It starts in the summer of 1968 when a gardener picks up a twenty-three-year-old hitchhiker while driving along the Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Detesting her monotonous existence as a New York Secretary, Arlyn Dunetz (later changed her name to heart) left her job, husband and family and began hitchhiking to California intent on becoming part of the hippie lifestyle. Also hating his life, earning a meagre living as a gardener, John Bottom invited his passenger back home where they talked throughout the night. "We just knew we had similar desires," said Arlyn years later. Quickly falling in love, they took to the open road traveling from commune to commune and were married in a hippie ceremony in 1969.
At the beginning of the summer of 1970 a travelling group including John and his now pregnant wife arrived at Nance Farm on the outskirts of the small town of Metolius, Oregon looking for seasonal work harvesting the local mint crop. This would actually be the venue where River would make his first performance. Arlyn had insisted on a natural birth, a birth that proved to be extremely difficult, lasting three whole days and the entire commune came together to help. To a huge round of applause, River Jude Bottom was born at midday on Sunday, August 23, 1970. He was named River after the "river of life" featured in Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha that his parents had been reading and Jude after the Beatles' song Hey Jude. The birth left Arlyn extremely ill for many months and when a cold winter set in, John moved his new family to a warmer California.
The following year, the family turned to the open road and once again traveled from commune to commune encountering hostility from the mainstream world wherever they went. It would be a radical Christian cult, The Children of God, where they would find solace.
Arlyn and John's second child, Rain Joan of Arc, was born when the family moved to the main Children of God commune at Crockett, Texas on March 31st, 1973 at 9:47 PM, six days earlier than expected. On a rainy day, hence the name, Arlyn again refused medical help and it was John who delivered River's first sister.
During the same year, after progressing up through the hierarchy of The Children of God, John was given the position of Archbishop of Venezuela and the Caribbean. Now fully fledged missionaries, John and Heart headed south spending a short time in Mexico before moving on to Puerto Rico with River and Rain in tow. It was here where Joaquin Rafael would be born on Monday, October 28,1974 at 6:14 PM. Joaquin, the only family member not to have a 'nature' name would change his name to Leaf when he was four. (You all know the story behind Leaf right?)lol
After spending two years in Puerto Rico the family found themselves in dire financial straits and took to the road once more heading towards South America. They would eventually settle in Caracas, Venezuela where River's second sister Libertad Mariposa (or Liberty Butterfly) was born.
River and Rain would sing songs on street corners to provide food for the family. "A lot of people would gather and listen to us," remembered River years later. "I'd be strumming on a guitar that was taller than me at about a hundred miles an hour - I knew about five chords. We drew hundreds to the plaza who were delighted and charmed by us." Passing out Children of God literature as well, the family who could now speak fluent Spanish continued to recruit many hundreds of new followers to the cult.
Left to fend for themselves because the cult provided no support for its' far-flung missionaries, the family found themselves living in absolute poverty and terrible conditions. "It was disgusting. It was a shack. It had no toilet and was rat-infested," River said years later. John and Arlyn became resentful and disillusioned with The Children of God when as Arlyn described, "The group was being distorted by a leader who was getting very full of power and wealthy. He sought to attract rich disciples through sex. No way."
The family was now forced to move into a dirty beach hut outside the city where River would spend his seventh birthday. "I was never frightened," River remembered. "When you're raised on the road you don't fear these things, you don't question them. When we didn't have enough money, we prayed and ate coconuts we found on the beach." Taking pity on the family a local priest arranged for them to be smuggled home aboard an ocean freighter that was carrying a cargo of Tonka toys to Florida.
"We were stowaways. The crew discovered us halfway home," remembered River. Surprisingly, the crew treated the ragged family as VIP's even throwing a last minute birthday party for Joaquin. "It was a blast," said River as he recalled the children all receiving presents in the form of damaged Tonka toys. Shortly thereafter the Phoenix family arrived at a marina in Englewood, Florida on an old sailing catamaran and stayed there for several weeks. Recalls one local resident living there during that period, "I had no idea who they were at the time, but I can still see the kids paddling on the Intercoastal in a dugout canoe."
The last child Arlyn gave birth to was Summer Joy on December 10th, 1978 at 2:34 AM in Winterpark Florida. The name that represented the feelings the family felt now they were back in the United States after their ordeal in Venezuela. (She was actually supposed to be born November 30th) John returned to working as a gardener but within three months he aggravated an old back injury that left him almost disabled and the family once again found themselves in financial trouble. "Rich kids gave us their old clothes - They were the best clothes we ever had," remembered River.
The children now: Rain has a son, Jonas Winter Phoenix, born 7th February 1993.
Summer is pregnant with Casy Affleck's child!
ALL for siblings have modeled, showing that people recognize them for not being "hippies", but really beautiful people.
Click on the pics for more info! I am too lazy to type the filmographies now, but here are direct links to them:
While I am making this page, I really realize how much I envy the Phoenix family. They were still happy and stayed together even though they had to deal with being flat out broke, the children all have acting qualities that are unmatchable, and seem to come naturally. Of course they have been vegan their whole lives, which is something I cant say, but wish so much I could, lastly, they didnt let fame control how they act, they arent blown away by it. I wish Rain, Summer, and Joaquin all the best in life! :)