On This Gay Day: Remembering actor River Phoenix

River Phoenix died on this day in 1993 aged just 23.

Actor River Phoenix passed away on this day in 1993, he was just 23 years old.

His life came to a tragic end outside The Viper Room in Los Angeles where he experienced an overdose after taking a combination of heroin and cocaine. As he suffered convulsions on the pavement outside the club his girlfriend, actress Samantha Mathis, looked on in horror, his sister Rain tried to give him mouth-to-mouth, and brother Joaquin called for an ambulance.

He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him, and he pronounced dead at 1.51am.

Phoenix was an acclaimed actor who made 14 films during his short career, two of them were released after his death. Dark Blood, the movie he was filming at the time of his death was not released until 2012, many years after his passing.

Phoenix got audience’s attention in early films including Explorers and Stand by Me, he acted opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest names including Sydney Poitier in Little Nikita, and Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast. 

He played a younger version of Ford when he appeared as the young Indiana Jones in a sequence that opens Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. He also had memorable roles in Running on Empty, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon. 

His greatest praise came for his leading role alongside Keanu Reeves in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. In the film he played a gay street hustler searching for belonging.

Back in the early 90’s both Phoenix and Reeves’ agents tried to dissuade them from taking on the roles, advising that playing a gay or bisexual character could have a negative effect on their careers. They both ignored the advice, and instead the world got one of the classic LGBTIQA+ themed films, and acclaimed performances from both the actors.

David Ogden Stiers was born on this day in 1942 

Actor David Ogden Stiers, best known for portraying Major Charles Winchester III on the long running TV show M*A*S*H was born on this day in 1942.

Ogden Stiers joined the hit TV show in 1977 at the beginning of its sixth season, filling to void left by actor Larry Linville who had played the character of Frank Burns. He stayed with the show until its final episode in 1983.

Aside from his best-known work in M*A*S*H, the actor was also a successful voice actor lending his voice to many Disney productions including Beauty and the Beast, Lilo and Stitch, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

During his career the actor appeared in many well-known TV shows including Charlie’s Angles, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Matlock. The Practice and Frasier.

He also appeared in the landmark miniseries North and South. In the 1980’s he appeared in a series of Perry Mason TV movies, his character District Attorney Michael Reston repeatedly losing to Ramond Burr’s Mason.

The actor also appeared in several Woody Allen movies including Shadows and FogMighty AphroditeEverybody Says I Love You and Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

In 2009 the actor shared that he was gay and said that he’d kept his sexuality a secret throughout most of his career out of fear that it would stop him getting roles on the family friendly TV shows he was best known for.

Ogden Stiers passed away in 2018 aged 75.

OIP Staff

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