THE MICHELLE PHILLIPS INTERVIEW, PART ONE
Michelle Phillips has had many identities in her lifetime. Model, international pop singing phenomenon, 60s culture maven, a veteran of tabloid-style romances in the 70s, frequent episodic television guest star, mother of another international pop star, and dramatic actress and comedienne. The last two definitions came to fruition on six seasons of Knots Landing. As Anne Matheson, Phillips “crossed the barrier” and dazzled audiences with her timing, range and wealth of ideas for the comic vixen she played. As young and captivating as she was nearly 40 years ago, Phillips reflects from her home in Los Angeles in this exclusive chat, featuring questions from Knots Landing Net members.
AS: So you filmed an episode of 7th Heaven last week. How did that go?
Michelle Phillips: It went well. I’m going to be doing two episodes. In the first episode I had one long scene with Catherine Hicks, I play her half-sister. And the second time is not the next episode but I’ll show up for the one after that.
AS: Are you playing the same character as you did before?
Michelle Phillips: Yes.
AS: What have you been doing this year, professionally?
Michelle Phillips: Ahh, not much. (Laughs) This has been a very slow year. I did a movie called Harry and Max, which is in major competition at Sundance. It’s a little independent film. I read the script, liked it, but it’s a very small part. Again, it’s really only one long scene but that’s fine with me.
AS: Why’s that?
Michelle Phillips: Oh, you get in and out of there. (Chuckles) Last year I did a movie called Last of the Pershing Point Hotel which was also a small part but I loved the part. I played an abusive mother to her grown daughter, and that ended up winning a lot of awards around the world. I like being in movies that are big and commercial but these small parts are just as good because they enhance your credibility.
In February I’m going to South Africa to film a documentary about a plant called Marula. Marula creates something that can be used in liquor called Amarula. It’s really funny, the company Brown Forman from Kentucky, which has one of the largest distilleries in the world, they have Jack Daniels and Finlandia Vodka, invited me to come down there to Kentucky and present an award. And this is the horsey set, very genteel, and they were having a dinner honoring the newest breeders and suddenly they said, “We’re making a documentary about a liqueur named Amarula and maybe you’d like to be a part of it.”
And the more I looked into it, the more fascinating it became. Amarula comes from the Marula and it is picked up off the ground and only women in these remote tribes are allowed to touch it. Women wait for the fruit to drop and then it’s taken to a Cape Town distillery. In this documentary I’m hosting they wanted to emphasize it changes the entire economy at the time of the year when the Marula starts to drop. It’s basically a story about the economic impact of Marula on these small tribes. So I’ll be there in February when the Marula starts to drop. And we’ll be in the middle of Kroger National Park with elephants and all the big animals.
AS: Will this be an industrial film?
Michelle Phillips: I don’t think they know yet. It could be that.
AS: Sounds like something that could go on The Discovery Channel.
Michelle Phillips: Yes, exactly. I know they’re going to have showings in LA, New York, Toronto and London so it might very well turn up on The Discovery Channel. In any case, it works in with my personality. I love to travel and I love to drink. (Laughs) Of course, I’m saying that a little tongue in cheek.
AS: Of course. Let’s take some questions from around the world for you about Knots Landing and maybe about another thing or two you did in an earlier life…
Michelle Phillips: (Laughs) I’m ready.
Tommy Fairgate from Miami Beach, Florida asks
“First let me say how much I've enjoyed everything you've done in your career from "The Mamas and The Papas" to Knots and beyond. What was the back-story to you being hired to play Anne Matheson? It was perfect casting and you played the part so well. Were you brought back in the role of Anne to fill in the blonde void Abby left?”
Michelle Phillips: As they were developing a crisis between Mack and Karen, a young woman came to the door and said, “I’m your daughter.” Now Mack and Karen were the social backbone of the show so it was pretty shocking that he knew nothing about this girl. But her story was pretty convincing; he knew her mother, was in love with her, had an affair with her but when he left her he didn’t know that she was pregnant. After all these years, this young woman returns.
