Thursday, September 24, 2009

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

When I heard the news that Mackenzie Phillips was claiming to have had a 10-year sexual relationship with her father, Mamas and the Papas leader John Phillips, my first thought was it's hard to believe he'd choose her for an incestuous affair when his two other daughters are Chynna and Bijou.

But then after watching Mackenzie's "tell-all" performance on Oprah, I was left with a number of more serious thoughts. First off, I have no problem with someone telling their story -- however unseemly -- provided it's true. And I have no idea whether or not this story is true. There's no doubt that John Phillips was a crackpot of sorts, and given the complete lack of boundaries that seemed to exist between the two of them, anything's possible. But there's also no doubt that drug addicts will say and do ANYTHING for MONEY to feed their habits. (I think we can all figure out where the advance from this book likely went.) And more often than not, fading celebrities will also say and do ANYTHING for ATTENTION (another form of addiction). Oprah mentioned that Mackenzie could have written this book WITHOUT this "shocking revelation," but anyone who has followed pop culture at all knows this couldn't be further from the truth.

First of all, there really aren't that many people who even care about Mackenzie Phillips anymore. And those of us who (kind of) do have all heard the Mick Jagger story, that Dad injected her the first time she tried intravenous drugs and all about her getting fired from "One Day at a Time" for being a junkie. It's all been well-documented. Furthermore, after rendering herself unhirable for years, the only thing she had going for her was her (alleged) sobriety. While it may not have been as big as her sitcom heyday, she had a starring role on a Disney Channel(!) show for a couple of years at the beginning of the decade, and has been doing guest spots regularly ever since. But -- as she almost too tellingly revealed on Oprah -- the minute she got arrested at LAX last year for cocaine and heroin possession, she KNEW her career was over ... again. (And believe me, she was right. Who would give a has-been 50-year-old who has fallen off the wagon again another chance?)

About the ONLY option she had at this point was to follow the path of her TV sis, Valerie Bertinelli, and write a scandalous tell-all book. (Well, I guess she could have also gotten fat, but everyone knows junkies are no good at that.) And in order to get a decent book deal, she HAD to produce something new and something big -- and "High on Arrival" delivers on both counts.

I was also thinking how pathetic she seemed. Not for the relationship with her father (assuming it's true), but the Norma Desmond quality she exuded as she strolled around L.A. pointing out all of the places she had gotten into trouble and recalling her dad telling her that she's different because she's "a Phllips" and "the rules don't apply to her" because she was John Phillips' daughter. (Did he really say that?) I'm guessing that story had a lot more cache (and was certainly more convincing) 30 years ago.

I don't know how someone who had a 10-year (eventually) consensual sexual relationship with their father is supposed to act, but Mackenzie's complete lack of ambivalence toward her dad and "if I can help just one person" delivery struck me as insincere. More telling, though, is how she made a point of saying no one who knows her would dispute what she was saying (even while allowing that some of her siblings wished she would not come forward with this dirty laundry).

Cut to the statements from BOTH of Mackenzie's former stepmothers:

Genevieve Waite Phillips, John's third wife and Bijou's mother, said in a statement: "I am stunned by Mackenzie's terrible allegations about her father. I would often complain to John about her overly familiar attitude towards him, and he would tell me that that was just her way. John was a good man who had the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. He was incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, of having such a relationship with his own child."

Michelle Phillips, John's second wife and Chynna's mother, says she has "every reason to believe [Mackenzie's account is] untrue."

"She told me, then she called me back and said, 'You know I'm joking,'" Michelle Phillips told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that Mackenzie told her entire family in 1997. "I said it wasn't funny. Mackenzie said, 'I guess we have different senses of humor.'"

Michelle acknowledges that John was a bad parent and a drug addict. "But fuck his daughter? If she thinks it's true, why isn't she with a good psychiatrist on a couch? I think it's unconscionable that Oprah would let her do her show."

Mackenzie has "a lot of mental illness," Michelle said, adding that she believes the actress timed the release of her book to steal thunder away from Chynna's new album. "Mackenzie is jealous of her siblings, who have accomplished a lot and did not become drug addicts."

OK, admittedly that bit about "Chynna's new album" is almost as delusional as anything Mackenzie's said, but still you can see that she is being dishonest when saying "ask anyone" and they won't dispute what she's saying. (It should be noted, too, that Michelle Phillips normally has NOTHING nice to say about John and wouldn't even speak to him for the last 10 or 20 years of his life -- even while they were being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet defends him on this one.)

Whatever the truth is the whole thing is sad story all the way around. Still, I can't help but wonder if her publisher's decision to have Augusten Burroughs blurb the book was meant to be ironic.

UPDATE: Several people who were around Mackenzie and her father during the time of the alleged relationship have corroborated that Papa John all but bragged about bedding his daughter, so I am convinced Mackenzie is telling the truth about sleeping with her father. I don't really feel too remorseful about my skepticism, however, given the fact that she is an admitted serial liar. Given my personal experience with them, I guess I will always err on the side of disbelief with addicts. I find it works best for me.


