River was in LA, working on a film called, Dark Blood, for Fine Line Features. He was also signed to star in Interview With a Vampire, with Tom Cruise. While in LA, he usually stayed at the St. James's Club and Hotel, on Sunset.
AUGUST 2001 - Findadeath.com friend Jeroen sends this: This the very last picture of River that was taken only 2 days before his death. There is even a story that he entered a cave that same day with candles and one of the crew members was filming it. That was the last thing to ever to be filmed of River Phoenix.
I'd like to mention an error made pertaining to the last photo taken of River Phoenix while on the set of Dark Blood. The photo was actually taken one month prior to his death, not 2 days. If you ever get a close enough view of the photo (I saw it on the documentary Biography: Eclipsed By Death: The Life Of River Phoenix), the clapboard River was holding shows the date 10/1/93.
The destination for the evening of October 30th 1993, was The Viper Room, a club owned by Johnny Depp, at 8852 Sunset Boulevard. River was wearing striped brown pants and black and white Converse high tops (size 10 1/2) and socks.
September 2000 UPDATE! Findadeath.com friend Erick Reddekopp writes in:
A few minutes before 1 AM (Halloween morning), River
had been in the bathroom doing
Married With Children star Christina Applegate witnessed the apparent seizure, which she later re-enacted at an anti-drug dance piece.
The autopsy showed lethal levels of cocaine and morphine (heroin shows up as morphine, as the body metabolizes), Valium, marijuana and ephedrine (I thought the ephedrine came from a cold medicine, but now I'm told by a friend of Findadeath (A Disney person, no less) that Ephedrine is the main ingredient found in crystal meth. I didn't know that. Thanks for the insight, and give my love to Uncle Walt.) , and the kitchen sink. I think its sort of ironic that he collapsed in front of a night-club at 1 in the morning, and didn't have a drop of alcohol in him. Moral choice?
Official cause of death was acute multiple drug ingestion. He was 23 years old.
In the autopsy report, there is noted "small abrasions on the knuckles of the right index finger and the right thumb. On his shin there is a red-purple contusion."
River was placed in a blue coffin, and on November 4, sixty mourners showed up at Milam Funeral Home for the viewing. His usual blonde hair was dyed black for the film he was working on. The mortician cut River's shoulder length hair, and placed the cut hair beside him in the coffin, at his mother's request.
September 2000 Update:
Again from Findadeath.com friend Erick Reddekopp: There is a mistake in the funeral description. You say that "The mortician cut River's shoulder length hair......" actually his hair was both dyed black and cut short for the movie Dark Blood he had just wrapped up shooting on in Utah. He had come back to LA to finish the rest of the shoot. This info. comes from several books, including Lost In Hollywood by John Glatt. They did have his cut hair from before the filming, that was in a ponytail and placed in the coffin. Why they were saving it is beyond me, but they were.
He was dressed in a black t-shirt with the logo of his band, Aleka's Attic on it. His mother put a single carnation in the coffin. As mourners passed the coffin, several placed things like notes and necklaces in the casket. This is gross, but here's a photograph of River in his coffin. If this sort of thing bugs you, don't look. It's not nice.
River was not embalmed. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the family ranch, in Florida. Supposedly.
**CORRECTION NOVEMBER 2001** According to Jamie the Mortician, he can tell from the picture that River was indeed embalmed. They just did a horrible job of it. Thanks for the top tip Jamie!
There was a memorial service held on the Paramount Lot on November 18th. Sidney Poitier, Rob Reiner, Richard Benjamin, John Boorman, Christine Lahti, Peter Bogdanovich and River's mother, Heart, attended it.
Tom Cruise, who was on location ruining Interview With a Vampire, issued a statement, "I'll miss never having the opportunity to work with him." I bet.
The front sidewalk of The Viper Room has become a shrine to River.
*UPDATE May 2001*
Fans scribble graffiti on the wall near where he collapsed. I don't know if they still do it, but every year on the anniversary, they would close the club. One year there was a "Gone Fishing" sign in front, and other year, "Closed for Remodeling."
Trivia: In order to visit River in his suite at St. James's Club and Hotel, you had to know the password. Earl Grey.