Chynna Phillips was brought in to read for the role of this person. She was 18 at the time and looked about 11. They liked her but they didn’t think she looked old enough, so they cast Nicollette (Sheridan). However Chynna being there got them to think about me. Nicollette was six months into the role and it was time for Mom to appear. David Jacobs took me to lunch one day and said, “We have written a part for you.” He said she was a wealthy Easterner and had a child with Mack. I said that this was great but the problem was I had never seen Knots Landing. “You’ve never seen Knots Landing?” he said. He was stunned! So this lunch was on a Thursday and he told me, “Well, I’m going to have the last two episodes sent over to your house and the third one is on tonight so maybe you can catch three hours of the show and see what you think.” And I watched the three hours and I was completely hooked into it.
I had never been signed onto a series before and in this case they wanted a five-year contract, so I was a little nervous about that. But I came on the show and loved the process. I loved the character they wrote for me. In a way, though, I think I might have done too good a job playing Anne. With Mack and I there was definitely some chemistry and it definitely scared the shit out of them. I think they thought that Anne could really damage that marriage and they didn’t want to go that route. So what happened was that Mack did a 180, one minute we’re practically making out and the next he says, “I want you to go away” and boom! I was gone. (Laughs)
But it’s true when Donna left they wanted to fill a void and other things were going on. After my one season on the show they made my contract null and void.
AS: You had a five-year contract though.
Michelle Phillips: Well, they have to do that to hold you but then they have the right not to pay you if they’re not going to use you. So I wasn’t in the entire next season. But one day Nicollette came into David Jacobs’ office and said (in whiny Paige voice) “I want my Mom back.” And I remember it very well in the season after that I was in Idlewild and I got a call from my agent and she said, “They want you to come back to Knots Landing” and I was so happy that I wept.
AS: Was that the time you had that classic droll line, “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of England.”
Michelle Phillips: (Laughs) Yes it was. What was that in response to again?
AS: When Paige said that Greg Sumner loved her and was going to marry her, you said, “Yeah and I’m the Queen of England.”
Michelle Phillips: (Laughs loudly) Oh, right, right. I remember that. One line that I absolutely loved was one that I wrote and it was at my father’s funeral. I was wearing this Thierry Mugler suit, very tight at the waist, very Anne, and Paige says, “Mother, the least you can do is cry” and I said, “I don’t cry, it ruins my makeup.” (Laughs heartily) And I got that from a Kirk Douglas movie called Ace in the Hole. There was a great actress in that whose name I don’t remember who said at one point, “I don’t pray; it runs my stockings.” Do you remember who that was?
AS: (Laughing) I don’t, but I’ll look it up.
Michelle Phillips: I remember I was at dinner sitting next to Kirk Douglas and he had just converted to Judaism and everyone was talking about religion. They were talking about Catholicism and “I was raised a Baptist” and then they asked me what I was. I replied, (in Southern accent) “I don’t pray; it runs my stockings.” And Kirk remembered it! Here is this obscure line and he knew it.
AS: I have Leonard Maltin’s 2002 Film Guide right here and it was Jan Sterling who said that…
Michelle Phillips: Jan Sterling, yes.
AS: In Ace in the Hole aka The Big Carnival, 1951.
Michelle Phillips: That’s it. So there were times I changed whatever the script said and the great thing about the writers was that you could call them up and say, “I want to change this” and they were fine with it. With William Devane I wouldn’t even bother to learn my lines. He’d just rewrite the script as it went along. He’d tweak it and add lines and almost always make it better.
AS: I’ve heard that a lot about the writers which is surprising because you’d think writers for ego purposes would want to keep their text intact.
Michelle Phillips: It wasn’t a very writer driven show like that.
AS: Not like Aaron Sorkin then.
