In a world of messed up musicians' kids, Mackenzie Phillips has reached the pinnacle of pain - or revealed a new low. Whichever way you look at it, her tales of a decade long sexual relationship with her father, John Phillips (the late leader of the Mamas & the Papas), is one of the most harrowing stories we've heard from a child of celebrity.
Full disclosure: I am a show business kid. While not a musician, my father was a music agent for years before becoming pop culture icon Famous Amos. My mom was a former nightclub singer who battled mental illness my whole life until her suicide. Just another Hollywood family.
I grew up around a lot of the drugs, dysfunction, and highly questionable parental behavior I am sure Phillips discusses in her book (I have not read it). I spent years shaking the damage that comes with being burned by living near someone else's spotlight. Still, I got lucky: my father wasn't a junkie, nearly as famous, nor negligent as most celebrity parents. He was just a cookie pusher.
I know plenty of Hollywood kids who still struggle with being whole. Their lives are never fully their own - always in the grip of a parent who put celebrity ahead of them. Of course, screwed up families are not the exclusive province of the famous. Still, most families get to screw up in private.
I feel for Mackenzie Phillips and hope the second half of her life brings her more peace than the first. I also hope she claims it as her own. This current PR blitz seems like a like a painful if necessary step towards that end.
Phillips can look to these other musicians' kids who have struggled with their own family legacies. Most have reached a truce - albeit tenuous - with their celebrity parents' past. Others like Jakob Dylan, Harper Simon, Teddy Thompson, Rufus Wainwright, and Julian Lennon have learned to thrive (at least publicly) despite the long shadow of their famous dads and/or moms.
If any of you want to sit down to commiserate and share some stories, I'm free. I'll bring the cookies, you bring the milk. Or booze (just kidding).
Ozzy and Sharon's two younger kids have both struggled with addictions just like their dad. Youngest sibling, Jack, was admitted into a psychiatric ward before his 18th birthday for drug use. He's been clean ever since, replacing his drug dependency with an addiction to fitness. Middle child, Kelly, has battled her own addiction problems, most recently coming out of rehab for a second time earlier this year. Meanwhile, oldest sibling, Aimee, has managed to avoid the demons of her younger brother and sister. She stays clean, sober and largely out of the spotlight.
The son of Cher and Allman Brothers' organist/singer Gregg Allman (married six times), Elijah Blue has seen and done some strange s**t. In 2006, he told Howard Stern that he used Tilex to disinfect himself after having unprotected sex with Paris Hilton and that he received a human scalp as a gift from Val Kilmer. His mom finally sent him to rehab for a heroin addiction (he claims the intervention was performed by people who were all on drugs). Presumably, it helped him improve his taste in women as well.
Lionel Richie's adopted daughter fought the law, booze and drugs for much of the early '00s, culminating with a December 2006 arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana and Vicodin (she entered a Los Angeles freeway via an the exit ramp). Previously, she had been charged with possessing heroin. Richie has seemingly ended ended the drama - and a string of high profile romances (including buddy Paris Hilton's fling, Elijah Blue) by settling down with Good Charlotte's lead singer, Joel Madden. The couple has two kids. Hopefully, they won't make their mom's mistakes.
Rod Stewart's oldest son has said that being a rock star's son is a "curse and a hindrance." Sean has spent the last couple of years very publicly fighting the Stewart curse. He checked himself into Dr. Drew's "Celebrity Rehab" in 2008 then landed in a second Malibu rehab enter as soon as checked out. As recently as August of this year, he was reportedly drinking again.
Hank Williams' daughter was born in 1953 - five days after the country pioneer's death. Her grandmother (Hank's mom) gave Jett up for adoption and it wasn't until 1984 that Jett found proof of her relationship to Williams. Despite Hank Williams' alcoholism, the singer was sober enough to write a pre-birth contract two-and-a-half months prior to his death acknowledging paternity of Jett. Meanwhile, Jett's half brother, Hank Jr., spent his early life abusing drugs and alcohol, culminating in a 1974 suicide attempt. A couple of years later, he fell 500 feet in a hiking accident, splitting open his skull. He made a full recovery - although his 2008 presidential campaign song "McCain-Palin Tradition" makes me wonder.