By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Believe in him (1961): An intense, convincing young Cash makes his film debut as a singin', slayin' salesman in the less-than-killer film Five Minutes to Live. It is rereleased in 1966 (with an added rape scene) for the ever-discerning drive-in crowd, retitled Door to Door Maniac.
Accidentally on purpose (1965): Bored funster Cash indulges in a little harmless play, exploding public toilets with firecrackers and pulling off a heapin' helpin' of hotel high jinks: chopping down doors with an ax, flooding floors with a fire hose and once ripping down a wall with his bare hands. At one point, he offers his own brand of art critique, planting a quivering Bowie knife smack in the middle of the Mona Lisa's face. The knife was real. The painting was, thankfully, a reproduction.
I walk the fire line (1965): The federal government accuses Cash of starting a brush fire near Ventura, California. After a two-day battle to extinguish the flames (an effort that involved 450 men, eight aerial tankers and four helicopters), the Man in Black is forced to cough up $82,000 to cover the devastated land, which is now also black.
Darling companion (1965): Pillbillies Waylon Jennings and Johnny become roomies in a bargain $150-per-month apartment in Nashville, honing their drug habits into lifestyles. Says Waylon of the halcyon, year-and-a-half-long shack period: "Neither one of us could handle it, and the other one knew it. It got to the point where it nearly killed us." Though weight loss was not the duo's objective, Jennings admits the uppers had him down to a svelte "135 pounds soaking wet."
Busted (1965): On October 4, employing the old ditch-the-drugs-in-the-guitar smuggling technique that would work so well for Paul McCartney years later in Japan, federal narcotics agents bust Cash at El Paso International Airport with enough pills to choke an elephant. But while elephants don't take pills, Johnny has quite an appetite: 688 Dexedrine to go up and 475 Equanil to come back down. He receives a $1,000 fine and does one day in jail.
Pickin' time (1966): Sensitive outlaw Johnny lands in the hoosegow once again, this time in the peace-lovin' town of Starkville, Mississippi. The crime? Cash is nabbed, drunk and happy, picking flowers at 2 a.m. He is so incensed by the arrest that he decides to teach the walls of his jail cell a lesson with his foot. The enraged legend suffers a broken big toe.
In the jailhouse now (1968): From the liner notes to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: "Down the cell block you hear a steel door open, then close. Like every other man that hears it, your first unconscious thought reaction is that it's someone coming to let you out, but you know it isn't." Heady words, especially for a man who's spent more time performing in prisons--despite the macho jailbird image--than residing in them.
Ring of feathers (1982): Having finally wrenched the drug monkey from his back, Cash is almost kicked to death by an ostrich. Instead of burying its head in the sand, the frenzied, flightless bird tries to bury its spearlike beak and clawed feet in Cash's chest. The attack is nearly fatal; the singer is saved only by his enormous, metal belt buckle. He's rushed to a hospital suffering five broken ribs, and is prescribed pain killers that he keeps taking long after the pain is gone. Cash is hooked for another year.