Author(s): Gavin EdwardsDownload
In Last Night at the Viper Room, acclaimed author and journalist Gavin Edwards vividly recounts the life and tragic death of acclaimed actor River Phoenix—a teen idol on the fast track to Hollywood royalty who died of a drug overdose in front of West Hollywood’s storied club, the Viper Room, at the age of 23.Last Night at the Viper Room explores the young star’s life, including his childhood in Venezuela growing up under the aegis of the cultish Children of God. Putting him at the center of a new generation of leading men emerging in the early 1990s— including Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, and Leonardo DiCaprio—Gavin Edwards traces the Academy Award nominee’s meteoric rise, couches him in an examination of the 1990s, and illuminates his lasting legacy on Hollywood and popular culture itself.
Some Reviews: 381 in Goodreads.com
I graduated high school in 1993. The people, the clothes, the music, the vibe of that time is the first one I truly understood and lived. I found this book very interesting and I particularly liked how the author framed each part of River’s life within the context of other actors/musicians etc. It set the scene pretty perfectly, I think. I remember the tragic death of River Phoenix and was enlightened to learn much more about his family and upbringing. I know that many didn’t believe him to be a drug addict at the time due to his much publicized vegan lifestyle. I think this is why his death proved so shocking in 1993 to much of the world. Had he grown up now with the social media presence unavoidable, I think we might have just found his death tragic, but not surprising.
You would think after all these years I could read this and not get sad. Wrong. How can you not be sad over a life gone way too soon? What did I learned mostly from this book, was, That River had a kind and gentle soul and even with his drug use that did not go away. You can’t help but wonder where he would be right now if he was still alive. You can’t help but to want that.
This book made me angry. There were so many people who could have lent a talented but struggling young man a hand, but chose not to do so. There were parents who could have decided to be parents, instead of selfishly using their eldest child for profit. There were friends and co-workers who didn’t step up when they saw a young star floundering. While the addict also deserves blame, in this case a tragedy really seemed preventable. The result was the death of River Phoenix, one of the most interesting and promising actors of his generation.
Last Night at the Viper Room compiles widely known anecdotes and events in River’s life with interviews, a few lesser-known details and some conjecture. It focuses mainly on River and his family, but also provides Hollywood context. There is commentary on the career and personal choices of other male actors who were coming of age at the same time. There is some discussion of Hollywood politics, on-set happenings and the cultural shift taking place in entertainment in the early 1990s. There’s nothing here that’s really new or groundbreaking, but compiled in one story it creates a fairly good sense of the world in which River was living. Taken all together, it’s a compelling tale.
I arrived in Hollywood two years after River Phoenix died and spent time with several of the people mentioned in this book. This is a world I know fairly well. I realize that it’s too easy to blame Hollywood, too easy to blame friends and family, and that addiction, sexual abuse and fame are complex issues. It’s just tragic that this young man, whose life had so much to offer all of us, is now just a cautionary tale. His death could have been avoided. He could have been so much more.
After reading this beautiful book, I sobbed like a baby. I couldn’t control how overwhelmed I was by my emotions when it was all over.
And for days after I’d go through my normal routine with this aching empty feeling and every day I would realize that it was because of this book. I felt this awful feeling because I felt like I had lost my best friend after finishing this book. I felt that I had gotten to know River Phoenix so well through this book that his death, twenty years later, had touched me on such a personal level I felt it breaking my heart over and over.
This book is a work of art. It not only delves into River Phoenix’s life, but into the lives of others who were starting out at the same time (Leonardo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves, for example) and the world they were all growing up in. I highly recommend that everyone read it.
Interesting, sometimes amusing, well written (or well-enough written), and well researched (even if a lot of the research comes from other people’s books). Like a lot of people, I was shocked when River Phoenix died of an overdose–he seemed like the last person in Hollywood who would succumb to this fate. The book, on the other hand, makes this fate seem almost inevitable, which is actually one of its strengths. Of course, at the end, this doesn’t stop you from desperately wishing you could reach into the book and change just one detail that might have made a difference. An absorbing portrait of a person who was more complicated than most of us knew.
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