Thursday, October 1, 2009

High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips

Mackenzie Phillips with Hilary Liftin. High on Arrival: A Memoir. New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009.

Laura Mackenzie Phillips’s father John Phillips was a member of the rock band Mams & the Poppas. He left Mackenzie and her mother when she was two years old for a 16 year old Michelle. Mackenzie’s mother did not have much money and worked at the Pentagon as an assistant to Secretary Robert McNamara.

Mackenzie attended Summerhill School, where teachers taught about dumpster diving and smoking was allowed. When she was ten, while visiting her father in his rock and roll lifestyle, her father taught her how to roll and smoke marijuana joints. She began drinking alcohol and using acid.

Mackenzie went to her first audition at the age of 12 for a role in the movie “American Graffiti”. Out of 250 girls who auditioned for the part, she was chosen. While filming, she had to sit for hours with costar Paul LeMat as cameras blocked both exits of the car scene that was being filmed. She recalls Paul LeMat as being wild and once climbed to the top of a hotel sign and refused to be coaxed down. Six years later, while filming “More American Graffiti”, she had a romantic liaison with LeMat.

Phillips suffered the trauma of being raped at knifepoint by a hitchhiker she picked up. Her father came to her side in one of the two times she saw him in a supportive role and he helped her through the past-ordeal.

Phillips auditioned for more movie roles but wasn’t chosen. She finally won a role on a new TV series, “One Day at a Time”. Initially, the show was going to revolve around her character. CBS viewed the pilot and asked that a sibling be added. Valerie Bertinelli was chosen to play her sister. They were schooled at the Hollywood Professional School from 8:45 am to 12:45 am. Her civics teacher was arrested for prostitution just outside the school.

Phillips began appearing on the game show “Hollywood Squares” as well.

Life with a drug addicted father left Phillips with few roles when she was with her father. Her mother was more traditionally functional. Among the oddities Mackenzie faced was entering her father’s apartment and finding him naked, rolled entirely in saran wrap which he explained as “killing the bugs. They can’t breathe.”

Phillips was arrested for drug possession. Being a TV star, this made the news. The negative press caused Michelle Phillips, John Phillip’s second wife, to read a t-shirt that read “No, I’m not Mackenzie’s mother”. Mackenzie’s drug use escalated.

Having a father on drugs when she was on drugs led to her coming out of a blackout and discovering she was being raped by her father. She later confronted her father who didn’t deny it happened but insisted it was not rape since she hadn’t protested. She kept in touch with her father, explaining “my father abused me, but he wasn’t a monster.” Shortly afterwards, she spontaneously married her boyfriend. Meanwhile, her drug use grew worse still.

Phillips was suspended from “One Day at a Time” due to her inability to act at times due to drug use. When she returned to the show, the ratings improved. She was then shocked when she was fired from the show. She writes she did not realize how much the drugs were affecting her. This ruined her reputation and she found no one else would hire her. She started fighting with her husband, as they had gone through $700,000 in seven months, much of it for drugs. She once overdosed, nearly died, and was in intensive care.

Phillip’s father recreated the Mommas & the Poppas. Mackenzie took over the role Michelle Phillips, who by then had divorced John, used to have. The New Mommas & the Poppas were born. There was a lot of alcohol drinking and stage appearances where they were stoned.

Once while doing drugs, she was kidnapped for four days. A friend of her father’s entered her kidnapper’s apartment and successfully demanded she be returned.

In 1994, Phillips left her home near Stroudsburg, Pa. and asked the William Morris Agency to find her work. She made appearances on several TV shows.

In September, 2008, Phillips was arrested at LAX for possessing heroin. She went into rehab. As she puts it. “I don’t feel like an addict. I don’t fight an urge to use drugs. But I don’t ever forget who I am.”

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