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.