Michelle Phillips: Not at all. And certainly not like Esther Shapiro who created Dynasty. I heard this one time when Joan Collins had to wear a negligee. And Joan wanted to wear a black negligee for the scene and Esther Shapiro said it had to be purple. Joan said, “No, I’m wearing black,” and when it came time for the scene, she had black on. Well Esther sees this in the control room and comes marching down to the set and said, “Get one thing straight. I’m Alexis, not you! Wear the purple.” (Laughs loudly) Esther Shapiro had to have a lot of balls to say that to Joan Collins.
AS: There’s actually a second part to Tommy’s question and here it goes… “Also, the scene when you were homeless and in the department store and the clerk wouldn’t finish your makeup and you had to be asked to leave was worthy of an EMMY, I can’t imagine a Linda Evans or Donna Mills ever trying a storyline like that.”
Michelle Phillips: Well, I can’t either. I was given such a broad palette as Anne. I was allowed to do almost anything. I remember the first time I posed nude was when Mack was supposed to find these pictures of me in my place. And I had never posed nude before but the producers said (the pictures) will be very tasteful and nice and it turned out to be that way.
As for the homeless story, it had been in the news, we were reading about how these women in Beverly Hills were three bad decisions away from sleeping in their cars. So with Anne they made this wonderful storyline where they stripped away all her glamour. And for the first time it made people feel sorry for Anne. (Laughs) Her daughter wants nothing to do with her. I can vividly remember this scene where I’m pleading with her at the door. But Paige for once is standing up for herself. I’ve embezzled her money, flirted with her boyfriend and she’s saying, “I’m not going to take this anymore.” It was a very frightening moment for Anne. She goes to a shelter and sees her reflection in the window and there is this haggard old woman. When I did that scene I was so overwhelmed that the tears streamed down my face. I remember that was done by a great woman director.
And when she goes into either a Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus to get her face washed. Any woman would feel the grave humiliation of getting one eye done and not being able to have it finished. She pleads with the woman doing her makeup to do the rest of her. Do the rest of her. It was such a very powerful moment.
Shari from Clermont, FL asks
”Besides money, which was probably was Anne's driving force, what did you as an actress bring to the character that the writers didn't or couldn't see for Anne as they wrote her? I really enjoyed you on the show, and LOVED you at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thank you Michelle, you are an amazing lady! “
Michelle Phillips: I gave Anne a back-story that was not written. I told them what her back-story was and filled in a lot of the gaps. There was this one episode where we were all wearing flowing gowns and you learn that Anne’s father tried to buy Mack off with $5,000. You learn that I was so controlled. By that point I was not a child and yet the father was willing to pay him off. And what I tried to get across is that she and her father had the closest thing to an incestuous relationship as there was on the show. Maybe it didn’t go as far as sex but her father was clinging onto her and this suggested something wrong. I think a lot of Anne’s abhorrent behavior came from that, actually. As the original victim of something, Anne was not the product of a healthy and loving family. I grew up in a loving home but the way Anne was written it was a strange relationship with her father. Very few fathers are so controlling of their daughters. I think there was something sick on his part.
AS: I never thought of that interpretation before. You would make a good script doctor.
Chris Sumner Matheson from San Antonio asks
“As Anne on Knots Landing, we got to see many different sides. The bitch, homeless Anne, bad mother Anne, and my favorite, scheming Anne. Which was your favorite to play?”
Michelle Phillips: I loved the scheming Anne and I loved the Mother from Hell. I think those were my favorite ones to play.
AS: You were also Nice Anne for a while, too.
Michelle Phillips: Nice, yes, but not for long. I remember that scene when Anne tells Paige that she has just married Greg. Now the audience knows that Paige is the love of his life and there is this look on this poor woman’s face; there’s shock, sadness and anger. And then I can’t forget the look after when Anne says, “Well, you dropped the ball.” And Nicollette had a look of such disgust; it was great!
Towards the end Anne was getting her style back. Do you remember what happened after I married Greg and she found out she wasn’t pregnant?
AS: Wasn’t there a pretend miscarriage?
Michelle Phillips: Yes, Anne was willing to risk her life by riding a horse at breakneck speed just to prove she had a miscarriage. They asked me, “Do you ride a horse?” And I said, “Yeah, kinda.” So they said, “Great. Time to get on this horse.” They put the camera in front of the horse and I rode it as fast as I could go. Then they had the stuntwoman take the fall.
