Family & Companions
Though many cautionary tales were penned about the toll wreaked upon the rock 'n' roll legends of the 1960s, few included the impact such destructive lifestyles had upon their children. One of the gloomiest exceptions was that of Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of The Mamas & the Papas founder John Phillips and the teenaged star of the popular sitcom "One Day at a Time" (CBS, 1975-1984). Exposed to her father's drug habits and witness to all manner of unsavory behavior before she reached the age of 18, Phillips developed her own addiction to cocaine during her tenure on the series, and was dropped from the cast after a 1980 arrest for possession. A stint in rehab preceded her return to the show the following year, but by 1983, her problems had returned to such a degree that the producers were forced to fire her again. She got sober in 1992 and resumed her acting career with a vengeance, appearing as a guest star in countless programs and as a regular on the kids' fantasy "So Weird" (Disney Channel, 1999-2001). She gave frequent testimony to her unfortunate past in interviews, but proved that her demon days were not so far behind her with an airport bust in 2008 for cocaine and heroin. Upon the publication of her memoirs a year later, Phillips found herself in the middle of an even bigger media firestorm after disclosing that most taboo of family secrets about her and her beloved Papa John. As an alleged survivor of incest and a well chronicled survivor of drug abuse, the public rallied around the troubled star as they never had before, proving that despite the many public stumbles along the way, she had endeared herself permanently in the public conscience as a figure of sympathy and goodwill.
Born Laura Mackenzie Phillips in Alexandria, VA on Nov. 10, 1959, her mother was socialite Suzy Adams, also known as Suzy January. Phillips' middle name was a tribute to musician Scott Mackenzie, who had earned a Top 10 hit with her father John Phillips' composition "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair)." The depths of drug use and debauchery plumbed by her father during the waning years of The Mamas & the Papas were the stuff of Hollywood legend, and his young daughter had a front row seat for the goings-on from a very early age. John Phillips' status as a hitmaker meant that their home was ground zero for many of the biggest names in popular music, who cared little for reining in their proclivities in the presence of minors like Phillips and her brother Jeffrey, as well as later on, half-siblings Tamerlane and Bijou (whose mother was model Genevieve Waite) and Chynna, who was the product of John Phillips' marriage to bandmate and "Mama" Michelle Phillips. By age 12, Phillips had tried both marijuana and LSD, and by 18, she was injecting heroin alongside her own father. Drugs were not the only pitfall Phillips encountered within the comfort of her own home; Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger allegedly forced himself upon her when she was of legal age.
With so much destructive behavior swirling around her on a daily basis, there was no small sense of irony to the fact that Phillips made her acting debut as a 14-year-old dope addict in the overwrought anti-drug TV movie, "Go Ask Alice" (1973). She earned her big break that same year as the aimless underage cruiser who accompanies hot rodder Paul LeMat in "American Graffiti" (1973). Both performances suggested that Phillips was capable of playing characters that were mature beyond their years, yet still naïve to the ways of adults - in short, not a far cry from her own off-screen identity. Regardless, the success of "Graffiti" paved the way for similar film and television roles, including a wayward orphan who helps to kidnap a depressed driving instructor (Alan Arkin) in "Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins" (1975) and a reprisal of her "Graffiti" character; now a hippie, in the lackluster "More American Graffiti" (1979).
In 1975, Phillips' rebellious image made her the right choice to play Julie Cooper, eldest daughter to single mom Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) on "One Day at a Time." Developed by Norman Lear and conceived by former actors Whitney Blake and Allan Mannings, who based the program on Blake's own experience in raising a child (future actress Meredith Baxter) as a single parent, "One Day" broke new ground on television with its premise and the many hot-button topics addressed in its episodes. Phillips was often at the center of these episodes, since Julie had a tendency to get involved with the wrong man at the drop of a hat. The frankness of the relationship between Ann Romano and her daughters earned the show praise from critics and Top 20 ratings throughout its network run.
