Gina Vivinetto’s Greatest Hits

Today would have been River Phoenix’s 38th B-day

Those of us who lived in Florida – in my case the Tampa Bay area – while River was alive, had the chance pretty often to see Aleka's Attic, his Gainesville-based band. I know it’s customary to knock Hollywood boys who start bands, but Aleka’s Attic was good.

Maybe because River was my fellow vegan, or it might have been because he was a big crush of mine in high school, whatever the reason, I will never forget the Halloween day I went to my parent’s house and my dad told me he heard on the news that River had died the night before. My heart just sunk. There had been rumors about River using drugs and, frankly, the two or three times I saw him in person – including one day eating lunch next to him in a Gainesville vegetarian restaurant – he looked tired and unwell.

No one that young should die. All I ever heard about River’s character is that he was someone special, kind, generous and enthusiastic. He certainly introduced to many young people the idea that we should extend our compassion to all beings, including animals.

I didn’t know him, but in a way, everyone my age did. Those who find his movies now do, too. Such is the magic of cinema. Anyway, Happy Birthday. My heart goes out to your family – and anyone who’s lost someone they love to drugs.


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31 thoughts on “Today would have been River Phoenix’s 38th B-day

  1. Soo sad!! I loved him as well!! I remember meeting him at a show that they did at The Cuban Club in Ybor, I was about 17-18 and yeah..a bit star struck!*sigh* & so cute!!! He was a bit shy & didn’t say much, but I got a hand shake out of him!:) Such a tragedy!! So young, so much talent! Such a same!!:( Happy Birthday, River!!!! R.I.P.!!

  2. This is so weird, I had no idea it was his birthday. I was just talking about River this afternoon and how he used to bum cigarettes off of my friends and me when his band played Club Detroit in St. Pete. I always thought it was odd, not realizing that it was his way to start a conversation. I mean, who wouldn’t talk to River Phoenix? So sad.

  3. Do a little research on Pheonix, via wikipedia for instance, and you’ll find outt hat he was a fascinating person.

    Johhny Depp never thought his career would recover from that one. He was the “Mary Kate Olsen” in that scenario.

  4. About three weeks ago I was researching Emile Herche when it mentioned he was like River Phoenix in some ways, so I decided to do a little research on River. I haven’t been able to quit yet. I live in Gainesville, Florida, and was stunned to learn the connection. I work in the court system and saw that his will was filed here, along with a lawsuit by a studio against his estate. I also saw that Joaquin has a speeding ticket here. I can’t read enough.

    Tell me more about him, please! Does anyone know where his Micanopy ranch is>

  5. The brief over view on River’s short life: his family were missionaries with The Children of God in South America. RP’s first ‘gig’ was performing on the streets in Venezuela, singing to help raise money for his family. Soon after the family left COG, and returned to America, changing their family name to “Phoenix” to symbolize their new beginnings. The COG has a nasty reputation, especially when it come sot sex, and RP was to reveal years later, in magazine interviews, that he had been molested by COG members when he was 4. He was an outspoken COG critic throughout his life – “They’re ruining people’s lives”.

    At an early age he took to acting, to help support the family. Colleagues noticed that he was ‘really good’, and he soon got alot of attention inside the industry. Rob Reiner cast him in Stand By Me, and then it was on to some work with Harrison Ford – in Mosquito Coast (also Starring Dame Helen Mirren), and as ‘Young Indie’ in The Temple of Doom. My Own Private Idaho with Keanu Reeves was a ground breaker, though it only made 6 mill. It was the movie that Brokeback Mountain didn’t dare to be. Keanu remained a close friend upto RP’s death in ’93.

    Phoenix had a lot of other close friends, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They’d play with RP’s band for PETA benefits (RP refused to wear leather in any performance). As well as being a talented actor and musician, RP’s was also seriously politically committed, for such a young person. He bought 800 acres of Costa Rican rain forrest, to preserve it. Needless to say, he touched a lot of people, with in the industry. Musicians have been referencing him in their work until recently.

