note / candleflowers / candleswall
back to main
a short biography
River Jude Phoenix was born in Madras, Oregon on Sunday, August 23, 1970, 12:03 p.m. The name River was from the River of Life, taken from Herman Hesse's mystical novel Siddhartha. River's small family soon moved to Pike's Peak, Colorado, and his parents, John Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz, joined a cult known as the Children of God. John and Arlyn considered themselves to be 'missionaries.' Their mission was to recruit as many new members as possible to the cult. Their first documented stop was in Crockett, Texas, where River's sister, Rain Joan of Arc, was born in 1973. They then pushed on to Mexico and Puerto Rico, where their second son, Joaquin Raphael, was born. In 1975, child number four, Libertad Mariposa (Liberty Butterfly), was born. The family soon moved back to the United States, and in 1977, another daughter, Summer Joy, was born. But returning to America was not a retreat. From the ashes of the Children of God the family would be reborn. As proof, they adopted the name Phoenix - the mythological bird who rises from the ashes.
The young Phoenix's won talent show after talent show. At the Hernando Fiesta their performance merited rave reviews in the local press and was seen by a young man named Sky Sworski who was so impressed he became the family's devoted advisor and benefactor. They could sing, dance, and play the guitar. What more could America want? River was captivated by the idea of movies and television. For a boy brought up barefoot in South America it must have become the apotheosis of everything this new life had to offer : 'I became instantly fascinated by the mysteries of film making and I was desperate to get involved. I wondered how it could be so real when it was actually just a bunch of actor's performing.' River never had any doubt that he would make it, although he imagined it would be through his music, which would always remain his first and last love.
In the early morning hours of October 31, 1993, River was at The Viper Room with Rain, Joaquin, and his girlfriend, Samantha Mathis. Just before midnight the seizures began. River slumped down and slid under the table. He said he couldn't breathe, that he needed air. Joaquin and Rain dragged him to the nearest exit. As they made their way past the stage, River called out, 'Hey Dude, I've done a speed ball. I'm going to die.' And he did. At approximately 1:51a.m., River Jude Phoenix's life was cut short due to an overdose of cocaine and morphine. The morphine was metabolized heroin four times the lethal dose. The cocaine present was eight times the lethal dose. There is only one question left to ask : Why would River take all those drugs?
River caused us to suffer because of his addictions. He didn't mean to make us suffer, but he did. It is important that we grow, and not suffer, because of his contributions. That growing, despite the suffering, is what makes us strong. No more suffering, River...For you or for us.