Where were you when River Phoenix died?: The vegan James Dean is being mourned by teenagers from Ilkley to Bristol, says Rose Rouse

HANNAH Gill, age 17, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, has already cleared a space on her sitting-room wall for the shrine. 'It's going to be a collage in tribute to him,' she said, sadly. 'I've cut out loads of pictures of him in magazines and collected all the newspaper articles this week.

'My mum told me on Monday morning and I just couldn't believe it. I liked him because he was different to the other brat-packers, he was more honest. He was good- looking and very talented, he was the kind of man you wanted to marry. And he was a vegan.'

'He wasn't like Christian Slater, who comes from a rich, middle-class background,' says 15- year-old Selina Laye from west London. 'He came from a big family who had odd beliefs and spent a lot of time moving around.'

On Sunday night, Selina and her friends were distraught with disbelief. 'We were all crying on the phone to each other. He was so young, we couldn't believe he had died.' In Bristol, 13-year-old Faith Caton burst into tears when she was listening to The Six O'Clock News on Radio 4. 'I was crying because it was like someone I knew dying,' she says.

At Godolphin & Latymer School in Hammersmith, communal crying broke out on Monday morning. 'Everyone was upset,' says 13-year-old Sarah Owen, 'because we were never going to see him in a film again. Everyone thought he was so pure and good.'

For the legions of teenage girls weeping for him last week, River Phoenix, with his dreamboy looks and ecologically-sound views on the environment, was more than a screen idol, he was considered part of their peer group. Teenage magazines - Just 17, Sky, Smash Hits - featured him constantly and he felt like a friend. 'He was so close to our age,' says Phoebe Coleman from north London. 'We all go to clubs and it was disturbing to hear he dropped dead outside one.'

Just 17 has been receiving letters all week from devastated readers. One was addressed to the magazine's agony aunt because the girl was so depressed she couldn't cope; others simply requested a tribute to him.

'Later in November, we will have a four-page tribute to his career including an exclusive interview,' says Just 17's picture editor, Sue Miles, who is a particularly big Phoenix fan herself. 'It's so weird, so sad that he has died, because he was such a good person.

'It's hard to believe he took drugs when I read that he wouldn't go out with a meat-eating girl because she could have meat impurities in her saliva.'

Theories about the cause of his death are rife. There are those, like Hannah Gill, who are waiting patiently for the results of the autopsy, and others who insist that someone must have spiked his drink. 'We're in a state of denial,' says Mille Buckle from Godolphin & Latymer, 'we can't believe he took drugs'

But others think he could have easily been led astray. 'It might have been the pressure of having to live that Hollywood lifestyle,'

says 13-year-old Suna Sezer, understandingly.

Individual tributes are being planned. 'We're going to have an evening watching his videos together,' says Faith Caton, 'I've already put a poster of him in pride of place above my bedroom door.'

At Godolphin & Latymer they are planning to write about him in their school magazine. 'I burnt a candle for him,' says 13-year-old Philippa Abbot. 'This is the death of our dream.'

Analogies with James Dean have abounded all week. The youth, the tragic death, the beauty - it's the perfect combination. However, at the private girls' school Benenden, in Kent, caution prevails. The third year pupils had planned an assembly in River Phoenix's honour.

'After reflection, they decided to wait until the cause of death has been established,' says Benenden's Registrar, Mrs Deborah Price.

'He was an inspirational figure and we need to think about it.'

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

    SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before