His Own Private Agony

Who will stand by River Phoenix after the young actor's brutal death? His legion of fans will.

This is the basic lure of movies: stars light up our lives. A film actor, just by staring out of the screen and into our souls, can touch the deep pulse in any spectator. Our admiration segues into identification. "That's me up there," the filmgoer can believe, "me as I'd love to look, dare to act, hope to be." And for kids, always looking for lessons in moral etiquette, young actors can become the arbiters of glamour. Their bodies are temples to which anyone may bring offerings. Brat Packers' offscreen exploits fulfill a legend that fits Hollywood's melodramatic taste and tempo....

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