Anne was a woman who would get her way one way or the other. She got out of being homeless by posing as a model for Benny. That whole story prompted my second nude sitting.
AS: So you actually posed nude? This wasn’t some effect?
Michelle Phillips: No these were real nude photographs. And because of them I got into a big fight with the production office. The office submitted them to Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair called me and said they loved the photographs and wanted to publish them. I wasn’t happy because this wasn’t done with my permission; I was posing for the show not for a magazine. But Vanity Fair was a high-end magazine and I didn’t think it was the worst thing. Well, Vanity Fair then decided they weren’t going to run any more nude photos after the controversy with Demi Moore posing nude when she was pregnant.
I thought this was over but then a couple of weeks later I heard GQ had the photos and they were going to run them. I thought, “GQ?! How did they get them?” It turns out that Conde Nast owns both Vanity Fair and GQ so the photos were passed from one magazine to another. Now, Vanity Fair would have been fine but GQ is this men’s magazine and I didn’t like that at all. It’s almost as bad as posing in Playboy. I begged Art Cooper, the editor of GQ, not to run them but he said, “No, we’re going to run them and you’ll like them; they’ll be fine.” I tried to get Lorimar to stop Conde Nast from running them but I realized they were all in cahoots and my contract was up for renewal so what was I going to do? Lorimar wanted the publicity and they didn’t step in. And it didn’t help that I signed a contract that said any pictures I posed for on the show were the property of Lorimar. It pays to read the fine print.
AS: So did the pictures run?
Michelle Phillips: Yes they did. There was a full-page picture that made me look like a Greek goddess, but it was tasteful, no nipples, no pubic hair. I was nervous about my Dad seeing this but he said, “You’re cuter than the day you were born.” (Laughs)
AS: Well, that doesn’t sound too bad then.
Michelle Phillips: No it wasn’t. The spread was titled “So this is what 49 looks like” and they had a few really nice pictures inside. I just didn’t like the way it was all handled but I’m not mad about it now.
AS: Sounds like a collector’s item. Maybe I’ll start checking on eBay…
Michelle Phillips: (Laughs) Yeah. I have it here.
Pearsonsf from San Francisco asks
“Is there a storyline that you wished they had done differently?”
Michelle Phillips: Yes, the ending. I wanted something more than her going off to Monaco. Kathleen Noone and Lorenzo Caccialanza and Michelle Phillips … didn’t like that rivalry. It never seemed solid. It didn’t have the kind of realism that was there in my relationship with Paige. And certainly not with Karen. I remember scenes when I moved into the cul de sac and I used to leave messages for Mack, (in a dopey voice) “Mack, can you tell me what Trash Day means? I don’t know what it means.” And one time Karen says to me, (in defiant Karen voice) “Trash Day means you put your trash on the curb. You don’t need my husband to help you with Trash Day!” I loved that; so funny.
AS: Michele Lee spoke very highly of you when I spoke to her. She called you “a good broad.”
Michelle Phillips: Oh that’s very nice of her. I loved when she directed me. She could look at a scene and milk it for all it’s worth. For example, she’d say to me after reading a script she was directing, “They have you and Nicollette in the kitchen having this conversation. But how would you like to do the scene in a bubble bath?” And it really worked. The first time I kissed Lorenzo on camera she was practically down our throats. It was almost a dream state. I’ve done a lot of kissing before on screen but the way she filmed that may have been the best. The way she moved the camera around gave her directing substance.
Alex Wade from Ferndale, MI asks
“Michelle, two comments and a personal question. One, throughout college my friends and I listened to the Mamas and the Papas incessantly - and that was in the early 1990s. I think what we responded to was the unadulterated joy in the music. Now, my second comment, which sort of relates. In the beginning of your tenure on Knots, the character of Anne was sort of a miserable neurotic bitch, but ultimately what made her so completely lovable was her joyous nature. It looked like you were having the time of your life playing her. Were you? And personally, how do you continue to cultivate such a joyous lust for life that is reflected in nearly everything you do - (even when playing a Mermaid on Fantasy Island)?”
