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Sex on Earth: A Celebration of Animal Reproduction
Jules Howard

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind - Gavin Edwards I must first note that I was too young to care about River Phoenix or his generation of actors, I only came to see his movies after his death as a child. In addition, I've only ever seen two of his movies: the Indiana Jones he was in briefly and Stand By Me. I read Last Night at the Viper Room to gain more insight into his as a person and understand what happened to him. I was especially intrigued as a fellow vegan and environmentalist.

However, this book does not focus enough on River at all and the author's writing style quickly grew annoying. What was with all the choppy chapters and headings? Were they really necessary? There was no flow, everything felt forced and distant. I felt no need to hear about all the other actors of the same generation when this book was supposed to be about River Phoenix. Edwards constantly tried to tie other actors into the story even when they didn't fit, like Michael J. Fox, Johnny Depp (way overboard there) and numerous others. According to Edwards book, River's existence and death were the reasons for many famous actors' careers. While there may be a hint of truth I felt he took this road a bit too far.

Honestly I am continually baffled by the correlation between acting or music and self-destruction. The prevalence of drugs and alcohol makes me wonder how anyone makes it out of Hollywood alive, especially when you add in the fearless, indestructible attitude of so many youth. I find it interesting that in many regards River's clean image survives to this day despite his way of death and his downward spiral prior to it. It seemed to me that he was on the road to death but the guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly helped him along. (Oddly the author does not name the guy who gives River the alcohol laced with the speedball, although it can easily be found online.) River may be pegged as smart by this book but he was clearly lacking wits when it came to self-preservation.

I did, however, enjoy hearing how devoted River was to veganism. I share his passion and wonder if had he been clean and alive if he would have made a difference in the world. His environmentalism was hardly touched upon, although I did wonder if Leonardo DiCaprio somehow began his environmental journey due to River (although their link was mainly Leo getting roles meant for River after his death).

And clearly his family was well off the rocker, with their cults and such. As the oldest child of that crazy group he was put in an unenviable role and I don't doubt that it greatly impacted him.

On one hand I would have liked more information on River and less attempts from the author to include anyone and everyone in that era of acting. But on the other hand, I generally find I have little interest in discussing film (or even watching it often) or actors, so this book may have been unsuccessful for me regardless. However, someone from that generation and interested in these actors will likely find more to like. But if you are looking for a focus on River Phoenix I cannot say this fits the bill.

But if you think any author calling Jerry O'Connell a "hunk" is suspect, I don't recommend this book. I'm baffled myself.