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Heart Phoenix

Elvis Presley

Running on Empty

Aleka's Attic

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Martha Plimpton

Sidney Lumet

Danny Pope

John Glatt

River Phoenix: The Biography

Academy Awards

Tame Yourself

Animal Rights

Environment, Environmental Concerns, Green, Green Issues

Jim Morrison

They Died Too Young

Tony Hall
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

They Died Too Young

by Tony Hall.
First published in 1996.

ISBN 0-7651-9600-X (Hardback, 96 Pages)

Little hope was held out for this book as it was cautiously picked up and opened. We expected to be shocked and saddened by a piece of work that appeared to be published just to take advantage of the tragically early passing of a total of twenty one celebrities, past and present. Singapore-based author Tony Hall quickly proved us very wrong though and it was most surprising to discover that this piece of work is actually very well written indeed, documenting what it describes as "the brief lives and untimely deaths of some of the most remarkable talents that ever lived."

A thread which links nearly everyone featured here is a rootless, chameleon-like quality. In the course of their careers, names are changed, pasts are rewritten, marriages and partnerships come and go. It is as if fame speeds up their lives, bringing such unceasing public scrutiny that they lose track of who they are.

This is the turning point. In this created world which isolates them, in their own minds if nowhere else, they turn to 'crutches' to support their sense of reality. Whether alcohol, drugs, fast cars or a sublime belief that ill-health won't hurt them, a point is reached and crossed, and from then on it is only a matter of time.

The author devotes a short chapter to each star in this alphabetically arranged book. Thus to be found situated between Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley is a section dedicated to River, a section that features a striking and powerful photo of Danny Pope that practically jumps out of the page. Even the caption to it talks of River's "enormous acting talent" and the rest of the text is every bit as complimentary.

For River, fame was worth something if he could use it to promote the causes he believed in: the conservation of rain forests, ethical treatment of animals, and care for underprivileged children.

The next project, Sidney Lumet's Running On Empty, was the movie that brought River Phoenix back closer to home and confirmed him as a serious heart-throb and an actor to be reckoned with. As always, he played the good son and comforter, the boy whose parents lean on him in troubled times. His performance as Danny Pope was a tour de force, and he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Even in just four pages the author paints a comprehensive and broad picture of River's life and career. All of the movies receive a mention as does, amongst other things, Aleka's Attic, Martha Plimpton and the PETA benefit album Tame Yourself. Several phrases used in this chapter though give away the fact that John Glatt's biography must have been made use of during this book's research and production. Despite this, Hall still manages to create a balanced and particularly accurate piece of work.

Towards the end of his life, the boyish good looks and hint of innocence had gone from River's face. In its place was a mask of sallow, sick-looking skin and eyes which betrayed more than a hint of suspicion.

A small private memorial service for River Phoenix was held in Hollywood. River's mother spoke the final tribute and laid his memory to rest.

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