River as Wolfgang Muller in Explorers (1985)
As the 24th Anniversary of River’s passing approaches I can’t help but think back to when I first set eyes on him. I was 10/11 years old, it was 1986/87 and I was watching the film Explorers for the first time. All I remember is seeing this nerdy character with the big glasses and those trousers that were way too short….. I was hooked on this kid called River Phoenix from that moment on.
What followed was the normal kid/teenage stuff - The posters all over my bedroom walls, the magazines bought with pocket money just because his face was on the cover….. you know, the usual stuff hormonal teenagers do. He was my first love.
Fast foward to 1993….. I woke up on the morning of Halloween. I had only just turned 17, so I was still living at home. I went downstairs as usual and went to the kitchen. My father and step-mother were sitting at the table and when I walked in, they just looked at me. My step-mother was the one who said it. She just looked at me and said “River’s dead.” I don’t really want to go into detail about what happened next, but I will say this…. I cried, I cried a lot - I was devastated.
It’s now been 30 years since I first saw Rio, and even though he left this earth nearly 24 years ago, my love and respect for him hasn’t changed.
When I started the original website back in 2006, it was because I was fed up - fed up of all the negative stuff being said about him. I know it’s part of his story, but when you constantly see websites, supposedly in tribute to him, going on and on about what happened that night. Well, it just pissed me off. The ‘straw that broke the camels back,’ as it were, was when I visited one particular 'tribute’ site and discovered that they had included 'that picture’…… you know, the one taken by the National Enquirer that won’t disappear from search engines, no matter how many times people report it….. yeah, that one! To say I was furious would be an understatement. That was it for me, and that’s when I decided to do my own.
I may not have had the privilege of meeting River personally, but like so many other admirers of his, (I hate the word 'fans’) I think I know enough about him to know that he would not want to be remembered just because of what happened that night. He did so much while he was here - not just the movies, but all the charity work he did. That’s what meant the most to him, that’s what he was most passionate about, and that’s how I think he would want to be remembered.
He may have only been here for a relatively short time, but he has left a mark on this world that will never be erased.
FOR RIVER - ALWAYS AND FOREVER - WE WILL NEVER LET YOU BE FORGOTTEN