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Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix

July 16, 1999

Dear all,

I visited Rio's Attic yesterday for the first time and I was so touched by its contents that I felt I had to write and tell you.

I was impressed by the site's seriousness, by the way it deals with River's life and the causes he believed in. By the way, what follows might be a bit long but I really want to tell you the reasons why I think your work is so important.

Like many of us, I'd been a fan of River for a long time when he died. Like many of us, I was absolutely devastated. In a way that is uncomprehensible to most, I felt that his life had helped me see things that I might not have otherwise seen. For example, I had recently become a vegetarian.

His life affected me more than I could ever describe. People found it pathetic at the time. And yet, very few dared laugh at those who, 4 years later, mourned the loss of Princess Diana and left flowers at Kensington Palace.

But obviously, River's lifestyle was too 'alternative' to appeal to a wide audience, and his horrible death became the opportunity for another wave of articles depicting the evils of Hollywood life, and River became a junkie to be splashed on the front pages, surrounded by small black and white mugshots of John Belushi, Jim Morrison, James Dean and so on.

For those of us who had followed his career and shared his beliefs, it was the ultimate joke - constantly reminded us that even someone like him could fall for it - someone who was obviously so above the mass of teenage hearthrobs and yet still fell for the old, sad Tinseltown disease.

I remember being upset for months. I also remember that very few articles resisted the temptation of reporting all the subsequent unconfirmed stories about River's 'addiction'.

One Italian magazine thought it was perfectly OK to publish a photo of River's dead body. I remember my anger, and I remember being publicly derided and insulted in the magazine's following issue for having written an 'angry' letter that questioned their use of the photos. Their argument was, a junkie deserves no respect. And I was an idiot, had I not realised? Thinking about it now, I can just quote that famous song by Neil Young, 'The Needle and the Damage Done' - and the line that says 'and every junkie is like the setting sun'.

Thank you for creating Rio's Attic, it's so impartial and informative. It keeps River alive in our thougths, without giving in to gossip, recycled news, tacky memorabilia and so on. We don't need another 'Church of Kurt Cobain' or another 'Cult of Richie [Manics]'; we don't need to become morbidly interested in his death. What matters is that when he was alive, he shone in a business that has image and superficiality as its trademark.

Sadly, I have to say, there hasn't been anyone in the spotlight who has made anything like the impact River had on our lives. Hollywood's most rebellious and so-called 'alternative' representatives are still light years behind, dating supermodels and talking showbiz, but not actually having any interest in this earth and what we're doing to it, in human rights or anything that matters more than their Hollywood mansions.

I hope River's family - those who have now 'infiltrated' showbusiness - well, I hope they'll carry on fighting for what River believed.

Thanks for listening.

Paola Rizzato
London, United Kingdom

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