Read my tribute after the jump.
It’s hard to categorize Mr. Phoenix. He certainly was a superstar on the rise when he died on Halloween at the age of 23.
Young, handsome, talented. He was the epitome of that generation of actors.
If he had lived who knows what he could have achieved. Looking at his contemporaries, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, even his younger brother Joaquin, we can only surmise he would have equalled or surpassed all of them in terms of fame and artistic achievement.
River died a block away from where I live. I moved into the neighborhood nine years after he passed.
I spoke to my neighbor who has been around the strip forever. He remembered seeing the ambulances and the crowd while he was across the street grabbing a slice of pizza. His friends were curious and wanted to see what the hubbub was about, my neighbor was jaded, or maybe just a little intoxicated himself, and lobbied to just walk home. They gazed some more, then moved on, and only found out the next morning what had happened.
The Viper Room is still there. Crowds still gather, drugs are still around, and I saw Keanu there a couple of months ago. The pay phone where Joaquin made his freaked out call to 911 stands as a silent monument to a life lost too quickly in an era before cell phones. They installed a plaque marking the spot where he died, but it’s long been stolen.
Now River Phoenix is just a memory, one of the ghosts on the Sunset Strip.