Michelle Phillips: (Pausing) Well, I appreciate all those kind words. I loved the character. I was able to lose myself in the character of Anne Matheson. I think I do have a joie de vivre. I was raised by my father, my mother died when I was very young, and I was raised by a man whose philosophy was that you should have the best time that you could possibly have. He was extremely adventurous and fun and good natured, and he tried to cultivate that side of my nature. I had a very happy childhood and I’ve been very lucky. I was lucky to meet John Phillips at 17 years old. He taught me how to sing and perform and how to love making music. I was very lucky to meet Aaron Spelling. He put me as an actress on TV for the first time.
After Dillinger, I was not getting anything and I really needed work. Aaron set me up with Death Squad. I didn’t even read for the part but Aaron liked me and so did Candy, that’s very important, and I wound up doing every one of his shows. Originally I had not thought of doing TV work, there was a stigma attached to it back then, and I was reluctant. I remember getting the script for Fantasy Island and Chynna was 10 or 11 at the time and she said, “Are you going to do this?” And I said, “No, I don’t think so.” And she said, “Why not? You really should, she’s a mermaid.” And I said, “Really? Maybe I will do that.” I played the mermaid named Nyah in three different episodes. Then they offered me The Love Boat and I resisted that but when I found out that this was a boat that actually went somewhere, like Fiji and Australia, I said I want to be part of this! So I wound up doing every show he did. Let me get rid of this lurker. (Clicks off to take a call waiting; after 5 seconds returns) Aaron Spelling gave me the opportunity to learn my craft and I took the advantage; I worked and worked and worked. After doing 7 episodes of Hotel David Jacobs saw me and that led to Knots Landing.
I knew things were changing when I went to this thing called the Rock and Roll Sports Spectacular and there was this popular teen actress at the time who had seen all these Movies of the Week I had done and said she really liked my acting. The group Boston was sitting right by us. This little redheaded girl, whose name I wish I remembered, said she was doing an album. She said, “It’s awful; it’s so hard. It’s so much harder doing an album than acting. You have no idea.” And the band Boston was there snickering. She just went on and on about hard it was to do an album and I’m replying, “Really? It’s that hard, huh? You don’t say? I didn’t know that.”
AS: That’s hilarious.
Michelle Phillips: The actress had no idea what I had done before. But I was glad – I crossed that barrier I guess. (Laughs)
Freddy from Rhode Island asks
“Hi, I first saw you as Abby Malone on Beverly Hills 90210, I liked you as her and I really liked you as Anne. My question is, when is your movie about the Mamas and Papas coming out? Are you making progress with it, I know I would love to see it.”
Michelle Phillips: Abby Malone was another very good role to play. We are making progress with the movie. They have picked up our second option at Fox and we’re in the process of looking for a director. You don’t want to get too confident about things like this because ultimately the movie might not get made. But Fox and John David are committed to making a romantic musical.
AS: It’s going to be a musical?
Michelle Phillips: Well, that’s what it is, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not like the cast is going to be breaking into song like in Chicago but there’s going to be a lot of music in it so therefore it can be called a musical. It’s a very complex love story – my marriage to John, my friendship with Cass, Cass’ love relationship with Denny, John and Denny’s friendship and my love relationship with Denny and the consequences of that. It’s kind of Grecian in scope: love and friendship and betrayal and forgiveness.
AS: Why is it taking so long then?
Michelle Phillips: Things like this take time. It took almost two years to get the deal done for acquiring all the rights. Some chucklehead had said he had the rights to John (which held things up). Of course they waited until John Phillips was dead to make this claim. You know someone once said to me that films aren’t made, they’re willed into existence. I’m beginning to really believe that. (Laughs)
AS: Have you done casting for it yet?