    He’d died tragically out side Johnny Depp’s Viper Room early on Halloween Morning 93. His brother, sister, and long term girlfriend were with him at the time (his only serious girl, I’m not aware of RP really being ‘promiscuous’). He died from a combo of heroin and cocaine – speedballs – which sent him into convulsions for 8 minutes. by the time emergency response arrived, he was already gone, and even the insertion of a pace maker couldn’t save him.

    If you think that the Heath Ledger death is moving people, the research back on River Phoenix. Heath did outstanding working in Brokeback, and moreso in Dark Knight. Before that there had been a lot of teen idol roles, and he was considered a late bloomer who was only starting to develop as a talent. RP, on the other hand, was always doing work of the Dark Knight caliber, and there wasn’t really a time when he wasn’t that good.

    Johnny Depp became the ‘Mary Kate Olsen’ in the scenario. He owned the Viper Room. If you think that MKO is disliked now, that’s nothing compared to what Depp was back then. It looked like his career was over. If it hadn’t been for his mentor Tim Burton – who kept him employed when no one wanted to work with him (and there are still those today who won’t), and the fact that he fled the country for France, his career might never have recovered. he still works with a blot on his neame, and I don’t think that Depp wille ver get an Oscar. Too many people in Hollywood still hold it against him. Then again do a little research on Depp, via Wiki, for instance, and especially in comparison to RP, and you’ll see why many in Hollywood continue to treat him like he’s got toxic BO. His public image has been reformed – largely by refusing to do many interviews. It makes him look serious and for real. However the entertainment media has had a hate on for him too, and have jumped on any opportunity to dent his reputation. Take for instance the “Dumb dog” quote from Stern magazine. The press was getting ready to slow raost him over that one. So naturally Depp is reluctant to stick his neck out. Before moving to Fracne, where connection with Fernce actress Vanessa Paradis has made the french treat him like one of their own, his slightest misdeed got major press coverage: like his arrest for traching a NYC hotel room, or his paparazzi punch up in London. Remaining silent and aloof was worked wonders for him.

    It remains to be seen whether he lives it down.

  6. Dear Agent Orange: Thank you so much for the information. But why did they blame Johnny Depp? River Phoenix does not resemble his family members. What’s up with that? Tell me more about his drug use.

  7. frozenjiffypop on said:

    hi karen:

    about your question to why they blamed johnny depp, i don’t believe that they ‘blamed’ him for his death. river died in a club on sunset blvd. called the viper room…this club is owned by johnny depp. also, not sure if it’s fact or not but it is said that johnny depp was present at the club the same night that river died. that’s why depp’s name is usually involved with the death of river. hopefully this helps you out a little.

  8. I found the Micanopy ranch last night. Easy to find. Right off interstate

  9. I’m getting married June 2009 in Florida (I’m from UK) and I would love to use trip to travel to Micanopy and drive by the family ranch. Is there any way anyone can help me find it? Even some clues could help. If you would give me details privately even I could post my details. I would be so grateful if any kind soul would help xxx

  10. i live in miami, but visit gainseville quite frequently… i’ve never got to visit micanopy but I would love to find the phoenix estate just to see where is that the man that i admire so much settled and, even though for a brief time, fleed from the Hollywood life to. I would love to pass by, please let me know how i can get there.

  11. I know where it is (Micanopy ranch).

  12. I’d rather not post it so if you want the directions, just post your details.

    • Thilde on said:

      I’m planning a trip to the us
      just to visit places that will remind me of river and
      the place where his aches was spread is a place
      that i definetly would like to see
      so pleace e-mail me the details:

      Thank you so much, it would meen a lot.

  13. Karen that would be fantastic thank you. My email is also I’m on facebook if you would prefer to email that way. Thank you in advance x

  14. paige howlett :) x on said:

    i love river phoenix and at school (in england) were doing about stand by me anouther moving and great film he stard in ;P x. he was such a young looking boy and i wish he never went to johnnys party but who can stop or wewind time? i am so moved by river and i hope he is with the big man (god). paige xx ;P

  15. Karen,

    Can you email the details of where the Micanopy ranch is located. I live in Austin, TX but would love to drive by the ranch when we visit Florida in March.

