In the early hours of Halloween morning, 1993, River Phoenix died of “acute multiple drug intoxication”. At the age of just twenty-three, Phoenix was poised to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. Phoenix began performing as a child and made his first film appearance in 1985’s Explorers. Three years and five films later, he received his first (and only) Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, for Running on Empty. On the night of his death, after apparently getting high on heroin, Phoenix showed up at the Viper Room, the Hollywood club co-owned by his friend Johnny Depp. After he arrived at the club, some cocaine was passed around. The combination of heroin and cocaine – referred to as a speedball – proved lethal; Phoenix began convulsing and eventually lost conciousness. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1:51 am.
On October 31, 1981, Donald Pleasence hosted Saturday Night Live with musical guest Fear. It…didn’t go well. The band played that evening at the request of fan John Belushi. Before their three-song set was over, slam-dancers were destroying the set; a producer cut the segment short and Fear were subsequently banned from the show.
Adam Schlesinger was born on this day in 1967. Oscar- and Tony-nominated, Grammy- and Emmy-winning songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist, co-founder of power pop icons Fountains of Wayne (as well as Ivy and Tinted Windows), Schlesinger also wrote songs for films like That Thing You Do! and Josie & The Pussycats, and television series like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Sadly, Schlesinger died on April 1, 2020, of COVID-19 complications; he was fifty-two years old.
“Creep” by TLC was released on this day in 1994; the song would become the group’s first #1 hit.
John Candy was born on this day in 1950. Co-star of some of the most iconic films of the eighties and nineties, including Stripes, Splash, Spaceballs and JFK, Candy rose to fame as a member of the Toronto troupe of Second City and its television sketch comedy offshoot, SCTV. My favorite Candy role? Del Griffith, shower curtain ring salesman. Candy died of a heart attack on March 4, 1994, at the age of forty-three.
Two of my biggest late-80s crushes, Adam Horovitz and Larry Mullen Jr., are celebrating their fifty-fifth and sixtieth birthdays today, and now I feel very, very old.