This article was going to be about a new drug I'm on called Duomine, but as I knew very little about River Phoenix (aka the vegan Jimmy Dean) I thought I'd swat up on what's really going on behind that brain-worm ditty. I'll talk about Duomine another time.
The song line I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix is from Aussie alternative band TISM's tasteless 1995 single (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River - and it's a bit cheap, frankly. The single's cover shows a mock-up of River's tombstone and was released shortly after his death. TISM were well-known for criticisin Imperial Hollywood and US pop culture, but they were masters when it came to borrowed interest marketing. More about these guys later.
River Bottom's Awkward Life
In 1944, River's mother Arlyn was born to a Jewish family living in the Bronx. When she finished school, she married a computer programmer but quickly grew bored of her secretarial life. In 1968, at 24, Arlyn dropped everything, deciding to hitch-hike her way across the US to Hollywood. Whilst hitch-hiking, she met John Lee Bottom, a lapsed Catholic from California and in 1970 River Jude Bottom was born. Seeking spiritual guidance, they got involved with the Children of God movement, a cult centred around the dubious practice of flirty fishing). The Children of God practiced Flirty Fishing AND the less subtle activity of Escort Servicing from 1974 until 1987 (when AIDS hit Western TV). When River was 7, the couple left the cult, saying that it had lost its way (!). During this time River never attended school. Nor did he ever go to school. Instead, he tap-danced and sang songs with his brother Joaquin and sisters Rain and Summer on the street corners of Westwood, LA - to earn money for the family. River became quite the tap-dancer. Arlyn got herself a job as a secretary working for NBC where she befriended Hollywood child agent, Iris Burton (nee "Burstein"). Iris happily represented the Bottom children (plus Drew Barrymore, Tori Spelling and later, Kirsten Dunst) and before long the tap-dancing and singing child actor career was generating most of the family's income.
"What's it going to take? Chernobyl wasn't enough. Exxon Valdez wasn't enough. A bloody war over oil wasn't enough."
~ River Phoenix
Besides a string of TV and film credits, River's 23yr life were also dedicated to various social, political and humanitarian causes. River won multiple acting awards and accolades and came to be known as "The Vegan Jimmy Dean" around Hollywood. One Halloween night, on a come-down from his last gruelling film shoot, he decided to hit the town. Not before snorting a massive combination of cocaine and heroin did he head for Johnny Depp's LA nightclub The Viper Room. As he approached the club door, River fell, suddenly convulsing on the sidewalk in full view of the crowd. Depp was inside, playing bass for his band, P. People tried to revive River, but couldn't find a pulse. He was gone.
Every Halloween up until 2004 (when Depp sold his Viper Room share) Depp closed the Viper Room in honor of River's passing. People blame his drug binge on the come-down from a shoot and excitement at heading for the most popular club in LA on Halldween. But River had already started dabbling with white drugs.
Enter Australian 80s Indi Band - "T.I.S.M."
If it wasn't for TISM's single, I wouldn't have remembered River. The catchy reference was modus operandi for This Is Serious Mum and like any self-respecting 80s rocker, TISM's front man "Ron Hitler-Barrassi" embraced controversy. Titles of TISM's songs were often wordplays created by mixing pop culture references with academic critique.
In 1993, Ron released the album "Australia The Lucky C@*t" which featured a Koala sucking a syringe painted on the cover in Australian artist Ken Done's style. The pop artist's lawyers threatened legal action over the artwork (signed by TISM in Ken Done style) and the matter was settled out of court. Ron's album was re-released with new artwork and titled Censored Due To Legal Advice.
Rock On, Ron!
After reading about River Phoenix's tragic demise, I feel some guilt. His legendary name, forever trapped in Ron's brain-worm is also how this bit of fluff started, too. I've done exactly the same thing as TISM by borrowing River's name for my title.
Actually, I've doubled the greed. I get to keep River's name in my blog title AND borrow TISM's lyrics. Touché... :)