Block Telesales Calls NOW
Receive no more
telephone calls
from telemarketers
selling junk.
www.coldcallblocker.com
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

In Search Of River Phoenix

The Truth Behind The Myth

by Barry C. Lawrence
First published in 2004


ISBN 0-96724-919-8 (Paperback, 456 Pages)

Initial curiosities regarding the fact that this book is much longer than might otherwise be expected quickly turn into outright concerns at the forefront of one's mind given the considerable speed at which River's early career is discussed. Indeed, an uneasy feeling can't help but form when you find yourself reading about Running on Empty in a River Phoenix biography, and yet are barely a quarter of the way through the book.

Early on, the author acknowledges previous writers of biographies about River. Good job too, because he appears to have no qualms whatsoever about stealing other pieces of work, promptly lifting wholesale sections of their works, and presenting them as his own. Thus:

River Phoenix - The Biography, Page 129:
Published: 1995

Although River mostly stayed in town with Sue Solgot he found himself supporting more and more members of the ever-growing Phoenix tribe. There were now more than a dozen people sheltering on the Phoenixes' Micanopy spread, living in two travel trailers, a motor home and in the actor's vacant apartment above his recording studio. The actor's self-sufficient friends resented these hangers-on and called them "Klingons." They justified their existence by helping out as gardeners, secretaries, security and shoppers. Many believed the rich actor, who felt paternal toward them, was being exploited, and some even compared the extended Phoenix family to a "Stalinistic cult."

In Search of River Phoenix, Page 173:
Published: 2004

Even though River usually stayed in town with Sue, he found himself supporting more and more members of the ever-growing Phoenix tribe at the Micanopy ranch. Now there were more than a dozen people, living in two travel trailers, a motor home, and in the actor's vacant apartment above his recording studio. River's self-reliant friends resented these hangers-on and called them "Kling-ons," who justified their existence by helping out as gardeners, secretaries, security guards and shoppers. Many believed the rich actor, who felt paternal toward them, was being exploited; some even compared the extended Phoenix family to a "Stalanist cult."

Even sections of Rio's Attic are not exempt from such light-fingered pilfering. Still, we can only hope that the other authors are as tickled by this whole affair as we were.

Rio's Attic - Phoenix TV - Flea Master Session:
Published: 2003

In this video one can catch a brief glimpse of another individual, one that was all too rarely seen in public. For it is here that River can be found quite simply just being himself. It's River talking about his first and true love - namely, music and the guitar. It should be an absolute pleasure to watch.

But it isn't.

Flea lively and enthusiastically talks about his love of music and how in order to compose great songs you only need to be true to yourself and your emotions. But at times, it looks like River is simply not interested, and it's heartbreaking to watch. He looks tired, his voice is low and rough and he appears to have difficulty concentrating. River painfully rubs his eyes throughout the length of the program and he looks like someone who simply needs nothing more than a really good night's sleep.

In Search of River Phoenix, Page 284:
Published: 2004

The program has River talking about his first and true loves, music and the guitar, interspersed with Flea playing musical pieces on his bass. One can catch quick glimpses of River just being himself. It should be an utter delight to watch, but it is not. He is simply not interested, and that is painful to watch. He looks tired, his voice is low and coarse, and he appears to have difficulty concentrating. He rubs his eyes all throughout the program; he is constantly sniffling. He plainly looks like someone who needs nothing more than a truly good night's sleep.

As if the many pictures of naked children weren't bad enough (don't ask... - page after page of sensationalist and lurid coverage about the Children of God), the very disjointed nature of the chapters makes for a somewhat difficult read. For example, after discussing My Own Private Idaho in one chapter, without explanation the author goes off on a diatribe of palmistry, Ouija boards and astrology before, just as abruptly as it was halted, the documentation of River's career restarts.

A similar, but very much worse example happens with another chapter earlier in the book, absolutely not one word of which is going to be reprinted here. Suffice to say that still going ahead and printing the later-to-be-admitted made-up bilge spoken by some of the more damaged souls the author seemed happy to interview, is a particularly lousy way for any author to try to extract some return on his more financially expensive, "investigational" follies. Indeed, not so much "The Truth Behind The Myth" at that point, but rather "The Myth Behind The Truth" would be more accurate.

Get past ALL of that however, and, make no mistake about it, the reader IS amply rewarded. Certainly it is the case that the writing picks up immensely in the latter half of the book.

Udo Kier recalls, "It was a shame. I really felt bad for quite a while because he was such a nice person. I was angry; every death is sad, but it was really especially sad because the talent died. For me as an actor, it was sad to see talent die; not the human, not the flesh, but the talent. Talent is something that you cannot learn - you either have it or you don't. You can learn a technique for film, but many young actors make the mistake of watching James Dean or other actors over and over again, trying to be like them. That's the worst. River was not like anybody. He was River Phoenix. It's like when James Dean died, so many people tried to be the next James Dean. You can never be 'the next'. There's only one Marilyn Monroe. There's only one Elvis Presley, only one James Dean, only one River Phoenix."

A familiar crushing sensation, present when reading of River's death in any of the other biographies, returns more acute than ever. What does mark this book as different from those earlier works is the closing remarks the author makes at the end of that chapter.

Indeed, we've had to wait until page 319 for it to happen but the author finally puts to one side his irritating obsession with frivolous trivialities, his uninteresting dispute with Arlyn Phoenix, and instead, just writes directly from the heart. The result is quite simply the most beautifully written and moving section of any River Phoenix biography.

The ambulance ride to Cedars-Sinai Hospital took only three minutes. Attendees at the emergency room immediately began to do all they could to restore the life to River's now-still body. They opened up his chest to massage his heart directly. They continued breathing for him with a respirator and connected more fluid catheters to his body. Nevertheless, River was clinically dead upon arrival and remained flatline.

After sixteen minutes of frantic work, Dr. Paul Silka pronounced River Jude Phoenix dead at 1:51 A.M. It was the end of the life of one so full of ideals and promise, one who forever changed the lives of his family, friends, co-workers, fans, and even future fans who would only hear of him because of his death. In only nine minutes, Daylight Savings Time would end. At that time, all the clocks would be set back one hour... but River's would not be. His time on earth had expired.

There would be no resetting of that clock.

There could be no retakes on this set. No reliving of the last sixty minutes, even though the outcome could have been entirely different... if only certain things had been changed in the script.

If only...

But, River was gone, lost to the streets of Hollywood.

Phoenix Bookshelf Rio's Attic Home Page