Edwards layers “Last Night at The Viper Room,” with context threading a synopsis of Hollywood at the time throughout.
Di Caprio was only just getting started, Tom Cruise was willing his way to big-screen stardom and Brad Pitt had just been anointed a star after beating out Phoenix for the lead role in Robert Redford’s “A River Runs Through It.” But the core story is that of River Phoenix, who surely had one of the most unusual childhoods of any kid come to Hollywood.
The children were encouraged to have sex with adults and with each other.
“Kate Moss might get behind the bar; Naomi Campbell might dance with security; Depp might have a longer conversation with Chrissie Hynde about religion.On those nights, Depp had reduced the Viper Room to its essence: a party room for him and his celebrity pals,” Edwards reports.Instead, his brother Joaquin walked River out of the club when he groggily roused himself.There, the dark-haired actor fell to the ground and went into seizures. Phoenix’s girlfriend, Mathis, was futilely banging her head against the wall; Joaquin kept insisting everything was fine.The children were sent into the street to sing or go hungry.
The Children of God was considered a Christian sex cult.When River Phoenix fatally collapsed from a drug overdose on the sidewalk outside the notorious Viper Room on Halloween 1993, he was a 22-year-old Oscar-nominated star of the classic “Stand by Me” with a brilliant future in the making. As Gavin Edwards reveals in his new book, “Last Night at The Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind,” the actor was planning to quit moviemaking. That night he headed out into the Hollywood scene with his younger brother, Joaquin, and sister, Rain.First, they headed in the hills for a party where Leonardo Di Caprio, dressed in costume as Johnny Hollywood, “a generic hipster actor,” spotted River in the crowd.When the directive came that the women should take up “flirty fishing,” using sex to recruit male members, Arlyn balked. Corey Feldman, his co-star on “Stand by Me” — where the young actors, including Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell, were obsessed by sex — says that Phoenix referred to it as his “second virginity.” The girl was a family friend and they went to both sets of parents to get their blessings first.But while Phoenix asked permission to have sex, and even as his siblings followed him into the business, most notably Joaquin, River remained the family bread-winner.They were young, they were scared, and they didn’t know what to do.