Michelle Phillips: Oh no, not yet. By the time this actually gets filmed whomever we’ve chosen would be too old. There’s a very small window for these actors. They’d either have to be in their early 20s or late 20s or in John’s case, early 30s. I doubt there will be any “names” attached. We’d need people really, really young to make the kind of mistakes we made. You’d have to be able to feel the naïveté.
Ren from Portland, Oregon asks
“Aside from your acting career, I've always enjoyed your talent as a singer. Any chance we'll get to hear you sing again? Do you still enjoy singing? Do you ever miss the four-part harmony you were a part of in The Mamas & Papas?”
Michelle Phillips: I doubt I would ever sing again professionally. I’m a group singer. That was the hardest work I ever did in my life. To get that sound, to do what we did, took every eyelash out of my eye. I was the least experienced in the group and I was required to learn parts that professional singers would find hard to do. I was thrown into the pool. The first time I ever sang with the Mamas and the Papas was at the Hollywood Bowl.
Michelle Phillips: I remember I was scared to death as I was waiting in the wings and I heard the announcer say, (in a grandiose voice) “And now … the Mamas and” (simulates vomiting). And Cass said, “Honey, it’s too late for that, now let’s go.” (Laughs loudly)
AS: (Laughing) Oh that’s great. I don’t remember that from your autobiography.
Michelle Phillips: (Continued laughter) When you sing in front of 18,000 you really get an education. I never got over that stage fright either, I don’t think. That’s why I don’t really do plays. I did The Vagina Monologues but that’s about it.
AS: Well, do you ever sing around the house or anything?
Michelle Phillips: Oh yeah, I love to sing. Just not really in public.
AS: I remember when you sang on Knots.
Michelle Phillips: I never did that.
AS: Yes, you did “When the Red, Red Robin Goes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along.”
Michelle Phillips: Oh right! (Sings) “When the Red, Red Robin Goes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along…” I love that song.
AS: You were bringing breakfast in bed to Greg Sumner and what was great about the scene was how they didn’t shoot your face and we only heard you. Part of the mystique that was very effective.
Michelle Phillips: Yes, it was. And of course there was the scene with “Dedicated.” Mack and Anne having their tete a tete.
AS: A lot of people would say that was the most famous scene you were in on Knots.
Michelle Phillips: What was brilliant about that scene was how the music comes on and you hear my voice at the perfect pivotal moment. At first they suggested having “Dedicated” on in the background and I thought this was the stupidest idea, and I said no. When it came time to filming the scene and we were going through it I called up and said, “This is the best idea I’ve ever heard. Please put the song in!” It was great as we were filming it that the camera pans over the Mamas and Papas album cover very briefly, but enough to see it. Kevin and I actually kissed in that scene but they cut it. Beth Brickell directed that, great episode.
AS: The Block Party … you were listed in the credits but weren’t in the actual show. What happened there?
Michelle Phillips: I was working, I think. I remember that. I would have loved to have been in that.
AS: So you weren’t cut from that?
Michelle Phillips: Oh, no. They wouldn’t have done that. Now being cut from the reunion, that would have been another story… (Chuckles sardonically)
AS: There’s a question about the reunion coming. Let me move that up.
John Mello from San Antonio, Texas asks
“Michelle, I think you were wonderful on KN you and Nicollette really had a chemistry. Were you ever happy with the direction that Anne took in the reunion? It seemed off. Like almost a new character.”
Michelle Phillips: (groans) They didn’t know what to do with me so they just stuck me in there.
AS: You were turned into this strange comic relief. Annie the Psychic.
Michelle Phillips: It was a mess. It happened too quickly. They really wanted Nicollette to do the reunion but she didn’t want any part of it. She wanted to do feature films. I remember calling her and saying, “Come on you have to do it.” After all, this is the part that made her famous. So she was in it but was only in that one scene in the beginning.
AS: And she was uncredited.
Michelle Phillips: Uncredited? Oh, dear. She obviously really didn’t want to be in it then. Another problem was that there were too many of us in there. You can’t do a Knots Landing reunion in two hours and try to catch up on everyone there. And I don’t even think Kevin Dobson was in the reunion.
