John Lee Bottom- Tragedy Of Joaquin Phoenix Father

by sabina Fri Mar 24 2023 Updated On Wed Sep 06 2023
John Lee Bottom- Tragedy Of Joaquin Phoenix Father

John Lee Bottom was the father of Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix and the late actor, singer, and songwriter River Phoenix. 

Lee Bottom was the founder of a landscape gardening company. He was  Catholic

Bottom sadly passed away in 2015 after battling Cancer

John Lee Bottom's ex-wife and son.
John Lee Bottom's ex-wife and son. Source: Instagram

Married Life And Religious Cult

Lee Bottom met his future wife, Arlyn "Heart" Bottom, while she was hitchhiking in California in 1978 and married in less than a year on September 13, 1969.

Their first son, River, was born in 1970

Soon after their first daughter, Rain, was born in 1972, they joined the religious cult " The Children of God" founded by David Brandt Berg

The cult members didn't believe in working or sending their children to school and were committed to that lifestyle. 

Because they counted on donated food, they had to work on missionaries traveling throughout South America and Puerto Rico, where they gave birth to their other two children.

Family of John Lee Bottom.
Family of John Lee Bottom. Source: Instagram

In 1977, Lee Bottom and his wife discovered that the cult had a shady side, particularly the practice of flirty fishing, where female members would offer to sleep with men to join them in the religious cult. 

They left the cult soon after. Although it took them some years to bounce back, they managed to start all over again. 

Around that time, the family adopted the surname after a mythological bird, Phoenix( Phoenix rises from the ashes of its predecessors and obtains a new life), and started their new life. 

When their older son River was nine, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Arlyn got a job as an executive secretary for NBC

While in Los Angeles, Arlyn wrote a letter saying they have talented kids, which caught the attention of a high-profile child agent Iris Burton. 

Burton later got their children into commercials and bit parts on T.V. before River got a breakthrough role in Stand By Me.

Divorce After Nearly Three Decades 

Lee Bottom and Arlyn were in marital bliss for nearly three decades, but unfortunately, they decided to call it quits. 

They got divorced in 1997. Following his divorce, he avoided the spotlight and worked as a carpenter for many years. 

His ex-wife, Arlyn, is currently married to her third husband, Jeffrey Weisberg. She married him in 2001.

Joaquin's Life Was A Disaster

Joaquin is one of the most successful actors in the entertainment industry. 

He now has everything and is living a good life however, it wasn’t the same for him in the past. 

His journey to where he is now was full of struggles, as he had to go through a lot. 

His family raised Joaquin in the cult, but his family moved to LA when he was very young. 

He, his parents, and his five siblings shared a single bedroom, and they lived in an apartment where the landlord didn’t allow the kids, so every time the landlord visited, he and his siblings used to hide in the laundry for hours. 

In 1993, he lost his brother River due to overuse of drugs, and his death affected him so badly that he took two years break from acting. 

He did come back and acted like everything was okay, but deep down, he was off the edge after his brother died. 

He played in the movie Walk the Line in 2005, where he played the character of a musician dealing with drug abuse and alcoholism, and as his brother of same there were rumors of him breaking down the movie set. 

However, Joaquin denied the rumors, saying that he didn’t have to use his personal loss for acting. 

After he was done shooting that movie, Joaquin realized that he had become addicted to alcohol. 

He knew that he needed alcohol to make him feel better, and he felt it wasn’t right, so he went to rehab. 

He decided to attend an alcoholism anonymous meeting and was later told that it was the best decision he ever made in his life. 

Joaquin also revealed about his anxiety. Despite working in so many movies, he opened up that he gets anxious in front of the camera. 

He sweats a lot due to anxiety, and because of that, he had to keep pads under his armpit. 


John was 68 at the time of his death.

Net Worth

Lee Bottom is no more in this world. So, we have the net worth of his son, Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin has a net worth of $60 million.

The Tragic Death Of His Oldest Son River

As his older son was climbing a milestone, receiving a nomination for an Academy Award in 1989, he indulged himself in self-destructive behavior, an addiction to drugs, which eventually became the cause of his death. 

River tragically died on Halloween night of the year 1993 outside an L. A hotspot, The Viper Room, after a drug overdose. He was just 23. 

The Autopsy result stated the presence of a high concentration of morphine and cocaine in the blood and other substances in smaller concentrations.

A close friend of the River and Phoenix family who chose to remain anonymous during an interview with Inside Edition said that River had a squeaky clean image as a vegetarian and a shy private person but was a walking contradiction regarding his health. 

He also said his drug addiction started to take a toll that changed his personality. 

John Lee Bottom's late son River Phoenix.
John Lee Bottom's late son River Phoenix. Source: Instagram

His then-wife Arlyn(Heart Phoenix) wrote an open letter to the Los Angeles Times saying that her son River was not a regular drug user and was never part of a club scene in L.A. 

She also wrote that her son River, who had the whole world at his fingertips to listen, felt deep frustration that no one heard.

After his cremation, River’s ashes were scattered at the family ranch in Micanopy, Florida,

He Was Worried That The Increasing Fame Would Eat His Children Up

Lee Bottom was constantly worried that his children could get ruined by the showbiz industry, so he objected to River from appearing in “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.”

River, in an interview, said his father didn’t want them to be materialistic and lose all the values they were brought up believing in. 

Lee Bottom said he told River he wanted him out of movies, explaining that he had seen too many brilliant kids go down, and he realized that his son could not buck the system. 

He tried to persuade him and his children to help him run the vegan restaurant he had opened so that they could spend some time helping with cooking, making music, and harvesting organic fruit like they used to. 

Lee Bottom recalled River telling him just before leaving that he would see him after this movie, which he did. 

He said that not a day passes without thinking long and hard about River’s death and asking himself why.

Joaquin Credits His Father And Brother For His Acting Career

Joaquin credited Lee Bottom and his brother for his successful acting career. 

In a heartfelt tribute, he recalled his older brother River coming home from work and making him watch a VHS copy of the movie “Raging Bull.” 

The following day, he woke and made him watch again, saying he would start acting again. 

He didn’t ask but told him that was what he would do. He said he is indebted to his older brother for that. 

Besides that, he also thanked his dad for instilling in him the greatest work ethic, humorously adding that he is the greatest mother*cker he has ever met.

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