As with Dex and Lacey in Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman in the 1990s, River Phoenix had my besotted heart somewhere between Sneakers and My Own Private Idaho. So when I came across Last Night at the Viper Room by Gavin Edwards, I had to read it. And the reading hurt. Not so much remembering my teenage infatuation, but remembering those I’ve lost and the drugs that did it. Remembering the first time I watched Drugstore Cowboy and what we went on to do.

So here’s a funny story about teenage me. That last page in the photo section looks a lot like what spent many years on my bedroom wall. I might still have it in a drawer somewhere. I know the exact spot the Who Weekly announcing Kurt Cobain’s death is secreted. I want to add, these memories haven’t been perused since the 1990s, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never throw them out.

The hilarious story of how River’s brooding headshot ended up in my possession is an example of just how uncool my teenage years were. My little brother & I visited our Sydney cousin in January 1992. They were both 2 years younger than me. In hindsight, I guess she looked up to me, slightly, but back then I knew she had everything on me. Not least because I never read magazines. Wtf young Clare – the things you missed!? So cousin Lucy educated me as to the lastest pop stars, movie gods, assorted hotties, (omg) E-Street. And told me I had to pick a hottie to be my fav. No idea why I chose River Pheonix, maybe it was fate.

Lucy and I wrote letters to each other (what are they?) I probably still have them too in some drawer. One such letter included an enclosure of an entensive article on River, with extensive headshots. One was an A3 folded monstrosity that landed above my bed. Oh River, sweet dreams River. (Cross my heart, I never kissed him goodnight, not much anyway)

And what, you may ask, was River Phoenix doing in January 1992? Now that Gavin Edwards has enlightened me, I can tell you: spiralling further into addiction.

“What would those twelve-year-old girls with a picture of me over their bed think if they knew?”

Oh, I don’t know, doing their own spiralling a few years later.

When My Own Private Idaho came out, I was watching The Movie Show with my parents and David & Margaret argued about it, then I announced I had to see it. Parentals forbade me, “Really Clare, you wouldn’t enjoy it.” I told them I was 15, so I was allowed to see it in the cinema. We’d just seen Dave & Marg explain how it got that rating – due to stills of Keanu and River having sex, rather than filmed sex, complete with said stills. I definitely wanted to see more of those stills…

While I went to the movies with my Dad to see Sneakers (her phone number, please) I never did get to see My Own Private Idaho on the big screen, with Dad or otherwise. Luckily (sans Dad) I got to see Keanu ask “Fuck me” on the big screen (yes please). And don’t worry, as an adult I own the DVD of My Own Private Idaho. I’m old school like that. Might have to break out the popcorn and my fav River Pheonix movie. Mum, Dad, you want to join?

“In my version… in my version, I pick him up” – Gus Van Sant

My Own Private Idaho