2003
by Will Moriaty
"The Medallion"
by Mike Smith
"Football for the Sensitive Types"...."Happy TV!"...."Couch Potato Picks"
 by Vinnie Blesi
"Remembering River Phoenix"
 by Ashley Lauren
The Golden Ticket....Smell That?....Too Much Time On Her Hands....Is It My Breath?....What!! No Mike Post?
 by Mike Smith
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Ashley's Hollywood

Remembering River Phoenix
2003 is the 10-year anniversary of the deaths of Brandon Lee and River Phoenix. Two really great actors that had very promising careers ahead of them but were cut short by tragic deaths. In this article I would like to talk more about River Phoenix because I think his life was a little more mysterious and a little more interesting. Next week Iíll do an article on the life and times of Brandon Lee.

River Jude Phoenix was born August 23, 1970 to Arlyn and John Bottom. His parents, who later changed their last name to Phoenix in the mid-70s, were full-fledged American hippies. They were married in a traditional hippie ceremony in 1969 and just a year later, River was born in a hippie commune in Oregon. Arlyn, better known as Heart, spent three agonizing days in labor with him and sought no medical attention at all, leaving all the commune hippies to help her. She remained sick for months following his birth.

The Phoenix family soon after joined the cult, The Children of God. They traveled all over the country picking fruit and taking odd jobs while establishing themselves in this odd "church". During this time Riverís first sister was born, Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix. While in Puerto Rico their second son was born, Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (b. 10-28-1974), who while he was young changed his name temporarily to Leaf, to sound more organic and earthy like his older siblings.

The family eventually relocated to Venezuela where John Phoenix was named the "Archbishop of Venezuela." River and his younger sister Rain would sing on street corners for money for the family and for their own personal entertainment. From a very tender age River held a spot in his heart for music. While in Venezuela the Phoenix family welcomed their fourth child, Libertad Mariposa (Liberty Butterfly b. 1976). The family soon found themselves at a crossroads with the Children of God. The church attracted rich investors through sex and thatís when the Phoenix removed themselves from the church entirely. This left them to fend for themselves in Venezuela with nothing.

They ended up catching a ride to Florida on a barge filled with Tonka trucks. They resided in the Winter Park area where their fifth child, Summer Joy, was born in 1978. River and Rain participated in local talent shows and got a little attention from a studio exec in California. The family soon moved out to LA and began the bumpy road of show business.

Hollywood can be a dangerous town as we all know now, River described it as "...the bad, bad town." How right he was and unfortunately he succumbed to the pressures of it all. Corey Feldman is rumored to have been the one to get him hooked on drugs. This is not true. Though they may have partied together, River had already been opened up to this before meeting Corey on the set of, Stand by Me.

I really donít want to get into all his movies and who directed them and all that bull. Iím sure everyone remembers them and can appreciate the talent that this young man offered viewers. The Academy even recognized him with an Academy Award nomination in 1988 for Running on Empty.

Where we will pick up now is on the set of The Thing Called Love which was filmed in 1992. Many reports say that River and the director butted heads on various things but that his substance abuse at this point was becoming more noticeable. Allegedly, he was doing more and more and getting less hidden about it. On the set he also began a relationship with his last girlfriend, Samantha Mathis (who is shooting The Punisher in Tampa currently). River was also beginning to get fed up with Hollywood and all its clichťs. His father, John, was also worried about his son and his lifestyle in Hollywood.

In mid 1993, River began work on what was to be his 18th film, Dark Blood. The movie is about a widower who moves to the Utah desert to get away from his troubles but ends up on a nuclear testing site. A couple end up stranded on the side of the road, played by Judy Davis and Jonathon Pryce. A love triangle emerges into the story between Judyís character and Riverís character. Judy Davis and the director of the film, George Sluizer, didnít get along at all and River was always the one to try to keep the peace. It got so bad between River and Judy that they couldnít stand each other at all and a body-double was brought in for love scenes.

Torrential rainfall left the set muddy and highly hazardous to vehicles and actors. River was quoted as saying, "somebody is going to die on this film." I bet he didnít know it would be him.

The events leading up to Riverís death on October 31, 1993 are still not clear. What is known is that River went out that night with his sister Rain, his brother Joaquin (whose birthday was 2 days before), his assistant Abbey, and girlfriend Samantha Mathis. They all loaded into a car and headed out to Johnny Deppís nightclub, The Viper Room. River and Joaquin wanted to see their friends, Flea and Al J play that night. They arrived at around 10:00pm and sometime over the next two and half hours River ingested dugs. The facts of this are highly obscured by rumors so it really is hard to know why or what exactly happened. It was reported that he went into the bathroom with some friends and took some "special" cocaine and vomited almost immediately. He then went out to find Samantha to let her know that he needed to go outside. With the help of his girlfriend and brother, Joaquin, he was escorted outside where he began to have violent seizures. His sister Rain had made her way out at this point and actually laid on top of him to get him to stop shaking so badly. A photographer who stood nearby and later called for help said that he looked "like a fish out of water, shaking violently with his head flopping from side to side." After 8 minutes of shaking he stopped and lay on the side walk not breathing. In the 911 call that was re-played numerous times all over the world Joaquin screamed into the phone, "...you must get here, please, he is dying!"

Paramedics rushed River to the Cederís where they tried hard to revive him, but failed. At 1:51 River Jude Phoenix was pronounced dead of a drug overdose.

The following statement was excerpted from www.Franksreelreviews.com

"The autopsy showed lethal levels of cocaine and morphine (heroin shows up as morphine, as the body metabolizes it), Valium, marijuana and ephedrine. Ephedrine is the main ingredient found in crystal meth. Official cause of death was Acute multiple drug ingestion. He was 23 years old."

How could such a bright young actor and animal/human rights activist get pushed to the edge. It is something we will never know the exact answer to. He was actually planning on leaving Hollywood for good after filming finished on Interview with a Vampire, his next project- he was to play Christian Slaterís part. He had plans to go live with his dad in Costa Rica, where he could play guitar all day and be with his father away from it all. He also was supposed to finish recording his album with his band, Alekaís Attic. Riverís sister Rain was also in the band.

Heart Phoenix was actually sued later for her sons failure to complete Dark Blood. Can you believe that? I think the lady had enough to deal with at the time.

River Phoenix should have turned 33 on August 23. I wonder where he would be today if he were alive.

Riverís brother, Joaquin, is a talented actor himself, having starred in Signs, Gladiator, and most recently Buffalo Soldiers. Next year he will be in M. Knight Shyamalanís next film, The Woods, about mythical people in the woods who terrorize a town. As for speaking about the death of his brother,

"I've heard stuff about how the night River died he was partying and all that - it's so untrue. That night we were together. He was just playing guitar. He wanted to show me a new song. And...I wanted to go out to see Flea play, because I'd never seen him play before. River wanted to go home, just hang out, play guitar. I was the one who wanted to go out and he was just making sure to take care of me. But some guy who claims he was best friends with River comes out - I don't know who the fuck he is, neither does anyone else - claiming all this bullshit. That is why I've been reluctant to share anything."

----Joaquin Phoenix

I hope this article gives you some insight on the life and times of the late actor River Phoenix. If nothing else, just remember kids, Crack is Whack! Youíve been warned.

Til next time,
Ashley Lauren

Sources for various information:




"Ashley Lauren's Hollywood" is ©2003 by Ashley Lauren Lewis.  The official PCR movie rating system is zero-to-four stars, which is a five-point system that includes zero.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.