Though her acting career was at its 1970s peak, Phillips' off-screen life was bottoming out. Heavy drug and alcohol use was gradually taking its toll on her ability to maintain the rigorous schedule of a weekly television series, and more often than not, Phillips arrived on set late, unprepared or even inebriated. Things got worse by the 1979-1980 season when she made headlines for a drug bust, and producers suspended her from the show for six weeks. Phillips proved no better upon her return, and she was eventually fired from the program in 1980 - her great public humiliation then to date. Her absence was explained on the show as a move to Houston to be with her then-boyfriend, played by Michael Lembeck. After her dismissal from the series, Phillips underwent treatment for her addictions. Father John Phillips - himself the focus of a 1981 bust for drug trafficking - checked himself into rehab and later appeared in a series of anti-drug commercials with his daughter. The two also joined forces to tour as the New Mamas & the Papas with former member Denny Doherty and Spanky McFarlane of 1960s pop outfit, Spanky and Our Gang. All seemed rosy and right in Phillips' world, and in 1981, she returned to regular work on "One Day at a Time."
The reunion proved short-lived. Her drug addictions took hold again shortly after her return, and she was let go for the second and final time in 1983. Phillips re-entered a treatment program and, with few exceptions, remained off-screen until 1992, when she was declared fully sober and recovered. She launched into the expected battery of tell-all interviews on talk shows and in the press, and slowly began to rebuild her acting career with guest shots on episodic TV shows, including a stint as a drug counselor on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000) in 1994. In 1996, she briefly joined the cast of the long-running soap opera "The Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009) before signing on to The Disney Channel series "So Weird" in 1999. Her role - a rock singer-turned-mom - was not too far from her own life, and audiences got to hear Phillips sing her own compositions on several episodes. The program, which blended Disney family hijinks with supernatural overtones, remained one of the network's more popular efforts during its three-year run.
Phillips remained active on television throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, and even returned briefly to movies with a supporting role in the little-seen thriller "The Jacket" in 2005. She also toured the country in productions of "Annie" and reunited with her "One Day" co-stars for a TV special devoted to the show in 2005. Naturally, her troubled stint on the program was front and center for much of the remembrances. But Phillips had remained out of trouble for over a decade - so most viewers assumed that she was clean and sober permanently - that is, until August 2008, when she was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly attempting to board an airliner with cocaine and heroin. The news was disheartening for longtime fans, many of whom had felt as if they had ridden the peaks and valleys of her career with her. (In April 2010, the charges would be dismissed, but not before Phillips took the opportunity to personally thank the LAPD and LAX airport security for saving her life by arresting her).
Just over a year later, the actress would shock fans and anger her family after the publication of her autobiography, High on Arrival, in which she claimed her father, John Phillips, not only shot her up with drugs for the first time during her teens, but also began having sex with his daughter on a regular basis, beginning with a drug-induced rape when she was 19 years old. Seated on numerous talk show couches during the publicity blitz, the actress admitted that the relationship became "consensual" over a period of 10 years before she became pregnant. Because she was not certain who the father of the baby was at that time - her boyfriend or her own dad - she had an abortion and never again let the elder Phillips touch her. Not surprisingly, the already fractured Phillips family took sides, with Michelle Phillips lashing out at her step-daughter the harshest, accusing her of mental illness and out-and-out lying. John Phillips' last wife Genevieve Waite also denied the charges. However, the actress' half sisters - particularly Chynna Phillips - were more supportive. At the very least, Phillips succeeded in starting a dialogue about that most taboo of subjects and took her new role as crusader for a silent, shamed community very seriously.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made film debut as Carol, a chatty teenager picked up by hot-rodding teenager John Milner in "American Graffiti"
TV-movie acting debut "Go Ask Alice" (ABC)
Played regular role of Julie Cooper on the CBS sitcom "One Day at a Time"; fired from the show due to drug problems
Portrayed the teenaged Eleanor Roosevelt in the ABC miniseries "Eleanor and Franklin"
Reprised role of Carol in the sequel "More American Graffiti"
Cast as Lillian Gish in the NBC TV-movie "Moviola: The Silent Lovers"
Reprised role of Julie Cooper on CBS' "One Day at a Time"
Last film appearance for over 15 years, "Love Child"
Joined the New Mamas and the Papas; toured with band founded by her father John
Resumed acting career with a guest appearance on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS)
Played a woman suffering with an eating disorder in the NBC TV-movie "Kate's Secret"; last acting role for eight years
Resumed acting career with guest appearance as a drug counselor on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (FOX)
Again played a drug counselor on the CBS daytime drama "Guiding Light"
Played Rizzo in a touring company production of "Grease"
Made first film in over 15 years, playing a cameo in in the independent feature "True Friends"
Returned to series TV as star of "So Weird" (The Disney Channel)
Cast in the thriller "The Jacket"