“In the early 90’s they were touring and I was fortunate to be chosen to accompany them to dinner and the show. They were all truly talented, so amazing and nice. I remember us going to eat at Ryan’s Steak House…we ate the buffet because they were vegetarians and it just made ordering easier. The band played at Tip Top, a local bar in Huntsville, AL. This was so long ago…the details are fuzzy. I remember talking to him about his family. I may have mistaken how many of his sisters were there at the time. The experience was wonderful, a memory I will try to hold on to forever. It was all positive, he was so kind and sweet.”
THANKS AND CREDIT GO TO LINDY CRITELLI LAMBERT.
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MEETING RIVER AND HIS FAMILY - BY BRAZILIAN LIZZIE BRAVO
Way back in 1990, when I lived in New York (from 1984 to 1994), on a regular workday at my home-office in the East Village, I was told by our main office in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to get in touch with Heart Phoenix. At the time, I represented Brazilian singer/songwriter/ superstar Milton Nascimento and was an assistant to his manager.
They wanted to meet Milton, after hearing the beautiful song he had written for River (he saw "Stand by Me" - Milton is a major movie fan - and was very impressed with the young actor's performance). We communicated via phone and fax to try to find a date that would be suitable for everyone. River was filming, Milton was on a US tour.
It was finally decided it would be in Atlanta. The day of the concert was July 7th,1990, the place was Piedmont Park and the event the Atlanta Jazz Series. The crowd was of approximately 10.000 people.
Heart drove, with River sleeping in the back seat. His girlfriend was also with them. When they arrived, we met outside the hotel, the Wyndham, on Peachtree Avenue or Street. This photo of the 4 of us is from that moment - River looks definitely sleepy!
When we headed back to the hotel entrance, River asked his mother for some money. It was a really small amount, something like US$5.00. She asked him didn't he want some more and he said that was enough. I thought that was so cute: an internationally acclaimed actor, yet he still acted like a little boy beside his mother!
It was still daylight when the concert started and River, his girlfriend - if I'm not mistaken her name was Susan - Heart and I sat on the grass right in front of the stage, at a fenced-in spot for guests. I have beautiful photos of them from this moment. River in awe as he listened to his song...
After the concert, River invited us out to dinner - the three of them, Milton and I. We went to a restaurant that I can't remember if it was Thai or from what other country, but the table was round and there was this thin bread covering it, and some small bowls with different foods. You were supposed to tear up pieces of the bread and fill them with the food - all with your hands! I had never been to a restaurant like that, it was quite interesting.
We all hit it off right from the start, we talked a lot, it was great. After dinner we went to Milton's suite at the hotel, where he and River played the guitar. At some point, Milton couldn't control himself and told them about me singing with The Beatles. That was it! Try telling a hippie family that someone has met the band? River asked me several questions and I told them the whole story, with details. Their jaws dropped!
I mailed River some photos I took of The Beatles, and apparently he loved them.
(It's no joke, I've spent a long time looking for my 1990 diary and I found EVERY other one but that!)
On April 10, 1991, River left a ticket for me to see Aleka's Attic at Wetlands in New York City. I went, took some photos - had to endure the funny looks by River's young fans who didn't understand what an older woman was doing there so close to the stage taking pictures - and after the show River took me to a table at the back and asked me several questions. He wanted to know what I thought of the concert, the sound, everything.
I met Heart and other family members once again when Milton played a concert in Gainsville, on November 22, 1992. River was out of town.
Another meeting was at a Milton concert in Los Angeles. I am not sure, but it could have been right after the Wetlands gig, in April 1991. I took many photos.
The last time I saw River was here in Rio, at Milton's house, around June 1992. Heart prepared a vegetarian feast and my brother and I were invited. It was a lovely evening, good food and conversation. River took me by the hand and led me upstairs, where he placed the earphones of his Walkman on my ears and played a new song of his for me to listen and give my opinion. Unfortunately, I can't remember the song's name. I was flattered that he wanted to show me the song and hear my opinion.
I also met Heart here in Rio at Eco 92. I came from New York as an interpreter for The Beach Boys.
What I remember about River is him being a very beautiful, caring, sweet and kind young man. It was a privilege to meet this very special family. His death was a shock and a huge sadness, which remains until today when I think of him.
When I find my diary, I will read it and see if there's anything else to tell, something I have forgotten.
And as for the rest of the photos, when my book is done I will have time to look for them and share them with you.
My love to everyone and let's celebrate the enlightened human being that was River Jude Phoenix!
MANY THANKS GO TO LIZZIE FOR HER WONDERFUL STORY - AND ALSO, THANK YOU TO JUAN PABLO DESIDEIRO.
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DEWEY MELTON'S STORY - THE PHONE CALL HE'LL NEVER FORGET
Dewey Melton - a 15 year old from Phyllis, Kentucky first discovered River while he was in hospital. He had many serious physical and emotional problems, and was very ill - he was at the time unable to talk or eat. One night a nurse came into his room and put on a movie for him to watch - it was Stand By Me.