Matthew said...

I'm surprised you're so harsh on her. I find her to be totally credible on this. All of what we know about her father leading up to his makes this seem more of the missing piece of the puzzle than anything out of the blue. Of course his wives deny the possibility. But don't you find it 100% persuasive that she did tell her family this in 1997? She may have said she was joking after, but clearly that would be a way of trying to chicken out of what she'd just said. I'm sure their reaction was not warm and fuzzy. And why didn't you include Chynna's comment: "Do I believe they had an incestuous relationship and that it went on for 10 years? Yes."

As for telling her story, it is beyond weird to hear her saying "someone has to be the face for consensual incest." But whatever her reason for telling it—to get it off her chest, to get revenge, to inform people that her iconic dad was much weirder than just being a free love kinda guy—doesn't matter so much. It's her story to tell. And I think it's wrong to question that she is getting paid for it when everyone is getting paid for just about everything, book-wise.

I suppose she could say she was doing it strictly to help and give her story away in free interviews, but why not gather money to survive and to have that money to use as she sees fit? And if people aren't interested, they won't buy it, simple as that.

I will say in this day and age I find it hard to believe a book like this sells. She is not of interest and the most interesting thing in the book was available free on Oprah and Today. So more and more, the "promotion" for products, especially books, are taking the place of the products.

John said...

I couldn't agree with you more! In fact, I wish you would've posted this last night! One of my facebook friends had a thread about poor Mackenzie, and I said I just did not believe her and that I wondered what Michelle Phillips has to say!

Well, I got flamed by a few people for putting my two cents worth in, but I stand by my opinion--even more so after reading your blog.

I also found it odd that Mackenzie said at least three times "there has to be somebody out there that this has happened to." (or something like that) I immediately thought, why say that unless you are looking for some kind of validation.

I also found it odd the way the whole confession went down. Oprah had Mackenzie read it from the book. I think even Oprah knew that if she were to hear it as an answer to a direct question and see her body language and eye contact, it wouldn't be believable...very well planned.

As for Oprah, it isn't the first time she has done something sensational. She'll never be rich enough and will do anything for a buck. Seems like this is the Jenny Jones/Sally Jesse Raphael season on Oprah. Two days ago she had a "mermaid girl" like ten years old and asked her if she ever considered splitting her one leg!

Ever since I taped the Whitney shows, my dvr has been recording Oprah! Seems like every episode has been like a bad train wreck and it's hard not to look!

swine said...

So if John were going to molest a daughter, he should've picked one of the more atractive ones? I really don't get ur sense of humor at all, Kenny. Has living in Chelsea turned u into a hard-bitten queen or what? I mostly agree w/what ur saying but that was such a cruel, nasty "joke".

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

Matt -- Yes, I said it was certainly plausible.

I deliberately left out what Chynna said because I felt it was piling on -- against her. You think it bolsters Mackenzie's version of events, but what you left off what the most significant part of the quote ... "who in their right mind would make such a claim if it wasn't true?" I don't believe Mackenzie is in her right mind and probably never has been. Is her dad partially to blame for this? No question. To what degree, I don't think we'll ever know. My gut, for whatever that's worth (hey, that's what a blog is for), saw a woman desperate to make a buck. Not a woman desperate to come clean and heal.

Matthew said...

K: I think she can be both, wanting to make money and telling the God's honest truth. I don't think Chynna's quote hurts her, it helps her. She specifically says she believes her. I don't think the "right mind" part is thrown in there as a sign to what she's really thinking. I don't blame Mack for not being in her right mind—she was fucked by her dad and he also shot her up and got her hooked on drugs. I think it's asking a lot to ask that someone living through that should be able to comport themselves in any semblance of a normal way.

The commenter John is an idiot. Believe Mack or not, fine, but some crackpot conspiracy theory with Oprah, that Oprah is going to deliberately stage this knowing it's not true? Pathetic. Oprah herself suffered similar abuse—okay, guys, ALLEGEDLY, which I guess we have to stick in there re any and all incest and abuse survivors (in quotes), so if you believe Oprah lived through it, you're telling me she would deliberately put a liar on her show and aid and abet the lying about it?

metalandflesh said...

silly boy. less attractive chicks are always easier.

unruley one said...

Total sputter-laff! Oh, K! Ouch! But growing up watching "One Day at a Time," I was always mystified how someone as ugly as Julie (no chin, zits, stupid hair, pig nose) always had a "boyfriend" when cute li'l Barbara stayed home!

nvrsaynvr said...

She was his drug buddy, boundaries were long since crossed, selfishness was the norm. It's not unbelievable to me.

sh said...

It's simple unruley one: Julie put out!

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

Again, there are some credibility concerns when dealing with a drug addict. If and when Courtney Love writes a tell-all book claiming that Kurt Cobain raped and tortured her (and fingered their baby) the whole time they were together, I would hope the world would consider the source.

As for Chynna's "right mind" quote. No, I don't think it's what SHE really thinks (she's her sister, after all). But anyone else in THEIR RIGHT MIND would!