This just in from a Findadeath.com friend: I was reading your River Phoenix article (excellent!), but I'd like to add something. I live a block from the fire station that sent the rescue up the street to the Viper room on that fateful eve. (I'm in such a great location for this stuff!!). So one day I stopped in from my morning jog as the guys were cleaning their engine (uh hem). Sure enough, one of them was a paramedic on duty the evening of River's death. He told me the kid (that's how he put it) was dead before he hit the pavement. Apparently, he starting seizing and pretty much died INSIDE the club bathroom. His troop got nervous (as did people who worked there) and they dragged him outside, hoping he'd revive. He was way dead by then.
Interesting. Thanks for the tip!
This just in, January 2003, from Findadeath friend Ryan Forney:
Hey I just wanted to tell you also that there is a pretty decent song about River Phoenix's death on the Natalie Merchant album "Tigerlily". I think the song is actually called "River ", but I can't really remember.
Great stuff, Ryan, thanks!
UPDATE March 2003, from Findadeath friend Sarah B,
You might be interested to know that Rufus Wainwright wrote a song called "Matinee Idol" based on the death of River Phoenix.
Thanks for the info, Sarah!
Also March 2003, from Findadeath friend Rayanne Dawson:
Just thought I'd mention, in case you didn't already know, that Belinda Carlisle also recorded a song for River Phoenix called "California".
Thanks for the info, Rayanne!
A different point of view on the coffin picture, April 2003, from Findadeath friend Helene:
That it was doctored for example?
And please be sure that people do see the
warning. I know you did warn people,
This just in, January 2004, from Findadeath friend Erin:
Here's some information about River Phoenix:
- You are correct: He was cremated, and his ashes are with his parents at their ranch in Florida.
- He was close friends with the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea of RHCP was with him in the ambulance the night he died. River was also in one of their videos (he's shown in a car scene during the "Under the Bridge" video) and recorded and wrote some songs for John when he released a solo CD. River died the day before Anthony's birthday, which really broke Anthony up. He would go on to say, "I was visiting New York City, and something incredibly sad happened. One of my best friends, River Phoenix died the day before my birthday. I heard that news and fell into a state of shock. I could not talk, I just cried for 24 hours. My friends tried to take me out for my birthday. But I was just sitting there in a club, wondering why it had happened." They recorded a song called "Transcending" for River, which is on the CD "One Hot Minute" along with the song, "Tearjerker" about Kurt Cobain who died a few months after River.
- River's father, John, wanted him, and his siblings, to quit the entertainment business and help him with his restaurant. River promised his father he would quit as soon as he wrapped up the movies he promised to do - this promise came too late and he died a short while later. His father said, "Just before he left, I'll always remember, he told me, 'I'll see you right after this movie, Dad.' Well, he did. Only he was in a box."
Thanks for the info, Erin!
UPDATE March 2005, from Findadeath friend Scarlett:
I don't know if this is the right Email to write to but oh well! I have heard a lot that River took the drugs, etc in the bathroom and then was taken outside...But recently I read an article the director of "The Thing Called Love" wrote (Peter Bogdanovich) which in one part had this:
After a while, she saw River with a pal of his who he had told her was a junkie, and a bouncer was opening a side door for them. She didn't know if they were being pushed out or going out of their own accord. Evidently, the junkie had given River some stuff that didn't mix with what he might have already taken. River complained that he wasn't feeling well, but his friend told him he was just being paranoid. Worried, Sam followed them out to the sidewalk to keep an eye on them, lit a cigarette, and walked ten feet away to give them privacy. When she turned around, River had started going into convulsions, then he dropped to the sidewalk. His friend said he was fine, to just leave him alone. Knowing that couldn't be true, Sam said, and that something was terribly wrong, she tried to get River on his feet, but he seemed to have passed out. She ran into the club to get Joaquin and Rain. Joaquin called 911 while Rain and Sam tried to help River. Then Joaquin and Rain both attempted unsuccessfully to revive River. By the time the paramedics got there, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Though they tried repeatedly to revive him, it was too late. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
I don't know if this is accurate but this is supposedly what Samantha Mathis told him...I have heard all different stories! But here is this one.
Check out this site about River HERE. Thanks to Findadeath friend Jerri for the link.