When Dewey was well enough to go home, he decided to write River a letter. After a few weeks he received a reply - a newsletter full of River facts. Dewey was so grateful for this, he decided to call River's team to thank them for sending it. He had no idea at this time what that phone call would lead to.
One afternoon he arrived home from a doctor's appointment, and his mother had left a note for him - the note said that someone from River's team had telephoned to speak to him and that she had asked them to call back the next day at 4pm. The next day came, he waited for 4pm - but the phone never rang. By 6pm there was still no phone call, and Dewey gave up. But then, at just after 7pm, the call he had been waiting for finally came - although when he picked up the receiver, he had no idea who would be on the other end - it was River himself. Dewey says the conversation went something like this:
"Hello? Hello, is this Dewey.?" "Yes, this is he." "Hi, this is River."
He says he was totally shocked, but thought it must have been the kid next door playing a prank on him.
"Sure it is," Dewey replied "Hello, are you there? This is River Phoenix calling from Los Angeles."
At that moment, Dewey realised it was really River and dropped the phone. He quickly picked it up, took a deep breath and said,
"You'll have to excuse me. I'm a little overwhelmed. What I mean is, I wasn't expecting a call from you." "Well," River answered, "I believe that you never can actually believe anything until it happens."
The conversation continued. They talked about everything - The two even realising they were the same height, weight and shoe size. They spoke in total for just over an hour, which Dewey says was unreal. The end of their conversation went like this:
River asked, "Are you religious?" "Yes, I am," Dewey replied, "Well, God bless you, and remember, I'm praying for you."
Dewey says he will always remember that day. "River cared enough to give me something. I never had a friend, and that made all the difference. I am forever indebted to him, he changed my life. Bless you, River. I will always be thinking of you."
MANY THANKS GO TO DEWEY FOR HIS WONDERFUL STORY.
MEETING RIVER DURING THE FILMING OF DOGFIGHT - BY BOB
In the Summer of 1990, I was hired to assist with props and minor special effects for the film Dogfight, featuring Lilly Taylor and River Phoenix, which was filming in Seattle. River and I eventually migrated towards one another as we had many interests in common. Mutually we were both big fans of the English band, XTC. While on the set, and sometime between takes, one of us would sing a line from an XTC song, and the other would sing the next. The rest of the crew was mostly baffled by our spontaneous musical flurries. During lunches, River and I would often go to his trailer to eat, smoke American Spirit cigarettes and fiddle about on guitars. He was a fantastic musician and song writer. With our days off, we would grab some food together, then head to his house to drink a few beers and jam. We spent our time exchanging musical ideas and improvising. We even wrote a couple of songs together.
By the end of the film, River and I had become close. The evening during the wrap party, I was sitting at a table with him and some of the crew. At one point he opened his wallet to pull out some cash for tips or something, and pulled out his U.S. Armed Forces Military identification card that was a prop for the film. I asked if I could look at it. He handed it to me. When I attempted to return it to him, he waived his hand and said, “keep it.”
Over the next couple of years, we kept in touch. The last time I saw him was in 1992, backstage at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, where I was doing flaming helmets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That next year I sent him an invitation to my wedding. He responded, saying he could not make it due to his filming schedule. River died on October 31st, 1993. I was married on the same day. I miss him a lot.
MANY THANKS GO TO BOB.
CHANCE MEETING WITH RIVER IN TEXAS - BY MICHAEL DORAIN
I met River in person in 1989 when he was visiting friends in Texas. He and his friends came into this club in Austin. It was late at night, but I recognised him, and soon the buzz filled the club that River Phoenix was there. He and his friends sat at a table near the band. Later, I was in in the restroom, and who just happened to come in but River. He was, it appeared, feeling good but not drunk or anything, just relaxed. There I was, face to face with him and not knowing what to say, and he smiled and asked me my name and just started talking to me as if he'd known me all my life. I asked him if he liked Austin and he said yes. He said that he visited as often as he could and that his family had a place there, but he lived somewhere else.
It was a very nice encounter and memory. He seemed to want to know more about me than caring about talking about himself. My memory is a bit foggy after all these years, but I remember that he was such a nice person, and he made me feel like I was the celebrity. I will never forget that. Of course, we only spoke for a few minutes, but it seemed like thirty.
My only regret is that I didn't think to ask him for his autograph. He had a notebook and pen with him, but at the time, I just didn't think about it. It's hard for me to talk about River Phoenix, so many of my feelings are unexplainable, and that fond memory has seemed to escalate since he died.
One thing that struck me was his innocence. He exuded it. I even felt that when I watched him clear across the room. Or maybe because he was so physically beautiful. I feel so strange when I say that to anyone. Just that one encounter with River touched me for a lifetime.
MANY THANKS GO TO MICHAEL FOR HIS WONDERFUL STORY.