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updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Fans of River Phoenix continue to mourn his death while defending his memory, but other correspondents had nothing good to say about his contemporaries and their fast-lane lifestyles (PEOPLE, Jan. 17). Most believe that achieving fame and fortune too young can be deadly and that the lessons of the past are still being ignored.

YOUNG, RICH & WILD
All the River Phoenix hype is a bit much. No one is going lo be scared away from drugs because someone they look up to died from drugs. All you are doing is saying unpleasant things, true or untrue, about someone who can no longer defend himself.
LAURA LEIGH, Clovis, Calif.

As teenagers, we are often forced to deal with tragedies such as River Phoenix's untimely death. In my four years in our tiny 400-student high school, five students died from alcohol-related accidents alone. Each time another died, the students mourned them for a few days and then continued their usual drinking and partying. People of my genera-lion seem to see themselves as immortal, viewing the ones who do get hurt or killed as imperfect or unworthy and denying that we are just as susceptible to addiction, pain or even death. As teenagers, we must begin to think for ourselves and lead, instead of following like the sheep we seem to have become.
S. CONTE, Evansville, Ind.

Is it so surprising that Hollywood youths are nothing more than drug-snorting, sleazy, spoiled alcoholics? When you're barely out of your teens and suddenly making lens of thousands of dollars a week and living in a city that glorifies this sort of behavior, what else do you expect? Hollywood is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. I'm sure we all remember what happened to the people who lived there.
LORRAINE GRIFFITHS, Burlington, Ontario

For those who may have forgotten, the Bible (Genesis 19:24) reports that the ancient Palestinian cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with brimstone and fire for their inhabitants' wickedness.—ED.

Your headline should have read: Young, Rich & Stupid.
LOUISE K. BLACK, Pasadena, Texas

I'm really tired of the so-called legitimate press connecting Johnny Depp with the death of River Phoenix. Are you trying to ruin another young actor's career? Depp should not be held accountable for what Phoenix did to himself. It's certainly not a crime to own a nightclub.
JOSH COLLINS, Washington

Having come from a family that has been rendered dysfunctional by drug and alcohol abuse, I can see a clear case of denial among those whom River could call his family and friends. The real tragedy is that no one had the courage to speak out and try to stop him. Where were Phoenix's real friends?
NAME WITHHELD

I'd like lo add one more place to the list of Los Angeles hot spots: the county morgue.
LINDA BECKER, Oceanside, Calif.

PICKS & PANS
As I read Andrew Abrahams's review of Michael Bolton's latest release, The One Thing, I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized he was actually praising the first single, "Said I Loved You...But I Lied." Then I discovered he had panned the rest of the album. Oh well, that's progress for Michael. PEOPLE only haled nine out of 10 songs.
CANDACELA PRADE, Phoenix

Slagging Michael Bolton is becoming old and extremely tiresome.
HELEN ROGERS, Dumfries, Va.

ALBINA DU BOISROUVRAY
While reading your article about Countess Albina du Boisrouvray, I couldn't help but think about the Young, Rich & Wild of Hollywood. The countess shows such genuine concern for those less fortunate than herself. She also shows that when you find yourself in the enviable position of having more money than you know what lo do with, there are far more construe live things you can do with it than buy drugs.
ANN MACRILLO, Poughquag, N.Y.

BARBRA STREISAND
As a 30-year-old native of Las Vegas, I personally found it quite easy to "shrug off' the $1,000 ticket price to see Barbra Streisand. I looked at it this way: I have been a Streisand fan for about 20 years, and I have been anxiously waiting for her return performance in my hometown for about as long. So I mentally broke down the $1,000 ticket price to a cost of about $50 each year that I have dreamed about seeing her in concert, and it was well worth it! Not to mention that by some freak chance I ended up sitting in the front row next to Virginia Clinton Kelley—which made my New Year's Eve even more unforgettable!
PATTY CALLANAN COALEY, Las Vegas

VLADIMIR ZHIRINOVSKY
"Mad Vlad" Zhirinovsky had better return lo one of his "higher institutes of learning" and take a medical course in Lab Tests 101. Maybe then he would find that there are no blood tests to determine a person's religion. This man is another Hiller and should no I be taken lightly.
EDIE KOLLER, North Hollywood, Calif.

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