John Lee Bottom was the father of Joaquin Phoenix, the Oscar-winning actor who starred in movies such as “Joker”, “Walk the Line” and “Gladiator”. He was also the father of River Phoenix, the late actor and musician who died of a drug overdose in 1993. John Lee Bottom had a turbulent and adventurous life, which involved joining and leaving a religious cult, working as a carpenter and a landscaper, and raising five children with his ex-wife Arlyn Phoenix. He died in 2015 after battling cancer for many years. What was his life story and how did he influence his children’s careers?
Early Life and Marriage
John Lee Bottom was born in 1947 in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the son of Robert Merrill Bottom, a journalist and author, and Beulah Ingram, a homemaker. He had two brothers and two sisters. He attended Harvard University, where he graduated in 1969. He was a writer and an editor for the Harvard Lampoon, a humor magazine. He also wrote short stories and articles for various publications, such as Esquire, Penthouse and Playboy.
He met his future wife, Arlyn Dunetz, in California in 1968, when she was hitchhiking and he offered her a ride. They fell in love and got married on September 13, 1969. They moved to Mexico, where they joined a religious group called “The Children of God”, a Christian missionary organization that preached about the imminent end of the world. They traveled across South America and Puerto Rico, spreading the word of the group and living in poverty. They also changed their names to Jochebed and Amram, after biblical characters.
Leaving the Cult and Raising a Family
John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Phoenix had five children: River (1970), Rain (1972), Joaquin (1974), Liberty (1976) and Summer (1978). They were all born in different countries, such as Oregon, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. They were raised in the cult, where they were taught to sing and perform for money and donations. They also witnessed sexual abuse and violence within the group, which traumatized them.
In 1977, the couple decided to leave the cult, after learning about its controversial practices, such as “flirty fishing”, where female members were encouraged to have sex with potential converts. They returned to the United States, where they settled in Los Angeles. They changed their surname to Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rises from the ashes, symbolizing their new start. They also legally changed their first names back to their original ones.
John Lee Bottom worked as a carpenter and a landscaper, while Arlyn Phoenix got a job as a secretary for NBC. They also supported their children’s artistic talents and ambitions, and helped them get into the entertainment industry. Their eldest son, River, became a successful actor and musician, who starred in movies such as “Stand by Me”, “Running on Empty” and “My Own Private Idaho”. He also formed a band called Aleka’s Attic, with his sister Rain. Their second son, Joaquin, also pursued acting, and appeared in movies such as “Parenthood”, “To Die For” and “SpaceCamp”. Their daughters, Rain, Liberty and Summer, also acted and sang in various projects.
Divorce and Death
John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Phoenix divorced in 1997, after 28 years of marriage. They remained on friendly terms and co-parented their children. John Lee Bottom moved to Florida, where he continued to work as a landscaper. He also remarried and had another daughter, Jodean, who was born before his marriage to Arlyn, but was revealed to his family later.
He died in 2015, at the age of 68, after suffering from cancer for several years. He was buried in Florida, near his son River, who died in 1993, at the age of 23, from a drug overdose outside a nightclub in Hollywood. His death was a huge shock and a tragedy for his family and fans.
John Lee Bottom cause of death was a sad and unfortunate event, which marked the end of a remarkable and adventurous life. He was a man who had many passions and interests, who loved his family and his children, who faced many challenges and hardships, and who left a lasting legacy in the world of cinema and music. He was the father of one of the most acclaimed and versatile actors of his generation, Joaquin Phoenix, who has honored his memory and his influence in his work and his life. He will always be remembered as a loving and supportive father, a talented and creative writer, and a brave and adventurous soul.