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Stand By Me

My Own Private Idaho
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
I met River through a mutual friend in 1992.
Three months prior, I had seen "My Own Private Idaho"
for the first time. The only other
River Phoenix film I had seen was "Stand By Me"
when it first came out.

River Phoenix was warm, gratious, and polite.
He seemed almost too real for Hollywood.
He was one of three "movie star" friends that
my boyfriend had, and out of the three of them,
River was obviously the most grounded,
approachable, and likable.

When I told him that his performance in
"My Own Private Idaho" gave me the shivers,
and that watching it made me feel like I was
peeking at someone's diary, or looking through
the blinds at someone during a private moment,
he smiled and said he understood what I meant.

I meant it too. I watched it by myself in a
dark room, sitting on the couch alone, and during
several scenes I felt as though I was
invading something special and sacred,
especially during the campfire scene.

I thanked him for his performance and for being so
damn real. He nodded and seemed touched by my compliment.

Later on, as he was leaving, he went out of his way
to walk across the room to say "goodbye" to me.
When I went to shake his hand, he pushed by hand down
and said he would rather if I gave him a "big hug".
He hugged me tightly for a moment and whispered a
"Thank you" in my ear, saying that I had "made his day".

When my boyfriend told me of his death, I felt numb
and robbed like so many other people did who
knew River, or who found themselves touched
by River in some important way.

I don't know what it all meant. I am a believer in Fate,
and that everything has a reason and some life lesson.
Why I met River, I will never know. Why I was at my
boyfriend's house at that particular time I will never
know. The only reason that I can think of is that seeing
River in person showed me that there are people out
there who have the power to touch others with their
talent and with their soul.

It's a shame that River is gone.
I feel sad when I see his brother on screen,
or read about one of his friends, or hear someone
mention his name. I can't help it. There aren't many
people out there who are so geniune and true.

River, wherever you are, remember me,
and know how much you touched me.

Ashlee Fiorello - West Hollywood, California, USA
December 19, 2001

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