Pop Culture | Celebrities | 80s | 90s

From Cult Members To Hollywood Stars, The Phoenix Family Has A Tragic Backstory People Don't Know

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The Phoenix family has been in the public eye for a very long time. River Phoenix was the first to make it big, but many of his siblings have become famous and successful in their own right.

But even though many of the Phoenix children have found success, they've had to overcome a lot. Their childhood was nothing short of traumatizing, and honestly, they may have one of the most tragic family histories in Hollywood.

The Beginning

Arlyn Dunetz married John Lee Bottom in September 1969, and in 1970 River was born. They continued traveling around the country, and shortly after their second child was born they joined a religious group called The Children Of God. It was this church that led to a lot of the family's issues.

The Children of God

River said that the controversial religious movement (or cult depending on who you ask) known as The Children of God is "ruining people's lives." While he didn't talk about it much, what he did reveal was truly haunting.

The family joined in 1973, and worked as missionaries and fruit gatherers. But that wasn't the upsetting part. The controversial church was known for their "Flirty Fishing" policies where they had their members try to encourage new converts by sleeping with them.

"I blocked it all out"

The Bottom family disagreed with this policy, but years later, River revealed that when he was only four years old he lost his virginity to someone in the cult, but "blocked out" a lot of the details.

"I'm glad I did it when I was young," River said, "But I didn't want... different body parts that were in my face to make me perverse when I was older, so I blocked it all out. I was completely celibate from 10 to 14. You're just born into that reality, and you accept it."

Surviving on no money

The family spent years in Puerto Rico preaching the message of the cult, living in poverty because the cult didn't pay them for their work. The children performed on the street for money, but if they didn't earn enough the kids didn't eat.

When they finally decided to leave the organization, Arlyn spoke out about the group's practices, saying, "The group was being distorted by the leader, David Berg, who was getting powerful and wealthy. He sought to attract rich disciples through sex."

The family came back to America on an ocean freighter and then they moved to Florida to live with Arlyn's parents, leaving behind their former last name as a symbol. The entire family adopted the last name Phoenix at this time, as a way to solidify their new beginning.

However the new beginning didn't go according to plan...

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