August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993
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. Sincerely, Cookie.
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 drugs with some drug dealer friends and someone offered him a snort of high-grade Persian Brown. He was told it would make him feel fabulous. As soon as he snorted it he started trembling and shaking in front of the sink, screamed at his friend and then vomited. Someone tried to help by splashing cold water on his face and then gave him a Valium. (Nothing helps someone O.D.ing then to give them more drugs.) He staggered back into the bar and over to actress Samantha Mathis and his sister Rain. He complained he could not breathe and briefly passed out. When he came to, he asked Mathis to take him oustside. Mathis first called River’s friend and assistant Abby, then Mathis and River’s brother brother Joaquin took him outside. River then collapsed on the sidewalk.
After that he started having seizures and had three before a photographer, Ron Davis, went to call 911 at a nearby payphone, and so did Joaquin.
“He looked like a fish out of water,” said Ron Davis, who was standing outside the club. He was “thrashing spasmodically, his head flopping from side to side, arms flailing wildy.” Rain had since come out and thrown herself on River to attempt to stop the seizures. It seems after 8 minutes of seizures they stopped and River was still, at which point Joaquin said he was not breathing. At 1:14 a.m. he was in cardiac arrest when the paramedics arrived and Paramedic Ray Ribar of the LA County Fire Department began to administer CPR. They rushed him to Cedar Sinai Medical Center (thank you Terri, for the photo) where they arrived at 1:34.
When they got there, his skin was blue, but his body was still warm. The ER physicians did everything to revive him, even inserting a pacemaker. He was pronounced deat at 1:51 am.
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 the “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 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 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 (WARNING – dead pic), 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: My friend Lisa Burk (also a very good Findadeath.com friend) took the shot of the sign above,
next to River’s picture, and this wall,
just a day or so after his death. Thanks Lisa, as always.
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 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 remember.
Great stuff, Ryan, thanks! S
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. -Sarah B.
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 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 Find a Death friend Helene: Hey Scott, Well, the newspaper that published the picture added some special effects to make him look “scary.” River Phoenix didn’t look like that at all after his death. Also, I have been told that the photographer turned him around in the coffin, and all that sh** to make him look “odd.” You know?
Anyway, I know that the picture will never disappear. Someone took it, it’sthere now. Just I still would like to see it off your site, but if you decide to let it stay… Would you then please tell the true story about the picture?
That it was doctored for example?
And please be sure that people do see the warning. I know you did warn people, but maybe it needs to be more visible. Something like that. I can tell you that I didn’t notice it myself, because someone just said “Go check this out.” I was very shocked. I guess you know what I mean. Helene
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.” ~ Erin
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. Scarlett.
Check out this site about River HERE. Thanks to Find a Death friend Jerri for the link.
26 thoughts on “River Phoenix”
Australia band TISM (This is Serious Mum) recorded a great track called ‘You’ll Never Be An Old Man River’ that starts off with the line, “I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix”.
While reading through the River Phoenix and Rick James reports i have noticed that there is a picture of a hotel (exactly the same) but on River’s report it states “The St James Club and Hotel on Sunset, yet exact same hotel picture on Rick James report states Argyll Hotel on Sunset.
It operated under both names at different times.
I don’t understand this River worship.
I’ve seen him in a couple of things–I Love You To Death and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
He was nothing special. Overrated, as far as I’m concerned.
Joaquin has proven time and again that he is the better actor. River was prettier, that’s all.
I read somewhere that he was out on a date, and his date ordered veal. Supposedly, he was so upset that his date wasn’t a vegan, that he left the table, went outside and cried.
What a hypocrite. Eating meat is bad? But stuffing your body with drugs is okay??!!
Drugs are living, breathing beings, Corey. Jesus Christ lol. Hardly accurate to compare the 2. Most of the time, people are not vegan/vegetarian because they’re concerned what’s going on their bodies. It’s because of the love they have for the animals. I’m glad you felt the need to let us know how much you didn’t care for him, though. I’m sure you’re a very important and necessary member of society yourself. Take care!
Hopefully you will take time to look at more of his work.
Stand by Me
Running on Empty
IMO he would have continued to grow as an actor had he not died and gone on with his career.
Nothing against Joaquin, I enjoy his work as well.
Just posting this up here in case it helps someone- Narcan is free these days and if you choose to try drugs, do so with people who care about you & will get help if you overdose. Everyone makes mistakes.
River would have gone on to do great things had he not died so young.
In his book Bob Forrest talks about being with River that night.
Just gonna broadcast his entire social security number for the world to see? Classy.
