Little Leaf Phoenix


Thumbing through some mags from my teen years, I came across a July 1984 Teen Set that included this picture of the Phoenix family. The focus was River, on the cusp of fame, but one can spot his brother Joaquin (who had given himself the name of Leaf like his nature-related siblings) easily. And you can see where Joaquin got his looks. Isn’t he the spitting image of his dad?

River would be dead nine years later from drug-induced cardiac arrest, while Joaquin went on to critical acclaim for his numerous roles, from Gladiator to Walk The Line. But working with him can prove difficult. A strict vegan, he refuses to wear anything made from leather or use leather props. And his behavior is curious. Remember when he announced in 2008 that he had retired from acting to pursue a rapping career? Or his incoherent behavior on Letterman?

What the teen mag failed to mention is that the Phoenix children (also a made-up name; the real last name was Bottom) were born to parents in the Children of God cult and performed on the streets and at various talent contests to provide food and financial support for the family. But that doesn’t make good copy.


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