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"Say goodbye to Hollywood, say goodbye my baby...."
We can attempt to document the known facts of the last twenty four hours of River's life. We can answer questions such as "What?", "Where?" and "When?". But for those of you asking "Why?", we regret that your questions will go unanswered here. After five years, we and countless others are still searching for those answers. We do not expect to find them any time soon.
Day 8469 or Saturday, October 30 was just like any other normal day for River - he spent that day in front of a movie camera filming some interior scenes on a Hollywood sound stage for Dark Blood. Work was finished for the day around 7 o'clock that evening whereupon River returned to the Hotel Nikko. Waiting for him in his room were his girlfriend Samantha Mathis, his sister Rain and brother Joaquin.
A small but loud party soon began in that hotel room. River wanted to see his musician friends, Flea, Al J. of Ministry and Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers who were due to play that evening at one of the clubs on Sunset Boulevard, the Viper Room. Shortly after 10 PM, the entourage left the hotel and traveled to the club by car.
River spent nearly two hours in the club that night. What happened during the time, has never been revealed for certain - and no one who was there will say. Whether the actor deliberately ingested something knowing, or not knowing what it was, or whether his drink was spiked as a joke, we will never know.
Day 8470 - barely an hour in October 31. Vomiting and complaining he couldn't breath, Samantha and Joaquin helped their friend outside but he collapsed onto the sidewalk. The events of that night that were now quickly unfolding meant that River's friends now simply found themselves way out of their depth. When Rain emerged from the club a few minutes later she would lay on her brother who was now suffering violent seizures right there on the street. In a telephone call, the recording of which would be repeatedly played by the media over the next few days, Joaquin called the emergency services and pleaded for an ambulance to be sent. "You must get here, please, because he's dying," he screamed.
One's early twenties are a wonderful time. Your childhood is behind you now, you begin to take on some of the responsibilities of adulthood. You have a job, you have money, you have friends, you have your health and best of all, you have all the time in the world to enjoy it. Twenty-three years old is no age to die and the surgeons at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where River was taken knew that the moment he was admitted. They battled for over twenty minutes skillfully trying to put right the horrific events of that evening. They fought to prevent something that was so terrible it simply could not be allowed to happen. Their fight was in vain. At 1:51 AM, all efforts to revive River Phoenix were abandoned.
For the family that just wanted to entertain us, that mission would now be put on hold.
Each and every mother looks forward to a great many things. She looks forward to her son's graduation, the prospect of grandchildren and she gets to plan joyous occasions such as her son's wedding. For Heart Phoenix though, she would get to plan her son's funeral. She placed a single pink carnation in her eldest son's coffin who was now dressed in beads, necklaces and an Aleka's Attic T-shirt. Shortly thereafter, Oscar nominated River Phoenix was cremated in a private service. His ashes remain in the care of the family that loves him.
He was twenty-three years old.
Let us finish this section not on a sorrowful note, but instead by just giving thanks for the fact that the show-business industry is once again graced with the hallowed name, Phoenix.