What is anyone gonna do with it? It’s flagged as deceased with the Soc Sec admin. As is every deceased persons social sec number.
people still steal deceased people’s SS # (or try to) and even tho it’s far too late for that to happen to his, people still will be….people.
That’s all right. I need a new identity.
i have desire of vomit.
I have desire to teach you proper grammar.
So sad. Been coming to this site for 20 years. Have always been a River Phoenix, and found out about his death via this site, as I was just a kid who fell in love with him after watching Stand By Me some time in the late 90s. Love this site, but I always return to River’s story. Don’t know why. Perhaps still something fascinating about him? And in turn, unfortunately, something fascinating about his death? Maybe tells us something about human’s fascination with death and grief? Maybe I just need to mourn something. Any way, best of luck getting out of LA. Thanks for keeping this site around, thanks for keeping something constant. Cheers.
Rio no merecia ese fiinal y si de veras murio en el baño y fue echado del. Club ya muerto me causa mas tristeza.
River was murdered via a lethal drink that J.F from the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave him. River drank it and asked ” Wtf is in this” and never called 911. Johnny Depp kicked him to a cold curb and never called 911 either. Both have blood on their hands. Rivers parents dropped the charges … Get your facts right.
You’re just as guilty if you didn’t save him, champ. You clearly could’ve, seeing as how you must have been there that night. Oh. Wait. Betcha weren’t!
You got any proof to back this claim up?
You were there? Wow. You know so much
River wasn’t murdered. Murder is the premeditated act of ending another person’s life. That almost certainly wasn’t the intention of whomever gave River that drink that night. The heroin on the streets at that time was potent and had caused numerous deaths in the weeks before River died. Regardless, River willingly drank liquid containing a speedball handed to him by a friend whom he himself had taken to rehab on at least one occasion. Considering the source of the drink, it’s stupid to think River thought it was Hawaiian Punch or anything non-mind altering. Who the hell just downs a drink they’re handed at a club anyway? I don’t much give a shit who the friend supposedly was, so I won’t speculate because it’s pointless.
Also, the Phoenixes didn’t “drop the charges”. There were no charges filed against anyone by the police to drop. The Phoenixes did tell the cops they didn’t want to see anyone prosecuted and beat a hasty retreat back to Florida right after River died. Make of that what you will. Doubtful it was a murder coverup (soooooo boring, I know!) and more along the lines of vainly trying to salvage their son’s reputation. They loved their kid to be sure, but River was their only source of income and supported his entire family. River’s mom enabled some bad behavior – which I’m sure she deeply regrets – while the father wanted the entire family to get back to hippy living. Saving River’s reputation might seem trite but this was 1993. Celebrities could still largely control the narrative and their image (We all mostly thought Johnny Depp wasn’t a piece of shit back then!). The public really only knew River as a pretty boy hippy vegan who did some weird movies towards the end. I was 15 at the time and I remember being shocked that he died of an overdose.
As for Johnny Depp – he didn’t even know River. They met in passing a few times and that’s the extent of it all. Depp was onstage playing some surely shitty music when all this went down. Depp is a prick to be sure and definitely was ass deep into shady shit (look up Anthony Fox and the Viper Room), but he had nothing to do with River’s death and didn’t cover anything up. He didn’t have to. The cops were all too willing to not investigate the death of what they likely deemed a junkie. No one’s arm had to be twisted. At the end of the day, River Phoenix was responsible for the death of River Phoenix. Any other bullshit is just fans desperately trying to sanitize the image of man they want to bang despite being dead for almost 30(!!!) years. Everything isn’t a fucking conspiracy.
may you rest in peace river phoenix
I wonder if the Aleka’s Attic shirt was what River was wearing the night of his death. I do find the theory he died in the bathroom to be true. How else would he be escorted out of the club? He was already dead by then but they probably did take him out so they could revive him out there. But obviously he would’ve been dead by then. What a loss.
after decades this still hurts. I cried everyday for a month when I saw that he died. I was angry that he avocated being natural and his death proved otherwise. I don’t know what led River to succumb to drugs, but I hope he got the peace he was so desparately seeking. I loved his acting and I’m pretty sure he was going to be a HUGE actor if he took the right path. I hope his death taught many that drugs can lead you to a road you may not return from. But I will always love him. forever.
I was talking about River Phoenix and remembering the whole thing with a coworker. I came to this site by accident. Did you notice on the photograph of white wall next to where he collapsed, right above your website name, it says Sid Vicious in like pink or light red ink or marker?! Is that for real?!
I doubt it. Sid Vicious died in 1979.