A tragic end

Halloween 20 years ago saw the tragic death of a talented actor named River Phoenix, outside the Viper Room nightclub part-owned by Johnny Depp.

River was born in 1970  to John and Arlyn Bottom, they joined the Children of God cult while River and his siblings were young and the family moved over 40 times around the USA and down to South America. The children never went to school and spent a lot of their time performing on the streets and handing out literature from the cult. River was a self taught guitarist starting at the age of 5.

All the children were spotted by a talent scout while singing on the street , but initially River was the most successful doing a variety of television work in his early career. His break into films came with The Explorers and the wonderful coming of age film Stand by me. He seemed to favour the quirky, independent and off the wall films, the only blockbuster he did was a small role as the young Indiana in The last Crusade.

I have 4 favourite films:

Running on empty: River plays a teenager on the run with his fugitive parents, struggling with the constant moving and loyalty to his family. His performance is beautiful and shows maturity beyond his years. He received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best support actor for this role.

I love you to death: River’s performance as a young, spiritual hippy is heart warming and funny alongside Kevin Kline and Tracy Ullman.

Dog Fight: This role, as a marine on his last night before being shipped out to Vietnam, was reported to be one of the most difficult for River due to the character being so far removed from his own.

My own private Idaho: This was an outstanding performance as a gay hustler searching for his mother, River delivers in a sensitive and poignant way that is quite stunning. For this role he won 3 awards including the Independent Spirit Award for a movie lead.

River never had any acting training but he could morph completely into his character and act with the sensitivity, depth and expertise of a much older actor.

As well as being a fantastic actor River was also an accomplished musician and singer/song writer and along with his sister Rain he formed the band Aleka’s Attic. They played at many charity events for environmental causes. He got to use his singing talents in the film The Thing called love, when he played a country singer. On the night of his death he was hoping to have a jamming session with Johnny Depp and Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

A committed vegan from an early age he was a dedicated animal rights activist, environmentalist  and a spokesperson for PETA. He donated a lot of his money to environmental and humanitarian causes and bought 800 acres of rain-forest in Costa Rica.

The cause of his death was confirmed as a drug induced heart failure, he had Heroin and Cocaine in his system. This came as a shock to his fans as he seemed to be a clean living and healthy young man, but it transpired after his death that he had been struggling with drug addiction for approximately 2 years.

Stand by meRiver

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Where were you when…..

On this day 35 years ago the King died.

The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was found dead at the age of 42 from a suspected massive heart attack in 1977.

As I wrote in my last post, my dad was Elvis’s biggest fan and his music was played a lot in our house and that’s how I became a massive fan too.

It’s often asked, where were you when you heard Elvis was dead.

I was with my family on our annual holiday in Weymouth when we heard the sad news. My dad was devastated and I think it was the first time I saw him cry. I was only 10 and a bit bewildered at the time, but later understood what was going on.

To this day my Elvis songs are constantly played on my ipod and will continue to be enjoyed for many years.

My 15 minutes of fame

After reading Jack Scott’s post on Perking the Pansies about his radio show appearance, it got me thinking about my very brief moment of stardom on the radio waves. My claim to fame is not nearly as exciting as Jack’s, but nevertheless it was good for me.

A few years ago our local radio station, known then as GWR, was doing a daily slot called ‘Four play’. Listeners were invited to contact the station with 4 songs; their favourite song at the time, their song they dance like their dad to, the song to turn up their speakers to and the song that makes them cry. The presenter would then do a quick interview about the reasons behind the choices and it was edited and played back in the show.

I listened to that show quite often and decided I should let Bristol know about my favourite tunes.

My favourite song at the time was Take That’s ‘Shine’, I liked the song because they had just reformed and I never really was a big fan of the band first time around, I felt it was much better than their old stuff.

My first choice for the song that made me dance like my dad was ‘Suspicious Minds’ by Elvis Presley because my dad was a huge Elvis fan and he actually won a prize once for dancing when he was in the RAF. But alas they didn’t have that one so I had to think of something else, my son suggested ‘Get down on it’ by Kool and the Gang as there is some ancient video evidence of his dad dancing to this somewhere.

The song to turn my speakers up to was ‘Summer of 69’ by Bryan Adams. I have been a fan of Bryan for many years and have seen him live in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol and I adore him…enough said!

I always cry when I hear ‘These are the days of our life’ by Queen. I am a massive, lifelong fan of Queen and I loved Freddie Mercury. Like many people I was upset when he died and the video for the song is just heartbreaking because of Freddie’s appearance. It was the last video he made before he died and he was just so thin and fragile, but still he managed to perform for the camera to thank the fans for all the support over his fantastic career.

He is truly a legend…