Mackenzie Phillips, a name familiar to me for so many reasons, is now the “hot topic” on many tabloid television shows, as well as some legitimate news outlets.
Mackenzie’s return to notoriety, however, is not because she is starring in a new television show, which would be a welcome sight for those of us who were “One Day at a Time” fans. She is not getting exposure because she is singing and recording new music. That would be a treat for those of us who fondly remember the days of The Mamas and The Papas, and even those who only knew the second incarnation when Mackenzie filled the role previously held by her step-mother, Michelle Phillips. Mackenzie is, after all, a legitimate heir to this ’60’s musical dynasty.
No, Mackenzie has garnered press for a book she recently released, “High on Arrival”, which chronicles, among many other events in her apparently deeply troubled life, the fact that she had a decade-long sexual relationship with her father, John Phillips.
The elder Phillips died in 2001 of heart failure after years of drug and alcohol abuse, so we’ll never hear his side of the story.
However, a sufficient number of defenders and detractors have sprouted up from among Mackenzie’s family and friends. And, the conversation is not a pretty one.
Two of John’s ex-wives, Michelle Phillips and Genevieve Waite, vehemently denied the claims as soon as Mackenzie appeared on Oprah, where she read a passage on the subject directly from the book.
“John was a good man who had the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction,” Waite told the Associated Press. “He was incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, of having such a relationship with his own child.” Waite was married to John during a portion of the time that Mackenzie claims to have had the affair.
One younger half-sister, Chynna (of Wilson Phillips fame), took up for her sister on a second Oprah episode that aired on Friday. Chynna claims that Mackenzie first related the story to her 12 years ago. As disturbing as it is to her, Chynna believes Mackenzie’s version of the events.
In describing her initial reaction to US Weekly, Chynna said, “But I knew it was true. I mean, who in their right mind would make such a claim if it wasn’t true?”
I had breakfast with Chynna Phillips a few weeks ago in Orlando as she met with media to promote her new album, “Chynna and Vaughan.” Mackenzie’s story had not yet broken, so it was not a subject of conversation. Chynna did tell me that, even though she is the only daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, she is one of seven siblings (five of which are fathered by John ).
In addition to Chynna, John’s daughter Bijou, who lived with her father as her sole guardian for many years, and son Tamerlane have been asked to weigh in on the issue.
But, whether publicly commenting or not, none of John Phillips’ offspring, or their own children, can be totally unscathed by Mackenzie’s very public accusations.
So why would Mackenzie Phillips feel the need to put her family dysfunction on public display? And, why now – more than 30 years after the affair ended?
Michelle told the Hollywood Reporter the whole thing has been timed to support Mackenzie’s stint on “Celebrity Rehab” and to sell books.
Mackenzie claims she wants to shed a light on incest and encourage other survivors.
Both are insufficient reasons in my opinion.
I would hope that Mackenzie would not use a topic as emotionally charged as incest for the sole purpose of selling books or promoting a stint on a reality television show.
I also believe that, before she can become the public face of incest survivorship, she should actually have survived the ordeal.
To me, surviving incest has to be more than just outlasting the event, it has to involve overcoming the emotional hurts and deep seeded guilt that accompany such an atrocity. Mackenzie just does not appear to be the appropriate candidate to start giving others hope.
As recently as last year, Mackenzie was arrested at LAX for cocaine and heroin possession. Continued drug abuse does not indicate a healed soul.
From the fractured responses coming from her siblings and former step-mothers, she does not seem to have healthy relationships with all of them. I find it hard to believe that discrediting and disgracing John publicly will facilitate the mending of those fences.
For while Mackenzie told People magazine, “Don’t hate my father,” surely, she understands that her revelations cannot help but hang a dark shroud over anyone’s memory of John Phillips. And, while she told Oprah that she was only telling her story, not the story of others, she has forever linked her siblings to an image of a man, who, as a father, might have engaged in such abominable behavior for such a long period of time.
Mackenzie stated that she forgave John on his deathbed. She also stated that forgiveness is for the forgiver, not necessarily for the forgiven – a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. In the afterword of her book, she claims that she wants to earn the right to speak about forgiveness.
However, if Mackenzie truly forgave herself (and her father) nearly eight years ago, she should have released the guilt she harbored over this entanglement rather than rehashing it in a tell-all.
She told Lester Holt on the Today Show, that she felt bad about putting her family in this difficult situation, and, yet she made the conscious choice to publish this book despite their objections. She intentionally put her family in this position without their consent. Her after-the-fact apology seems insincere and disingenuous.
I believe Mackenzie would have better served herself, and her family, by applying her energy into spiritual, emotional, and physical healing and mending her own personal relationships before trying to affect healing for others.
And, it could have been done without writing this book.