Sunday, February 24, 2008

WAS THE JOHNNY CASH MOVIE, WALK THE LINE, A LIE???? New book by first wife Vivian portrays June Carter as a villainous, adulterous, druggie hypocrite

On Oscar night, I must ask if the story line of the multi-award winning “biopic”, Walk The Line, was pure fiction. For I just read the autobiography of the late, Vivian Cash, titled, “I Walked The Line,” that contains pages upon pages of love letters to her, written by a very young and not-famous-yet Johnny Cash while he was in the US military. Vivian was the first wife, as well as mother of Johnny’s 4 daughters, Cindy, Tara, Kathy, and famed singer Rosanne. When the movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon was released, some of the daughters told the film’s director that it was very unfair to their mother, and after reading this new book, I can see why.

Vivian met Johnny while she was still a teen in high school, just before he was to be sent overseas for the service. To be honest, I eventually had to skip this mulitude of published love letters he wrote to her while he was away. Johnny wrote 10,000 pages to her over many years, (always professing his undying love for her), that after a while all read alike – full of passion, hating to be in the military, hating to be overseas and wishing he was back home “in God’s country” with his beautiful Vivian. he said he’d never stop loving.

After years of duty and letter writing, Johnny was finally released from the military allowing he and Vivian to finally marry. Back then, Vivian explains in the book, music wasn’t a big part of his life, and they were very poor, and very in love. Johnny was a different man before he became famous, the ultimate family guy, and Vivian informs the readers, back then, he never ever touched alcohol. All of that would change when he catapulted into stardom, that at first was a wonderful experience for husband and wife. In the early days of his fame, Johnny would bring his wife Vivian onstage and introduce her as his loving wife. That wasn’t shown in the film Walk The Line though. But their marriage would begin to unravel when Johnny became a boozer, a druggie, and then got introduced to June Carter.

In Walk The Line, June Carter was portrayed as the woman who was pursued doggedly by Johnny, trying so hard to resist him. I even remember a scene in the film where Johnny says to June on a bus, “you’re scared” to get involved. From Vivian’s book, that romantic movie scene probably never happened, and June probably was never teary or timid at all. In fact, Vivian states in the book that Johnny’s parents, band members, and others were calling her up at home, saying that June was very aggressive, totally after Johnny, and brazenly doing things like sitting on his lap in the tour bus. There were even some showdowns between the loyal wife and Johnny’s soon-to-be lover that are documented in this book.

But what makes the cinematic Walk The Line seem even more a fantasy is that it portrayed June and her family as helping to save Johnny from drugs yet Vivian claims it was June who was a drug-user herself, and very responsible for helping Johnny stay hooked on booze and pills. The author is deceased now, but believed while she was alive that June helped drug up Johnny while he was on tour, and that is what lead to the destruction of her marriage.
Finally, Vivian divorced Johnny, and after his remarriage, Vivian states in her book, and recounts times when her daughters had to visit Dad with June, that June was allegedly very drugged out for the girls to remark. Walk The Line also showed a scene where Johnny and June found God again, and viewers see Reese and Joaquin, as the characters, walking into a church as redeemed and rightous. Yet Vivian’s book shows a double life. While Johnny and June appeared on Christian shows like The Billy Graham Crusades, the home life, didn’t seem to be so sweet for her daughters, painting June as a mean step-mom as well. Before Johnny divorced June, he was giving her and her own daughters lavish gifts. Meanwhile his own girls had, according to Vivian, just the basics to live on, in part because she sounds like a good mother who didn’t’ believe in spoiling them, yet it is inferred by the ex Mrs. Cash that Wife #2 didn't seem to be as generous to her stepdaughters as she was to her own girls.
What angered Vivian even more is that June would go on talk shows like Late Night With Johnny Carson, saying she was acting like she was “plumb tired” of having to be a busy mom to both her and Johnny’s kids when in fact, Vivian states, June seldom spent time with her daughters and when she did she allegedly wasn’t fully all there. It really ticked off wife number one to learn that some organization in California even named June as Mother of The Year.
This book is like two books in one – most of it a historical archive of Johnny’s love letters to Vivian, that after a while of reading feels so repetitive that I skipped onto the various photographs and Vivian’s own side of the story which is only 80 pages, back in Part 2. By the end of her story, I felt so sorry for this woman who had loved an American icon who had shattered her perfect family dream and broken her heart. Her life was never the same again, and Vivian even admits that even despite her marrying again, she never stopped loving Johnny who she at times puts lots of blame on too. Ironically, despite her despising June for much of her life, Vivian seemed to have a guilt-ridden, persecution complex, often kicking and blaming herself for not fighting harder for Johnny to save their marriage. I wanted to be able to tell her, 'how could you have? You were raising all those girls alone, and being deceived and lied to by others. This is one of those celebrity tell-alls that in many ways, didn’t have the happy ending the movie did.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

I've been having a lot of the same curiosities lately too. There's always two sides to a story. People want to believe in the perfect love story of Johnny and June, but there was another love story before that. One that spurred one of the greatest songs of all time--- Walk the Line. Great post!