    As a teen in the early ’90s I LOVED RP. I was totally hooked on him from about 89-92, when most girls were ga ga over NKOTB (I was not). I can remember trading pics of NKOTB for River Phoenix photos…:-) Those memories make me smile. I can remember exactly where I was the morning of Halloween in ’93 when I heard on the news that he had died early that morning. Just like everyone else I was stunned and breathless. Now that I’m 31 and look back, I realize just how good he really was as an actor (I always wanted to be like him when I was young…he help set such a good example for me). He was carrying heavy roles at a very young age and I struggle to think of another young actor with the same skill and reportoire in recent memory.

    R.I.P. River. When science finally figures out the time machine, we’ll all come back and save you! lol (a girl can dream).

  16. Karen,
    Sorry it’s taken me this long to write back. I guess it took me a while to find this website again. Please send me the info of the Micanopy ranch at I will go and pay my respect to Riv before proceeding on to Gainseville. Much love,

  17. Hi. i just wanted to say that I have been a big River fan for a while, but sadly only a couple of years. I was raised in a home where we(my siblings and I)were restricted from tv/movies of anything other than childrens programming until I was 18. By then I was into the stuff of that time but luckily a friend,Megan,whom I met 4 years ago introduced me to River’s work. I love his movies and music and for the last 2 years have been involved in animal rights and been vegetarian. This year’s resolution was to become vegan so I am a couple of months into that. I have been fortunate enough to meet River’s mother once, his sister Summer twice and his sister Rain four times. I was reading the post about knowing where his ranch is. This April, four of my friends and I, for two of our birthdays, are taking a car trip to Florida just to visit Gainseville. We would love to go to the ranch where he lived. Could someone also send me directions please. It would be greatly appreciated. We have never been to Florida so if you could,be as detailed as possible. You can send it to my friend’s email address.
    Thanks so much.

  18. Kirsten on said:

    Hi I was wondering if someone could send me the directions as well? Please and thankyou.
    My email is

  19. Vicky L Dolan on said:

    Hi Karen

    Could you please e-mail the address of the Micanopy Ranch where river stayed. My e-mail address is: Thank you. Vicky

  20. ellen on said:

    I’m from the uk and planning on visiting Florida soon.I would love to visit the Micanopy ranch more than anything when I go.If it is possible could you please send me the directions also?

    my email address is

    thankyou so much xxxx

  21. Hi, I know this is years late, but I would love if someone would give me directions to the Micanopy ranch. I grew up in Tampa and currently live in Gainesville and have yet to go see it and pay my respects to such an amazing individual. Thank you so much in advance for your help. My e-mail is

  22. I know absolutely so ,such about river from when he was born to when he died. i know all the films he was in how long they go for how many ranting they got what character he plays and if it was rated pg or something.
    My fav film of his stand by me

  23. I know this thread is old but PLEASE if anybody can email me the address to the ranch in Micanopy. My email address is and my facebook is

  24. Vicky L Dolan on said:

    Hi Everyone
    Could you please e-mail the address of the Micanopy Ranch where river stayed. My e-mail address is: Thank you. Vicky

  25. I’m so excited to have finally found some River fans! I’d definitely challenge any of you to say I’ve got to be his biggest fan. I wish I was alive when he was as to have shaken his hand as well. I’d kill to go see his ranch in Micanopy, but Illinois is too far! If anyone has some info on his ranch I’d be more than grateful! Keep in touch, my email is Thank you(: is my tumblr, if any of you are interested in my photos, I put up information and photos of him I love and edit myself(:

  26. Is anybody there? It’s been nearly two months. Please if anybody has any info on his ranch, please send it my way! I’d appreciate it greatly! nellnell83 Please and thank you! 🙂

  27. If you get this please could you also send me the directions to

  28. Marie Faucher on said:

    Is the ranch still in the Phoenix family? I understand the raun forest property is still a part of his estate.

  29. if anyone has the details and directions please share.

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