Johnny Cash Affair, Drugs and June Carter, Vivian Cash writes in her new book, ruined her marriage to music icon Johnny Cash – and Carter, others told her, was the more relentless of the two threats.
Vivian was the one cast out of the spotlight, left behind to raise her and Johnny’s four daughters in Ventura as he and June Carter became the king and queen of country music in almost storybook romance style. Vivian became fodder only for, as she writes, people curious about her past with her famous ex-husband and those of the Nashville mind-set who wanted her “written out of Johnny’s history altogether.”
Now Vivian’s writing back, so to speak, in “I Walked The Line: My Life with Johnny,” released this fall. By turns sad and uplifting, the book is a sobering antidote to our celebrity-obsessed culture and speaks to the oft-ignored fallout from fame.
In it, Vivian confesses that she never stopped loving Johnny and wistfully ruminates on what might have been had drugs and June not entered their lives. The heart and setting for much of this is Johnny and Vivian’s stint living in a hillside home above Nye Road in Casitas Springs from 1961 to 1967, a period containing some of the most colorful and worst of the legendary Man in Black’s bad-boy behavior – the pills, the booze, the binges, the arrests and an infamous June 1965 forest fire he set above Fillmore.
It wasn’t long after they moved to Casitas Springs, Vivian writes in the book, “that everything, and I mean everything, started to fall apart.” While Johnny toured (sometimes with June) and his fame grew, Vivian stayed home.
“She’d say, If I only could have traveled with him instead of being here raising four kids, things would have been different,’” recalled longtime friend Alice Smith of Ventura. “She said that a lot.”
Vivian remarried ( Ventura Police Officer Dick Distin, who still lives in town) in 1968 and lived out her days in Ventura, an active, admired and social member of the community. All four daughters she had with Cash – Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara – graduated from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura.
Vivian died in May 2005 at age 71, shortly after finishing the manuscript on her days with Johnny.
In some ways, her book is a retort to the Oscar-winning 2005 film “Walk the Line,” with Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Reese Witherspoon as June depicted in a dreamy love story.
The film portrayed Johnny as the aggressive pursuer and June as the reluctant one, but Vivian paints June as the chaser – most pointedly in the book when she writes about an angry backstage confrontation (in an unnamed place) in which June said to her, “Vivian, he will be mine.”
“She wanted people to know June went after Johnny,” said Ann Sharpsteen, who co-authored the book with Vivian. “That was where most of her pain and anger rested all these years.”
Vivian’s daughter, Cindy Cash, largely agrees with her mother.