AS: Yes he was there.
Michelle Phillips: Really? Because he was doing a series in Canada so maybe he did the movie on a weekend. (Laughs) I don’t remember him there. There wasn’t one person who was happy from (the reunion) from what I saw. They didn’t bring Lorenzo back, which was a bad idea.
AS: Do you think there will be another reunion?
Michelle Phillips: No.
AS: You say that so quickly.
Michelle Phillips: Because it’s true. It didn’t work and more importantly, it didn’t get the numbers. If it got the numbers they would have had three of them by now.
Minimarty from Australia asks
During your time with The Mamas and the Papas you must have met a lot of cool musicians. Was there any one artist that you met who left you gobsmacked or left a lasting impression?”
Michelle Phillips: Janis Joplin certainly pulled me out of my complacency. I didn’t know who she was when I saw her at Monterey Pop. But she was on stage with a bottle of Southern Comfort or Wild Turkey. And she was singing the blues. I thought only black chicks did that!
I met Frank Sinatra. I met Elvis. Elvis was so sweet; we went backstage to see him in Las Vegas, John and I and Annie Marshall. And Elvis said, (in Elvis voice) “I’m so glad you came to see me. I think you guys are the best. I’m so honored that you’re here.” And I’m like ‘What?!’ The King is honored to meet me? (Laughs uproariously)
And then Cass Elliot, Denny, John and I are at this club and this woman comes over to me and says, (in a lilting Southern voice) “You and Cass sing like angels. You’re the best thing since white bread.” John comes over to me later and says, “How do you know Dinah Shore?” (Laughs) I had no idea who she was! Hey, I was raised in Mexico, I missed out on things like that. (Laughs more)
Petey Hollister from Fayetteville, AR asks
“I recently read in Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi's account of prosecuting the Manson family, that you were interviewed by the police about the crimes. Being only 26, I obviously wasn't around during that strange summer of '69, but I am more than a little fascinated by the subject. Can you tell us what it was like living in Hollywood during the months before Manson and his girls were caught? Was there rampant paranoia? Were members of Hollywood royalty really as terrified as Helter Skelter makes them out to be?”
Michelle Phillips: I didn’t read Helter Skelter. I did not want to read any more details than I already knew. (Pauses) Last week I walked all the way up Cielo Drive for the first time in 34 years and went to where the house is. It’s a different house, I know, but that’s where it was … yes, there was rampant paranoia, unspeakable pain, terrible horror. I walked up halfway before but this was the first time in 34 years that I went all the way up and it made me cry. (Pauses) But I really can’t talk about this.
AS: I can understand. The emotions must still be raw.
Michelle Phillips: Very raw … Very raw. I … went to a funeral last year and was standing in this cemetery and I realized this is where Sharon (Tate) and the baby were buried. I wondered where they were buried and thought about looking for the grave. Somehow I then looked down and there they were. I almost fainted. But that’s really all I can say. I can’t talk about this.
AS: Before we go, let me ask you: do you have a favorite song that you sang?
Michelle Phillips: Oh, let me think. “My Heart Stood Still” I really loved. “My Girl”. “Go Where You Wanna Go.” And then there was (sings) “Fools rush in, so here I am, Awfully…” (Remembering) Glad to be Unhappy. I always liked Creeque Alley, too.
AS: How wonderful to hear you sing. This has gone so well -- I’m thrilled that you’ve taken all this time to speak with me today. I’ve never done this before, but what do you think of finishing this up at another time? After two hours you probably want a break. (Laughs) I still have questions I didn’t get to so if you’re up for it, we can do this one more time…
Michelle Phillips: Sure. Why don’t you call me at the end of February when I get back from South Africa and we can continue.
AS: All right then. So dear readers, come back in February 2004 for Part Two of the Michelle Phillips Interview. Thanks, Michelle. This has been my favorite Knots Landing chat.
Michelle Phillips: Why thanks very much. I had a lot of fun doing it.
AS: Happy Holidays to all! And to all a good night.
Click here for part two