she liked Imaginary Men best of all

25 Days / Day 12 / River Phoenix

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Who: River Phoenix, what can I say? He was etherally gorgeous and incredibly talented and he died way too young and far too stupidly

Why: I fell in love with him in Stand By Me. Was there a dreamier crush than Chris Chambers??

When: Stand By Me (1986)-his death in ’93

Level of Obsession: Well for most of Junior High he was my total Imaginary Boyfriend. You know when you weren’t dating yet and didn’t know how annoying real boys could actually be? So you had your perfect Imaginary Boyfriend who was always sweet and attentive and wanted to do all the same things you did? For me that was River as Chris Chambers. We even had an Imaginary Song: New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle!

“Ahhhh!” Moment(s): DUH! Stand by Me! Especially when he comforts Gordie over his guilt about his brother’s death. Dogfight with Lili Taylor – the last scene when his Vietnam vet returns to see her in her coffee shop is so, so beautiful and poignant and romantic and sad and an absolutely perfect ending. When his parents and brother say goodbye and leave him so he can start a new life in Running on Empty. (I watched that after he died and SOBBED like a crazy person)

How is it possible that River Phoenix has been dead for 16 years? That was one of my generation’s first “where were you when you heard?” moments. Although sadly I’m not sure of mine – I think I’m getting it confused with my “Where were you when you heard Kurt Cobain died?” moment. So awful and tragic and a complete waste of beauty, talent and life. His characters always seemed a little bit wounded and a vulnerable, like in My Own Private Idaho where he absolutely broke your heart. But he also had good comic timing and was in the underrated but hysterical I Love You To Death. And his young Indiana Jones in the third movie was a short but sweet look at what his future might have been (the next Harrison Ford?) We still miss you River.

Author: Amy H. Johnson

Amy H. Johnson is the author of The Fangirl Files a memoir about Boy Bands, TV Boyfriends and imaginary betrothals to 80s English pop stars. She prefers to be referred to as a "Cute Famous Boy Aficionado".

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