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Hattiesburg American from Hattiesburg, Mississippi • 19

Location:
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Issue Date:
Page:
19
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

State Friday, November 18, 2005 3C HATTIESBURG AMERICAN Cash's dauighteir: Fim Mh to toll stony AC II Wpl CVVAf. I 'if, Photos by JOE EUIS I The Clanon-Ledger Among Cindy Cash's prized possessions is a Martin acoustic guitar autographed by her father, legendary singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, and his second wife, June Carter Cash. The messages read "To Cindy I love you, play it pretty Dad" and "For you My Cindy always your loving Mother II June Carter Cash." Cindy Cash makes home in Mississippi By Cori Bolger The Clarion-Ledger CANTON When he went to work, he was gone for days, not hours. At home, his four daughters saw him as a silent and stoic figure who moved in and out of their lives like a ghost. For Cindy Cash, clarity came the first time her dad John picked her up from elementary school.

"I was excited because my friends would get to see that I actually had a father," Cash said. "That was all I could think about during school." He pulled up curbside in the family) black Cadillac, hair cut short and slicked back, wearing dark sunglasses and looking as cool as a movie star. But when a friend asked for his autograph, Cash's pride quickly gave way to anger. She realized that no one saw this man as her daddy, only as the man who played guitar and sang on TV. Only as Johnny Cash.

Growing up in the shadow of an American icon and international music legend hasn't always been easy for the Cash girls. That includes Cindy Cash, 47, who now lives a quiet life in her quaint Canton home with husband Eddie Panetta and their protective chihuahua. Throughout her life, she's dodged rumors and misconceptions about her family. And with the national release of the Cash biopic "Walk the Line" today, there's sure to be a few more. Cash refuses to see or promote the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

The film chronicles Cash's rise to fame, drug abuse, Christian faith, love affair with June Carter Cash and the subsequent destruction of his first marriage. She tends to agree with her sister, Kathy Cash, who recently spoke out against the way filmmakers negatively portray her mother, Vivian Liberto Distin, and neglect to mention Cash's four daughters. Distin and Cash were married for 13 years. Distin died earlier this year. "It ends in 1968 and everything big in his career happened after that so it doesn't make sense to me," Cash said.

"It's basically about my dad and June's adultery and my mother's agony." What she will do, however, is talk enthusiastically about her family -from her years growing up in California to her 28-year-old daughter, Jessica. But only A she's asked to. "Like most celebrity children, she doesn't bring it up," Panetta said. "As a general rule, we don't offer that information to anybody." Cash made an exception by speaking at the "Denim Diamonds" gala 'FULL Authorized Perched on a shelf in the living room of Cindy Cash's home is a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented in 1 999 to her father, legendary singer and songwriter Johnny Cash. 'Man in Black' Bom: Feb.

26,1932, in Kingsland, Ark. Died: Sept 12, 2003, in Nashville. Spouses: Vivian Liberto Distin (married 1954-1967) and June Carter Cash (married in 1968). Children: Daughters Roseanne (singer songwriter; lives in New York), Katny (homemaker, lives in Nashville), Tara (jewelry designer; lives in Portland, Ore.) and Cindy; son John Carter (lives in Hendersonville, hosted by the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce in August. "Cindy is so much like her dad she is also a natural born storyteller," said Linda Bynum, the chamber's executive director.

Conversations about her dad often start a bit awkward when strangers prod. "Cindy Cash. Hmm. Are you related? You know, to Johnny Cash?" "No way. Prove it!" "Most people don't believe me.

I've even had people ask to see my driver's license," Cash said. "It is a door opener for a lot of questions, and I'm OK with that It's something I've dealt with all of my life. "If people didn't ask about Dad, I would think there was something wrong, like he'd been forgotten." Once, a repairman walked into her home, took a look at the framed photos of Johnny Cash and stacks of his recordings and quipped: "You must be a real big fan." Yeah, you could say that. Cash prefers to taut frankly about her dad, a loving father who struggled with his own problems. It's her way, she says, of keeping his spirit alive.

"Mom was always the authority figure who gave us our foundation," she said. "When I got to know him, I tar and sing on TV, she said. In his final days, Johnny Cash was confined to a wheelchair and spent most of his time in his office or recording studio. He was intensely brokenhearted over the death of June Carter Cash. "He was frightened because he was blind and just lost his best friend, but he wasn't the type who would just lay down and die," Cash said.

"He was still grateful for his life and he knew God wasn't finished with him yet. It was the best quality time I ever spent with him." After her dad's death in 2003, Cash attended his funeral with dozens of musicians and fans who came to celebrate the life of the Man in Black. She fought off the notion that she was sharing her grief with the rest of the world a world who never knew her dad as Dad. Then, she realized she had been sharing him all along with people who were profoundly impacted by his music. And that, she knew, was finally OK.

"When I truly realized how much everyone genuinely loved him," she said, "it brought me so much During the summers, the girls went fishing, boating and camping with their dad. In the meanwhile, he kept in touch by sending poems and postcards each week. One note, written on House of Cash stationary, says: Dear Cindy, Goodness gracious, me oh my. Cindy is a sweetie pie. Tra-Ia-la, and whoop-de-doo, I love you, cross my heart I do.

Love, Daddy. At 18, Cash married her high school sweetheart. Later, they divorced and she and her daughter moved to Hendersonville at her dad's request. "He wanted to spend some time with me, and I didn't know it then," she said. "I wanted to know him as my dad but it always felt like I was at the end of the line." With some slight parental prodding, Cash began performing on her dad's TV series.

The Johnny Cash Show. They toured the country and Cash met her second husband, Philadelphia native and musician Marty Stuart. They were both 21. "Dad would get us separate hotel rooms in a four-star hoteL Finally one day, I said Tad, we're going to get married you're wasting a lot of Cash said. "He said "No! As long as I've got two rooms, I don't have to believe So we had two rooms until we got married." They split eight years later.

It's only coincidence, then, that Cash moved to Mississippi to love another native son, whom she married in 2003. Panetta works for a company that builds apartment complexes, while Cash deals antiques at Ridgeland's Antique Mall of the South. She plays guitar and sings in the privacy of their home. Their life, Panetta said, is surprisingly normaL "We get the biggest kick out of people not knowing," he said. At times, talking about the past remains problematic for Cash, who spent the last few months of her father's life by his side.

She can't bring herself to watch the poignant video he made for his single Hurt, and she recently broke down at the sound of her father's wavering voice on a Red Cross commercial They remind her too much of the feeble Johnny Cash, not the strong, strapping man who used to play gui saw a man, a father with weaknesses and a human side." Her daddy, she will tell you, was one of the funniest people she's ever known, with a biting humor so unpredictable it still makes her giggle. He'd tell them: "Don't be afraid of snakes when you're waterskiing. If a water moccasin tries to bite you under the water, hell drown as soon as he opens his mouth." Cash believed those words until she was in her late 20s. "You didn't expect him to be so crass, either, but there was such a wisdom about him in his humor," she said. Her daddy a traditional Southern gentleman loved his country, his mama and cooking hot-dogs on the Fourth of July.

He collected ancient Greek and Roman coins and preferred Coca-Cola from the bottle, never the can. He took classes to become an ordained minister and bought furniture covered in leering gargoyles. "I think he accomplished more in his lifetime than he ever wanted to accomplish," Cash said. "He loved his work more than anyone I've ever known." Cash was 9 years old when her parents divorced amid tabloid scandal. After his marriage to June Carter, Johnny Cash moved into an estate on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Term.

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