I still remember hearing that River Phoenix had tragically overdosed outside The Viper Room in L.A. like it was yesterday, but today is actually the 20th anniversary of the star's death, a horrible event now being re-examined in the book Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind by Rolling Stone contributor Gavin Edwards. Through interviews with former friends and colleagues, the book offers a behind-the-scenes look at Phoenix's meteoric rise to stardom and his passion for animal rights and environmental issues. Considering Phoenix was only 23 at the time of his death, there's no telling what he would have gone on to accomplish; the level of wisdom, compassion, and insight he managed to attain at such a young age is nothing short of astounding. Here are 20 quotes to remind us of what we lost on that sad, sad day two decades ago:
1. "It still strikes me as strange that anyone could have any moral objection to someone else's sexuality. It's like telling someone else how to clean their house."
2. “After Stand By Me came out, people were telling me, 'You're so good,' 'You're going to be a star,' and things like that. You can't think about it. If you take it the wrong way, you can really get high on yourself. People get so lost when that happens to them. They may think they have everything under control, but everything is really out of control. Their lives are totally in pieces.”
3. “We are taught to consume. And that's what we do. But if we realized that there really is no reason to consume, that it's just a mind set, that it's just an addiction, then we wouldn't be out there stepping on people's hands climbing the corporate ladder of success.”
4. "I would rather quit while I was ahead. There's no need in overstaying your welcome."
5. "In simplicity there is truth."
6. "I sometimes lie, especially about personal things, because what does it matter? I am a kind of minute commodity, my name is no longer my own."
7. "When I was younger, I was worried about how others viewed me and if I was good enough. I realize now that you can't mold an image or try to be something that you are not. As far as being an actor is concerned, your work really speaks for itself."
8. "Addiction is not just for bad people or scumbags -- it's a universal disease."
9. "Some misinformed people claim that animal rights activists are terrorists, but these people are simply ignorant of who the real terrorists are -- the companies and industries that torture literally billions of animals each year."
10. "What I have got from my childhood aren't toys, but memories. And happy memories are better than any toy."
11. “We were constantly moving to different countries and adjusting to new things. It was such a free feeling. I'm glad I didn't have a traditional upbringing.”
12. “Music is a whole oasis in my head. The creation process is so personal and fulfilling.”
13. “I would never, never do anything unless I believed in it.”
14. "I wish sometimes I wasn't as conscientious as I am."
15. "Rich kids gave us their old clothes. They were the best clothes we ever had. We were these very pure, naive, poor children. The rich kids called us a lot of names but it never bothered us because we didn't know what the words meant."
16. "When I was in first grade, everyone made fun of my name, of course. I think it's kind of a big name to hold up when you're 9 years old. It seemed goofy. I used to tell people I wanted to change the world and they used to think, 'This kid's really weird.'"
17. "I can't on my own change the regime in South Africa or teach the Palestinians to learn to live with the Israelis, but I can start with me."
18. "Music is my main goal, but I'm not going to rush a record out. There are so many actors who have come out with albums these days. I don't want to do it because it's the thing to do. I want to wait until the time is right."
19. "It's a great feeling to think that I can be a friend to so many people through my movies."
20. "I have a lot of chameleon qualities, I get very absorbed in my surroundings."
What is your favorite River Phoenix movie?
Image via Amazon