Only a few celebrities in the early 1990s were as famous and well-loved as River Phoenix. He was recognized for his great acting skills and good looks. Unfortunately, all was lost in an incident at The Viper Room. What happened on Halloween night in 1993?
River Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix’s older brother, was a child star who soon became involved in substance abuse. He died in Johnny Depp’s club The Viper Room due to an overdose in 1993.
Who was River Phoenix?
River Jude Bottom was born on August 23, 1970, in Madras, Oregon, to Children of God cult missionaries John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz. As a young child, Phoenix learned to sing and play the guitar. He and his sister Rain performed in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, to earn money and promote their religious beliefs.
Phoenix’s parents soon became disillusioned with the religious group and returned to the U.S in 1978. The family soon tried to make it in the entertainment industry in California. His mother got a job as a secretary in NBC and found an agent to represent all the children.
Phoenix soon landed a few commercials and a role in a short-lived television series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He got a few guest spots in other shows and eventually landed a notable role in the 1985 television movie Surviving.
Phoenix soon landed a role in the 1985 film Explorers alongside Ethan Hawke, but his acting in the 1986 film Stand By Me led to his career breakthrough. His portrayal as a youth with troubled home life in the coming-of-age film drama based on Stephen King’s novella received positive reviews.
He also appeared in other notable movies like The Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford and the trio films Little Nikita, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, and Running on Empty. Phoenix also played the young Indiana Jones in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Phoenix’s performance gained strong reviews on the movies My Own Private Idaho and Dogfight and starred alongside Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier in Sneakers.
He was also a known advocate for animal rights, becoming vegetarian early and further becoming vegan. He was also an environmentalist, supporting organizations such as Earth Save and Earth Trust. Phoenix also formed a band named Aleka’s Attic with his sister Rain but never released an album.
On October 31, 1993, at the age of 23, Phoenix died due to multiple acute drug intoxication in Johnny Depp’s club, the Viper Room. (Source: Biography)
Phoenix was known to have abused drugs in the past, but most people around him knew that he was trying to kick the habit. There have been accounts stating that Phoenix has been sober for at least two months while filming Dark Blood. While on a break from filming, he returned to L.A. on October 26, 1993.
Upon his return, Phoenix relapsed, as noted by his friend Bob Forrest. He went on a massive drug binge with Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. Forrest details their drug use at the time, smoking crack or injecting cocaine then injecting heroin. Forrest claims in his book that they did this cycle of drug usage for several days when Phoenix stayed with Frusciante.
Phoenix, along with his younger brother Joaquin, sister Rain, and girlfriend Samantha Mathis, visited Johnny Depp’s club The Viper Room on October 30, 1993, to watch The Red Hot Chili Peppers play. Mathis later recalls that though no one was using drugs in the club, he knew the Phoenix was high.
Mathis further recalls that she saw a bouncer bring out Phoenix and another man outside the club. She thought they were fighting, but Phoenix fell on the sidewalk and started convulsing as soon as the men were outside.
Joaquin Phoenix called 911, but the respondents were too late. River Phoenix was pronounced dead at 1:51 am on October 31, 1993. The autopsy reported having found cocaine, heroin, valium, marijuana, and ephedrine in Phoenix’s blood. (Source: All That’sThat’s Interesting)