Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 23
October 31, 1993
River's End

In a macabre twist, the 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died early on Halloween 1993 at 1:51 a.m. from a drug overdose at Los Angeles’ Viper Club. Phoenix had been there with friends on October 30, and was set to go on stage with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Beforehand he made a detour to the men’s room where he snorted a line of Persian Brown, a form of meth mixed with various opiates. Within minutes, Phoenix started to feel sick, staggered out of the club, and passed out in convulsions on the sidewalk. Even though his brother called 911 immediately, paramedics on the scene could not revive him. At the time of his death, Phoenix was considered one of the most promising actors of his generation. Having grown up in a transient hippie family, he was discovered early on for his musical ability, but soon parlayed that into an acting career, starring in the 1985 space adventure Explorers at the age of 15 (with an equally unknown Ethan Hawke). Soon Phoenix was proving his youthful range in a series of features from the coming-of-age yarn Stand by Me to the spy thriller Little Nikita and finally to Gus Van Sant’s Shakespeare-inflected hustler drama My Own Private Idaho. Famous in life, Phoenix gained even more notoriety in death, as his drug overdose was held up as tragic reminder of celebrity drug culture gone horribly wrong. Viper Room owner Johnny Depp was so crushed by the event that he closed the club every Halloween up until he sold his share in 2004.


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