THE MICHELLE PHILLIPS INTERVIEW, PART TWO
Three and a half months ago, Michelle Phillips reminisced about her years as Anne Matheson on Knots Landing and provided new insight into her pop supergroup, The Mamas and the Papas (Click to read part 1). This time around, those themes return but she moves into other areas of her life, namely, a never-before-heard recounting of her one solo album, “Victim of Romance,” and her opinions on a multitude of topics. John Kerry, the forthcoming Wilson Phillips reunion album, the Internet, “A Mighty Wind,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” and her first encounter with Cass Elliot. Once again, Michelle Phillips from Los Angeles.
AS: Welcome back and thanks for giving your time once more. When we left you at the end of Part One, you were soon heading to South Africa to film a documentary. How did that go?
Michelle Phillips: Yes, I was going to be filming a documentary about the Marula tree.
AS: Is the documentary complete?
Michelle Phillips: I didn’t go. The documentary didn’t happen.
AS: That’s too bad. Why?
Michelle Phillips: It fell apart. It was a matter of money to make it. They’re thinking of doing it later in the year or maybe a year from now when the Marula drops again.
AS: What a shame. I really wanted to see that too.
Michelle Phillips: It is too bad.
AS: Let’s get to the questions I didn’t get to in Part One.
Chris Sumner Matheson from San Antonio asks
Following such a successful career with the Mamas and the Papas, I was shocked you didn't go on to a solo career but instead you went to acting. Was it something you always wanted to do, or something you just fell into?
Michelle Phillips: It was something I wanted to do. I certainly didn’t want to sing as a soloist; I was part of a sound and I enjoyed that. As I told you last time, I never really wanted to become a singer to begin with. You have to have a lot of ambition to create a career to keep it alive. I had no interest in doing that with singing. That also includes people like Scott McKenzie (“San Francisco”) going out there by himself. He never wanted to do that. There are kids in the 4th grade you can look at them and say, “They’re going to be a star.”
I’m a very good group singer, but I’m not a soloist. That’s why I wasn’t given a lot of solos in the group.
Charles from the USA asks
I've always enjoyed your solo album released on A&M Records, but I have never heard you comment on it. Would you care to share any thoughts or reminisces about the album?
Michelle Phillips: It was called “Victim of Romance.” Jack Nietzsche produced it on A&M and Jack was a protégé of Phil Spector’s. He was a total madman (Laughs). I worked very, very hard on the album, and I loved the album. But it was pretty much sabotaged by the promotion department at A & M. They felt I had hurt a lot of feelings by going directly to Alpert and Jerry Moss (in getting the record deal). It was perceived that I went in through the front door instead of through the normal way.
Also, I didn’t want to go on the road with it. I really don’t like singing in front of an audience, so that hurt the album. Only one of the songs I wrote was on it. But it was re-released in Japan recently and I’m glad about that.
AS: The album came out in 1977 and had to be recorded in the mid-70s, years after the Mamas and the Papas broke up. Why did you make an album after all that time?
Michelle Phillips: I had been doing a lot of writing. I was playing with my old piano, dabbling with my guitar and songs started to come of it. For many years I was controlled by John (Phillips) and Lou Adler and I wanted to do my own thing. I remember in 1970 I came back from Peru after doing Dennis Hopper’s movie, The Last Movie, and I went to John and Lou Adler and told them I wanted to do a single. I had an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” They looked at me like I was crazy.
AS: You had “Me and Bobby McGee” first?
Michelle Phillips: Yes. And of course Kris Kristofferson became one of the greatest songwriters of our time, and six months later “Me and Bobby McGee” was the number one single in the country.
My album started out with John Phillips producing but it soon became obvious that he was not physically capable to do it so I switched to Jack Nietzsche. The album was very well reviewed but it just wasn’t a hit, like 90% of the albums that are released.
AS: What was the sound like? Did you try to make it contemporary to compete with the bands at the time or were you trying to create a “retro” vibe from the ‘60s?
Michelle Phillips: It was a very romantic album, with a lot of ballads. “Victim of Romance” was one of the names of the songs, written by Moon Martin, there was a song John had written, a song I had written, “Lady of Fantasy,” also “As You Turn Away,” by the Bee Gees.
Eran from Israel asks
Hi and what a HUGE honour!
I always wanted to know, are there any songs you recorded during the 70's circa "Victim of Romance" or later that were never released? If so, are there any plans to release them? You have a beautiful much underrated voice.
Michelle Phillips: Well isn’t that sweet. Only song that we had recorded that wasn’t released was a song I had written named “Huerita.” “Huera” means blonde in Spanish and “huerita” means blondie. Jack never understood the song; I wanted the Mexican sound but somehow it became a Peruvian-sounding thing. No, there’s no plan to release it.
Knotsfan5 from New York City asks
I just loved it when Anne started going after Gary Ewing, especially the episode where she followed Gary to church and even signed up to teach Sunday school - the specific class attended by his children! Are you disappointed that the writers never pursued your pursuit of Gary?
Michelle Phillips: I thought it was a big mistake to get me involved with Gary Ewing. I asked them not to put me with Gary. I thought the chemistry was not there with Ted Shackelford. And I didn’t want to be one those characters who bounced from one man to another.
AS: Like the village slut.
Michelle Phillips (Laughs): Exactly. So I told Larry (Kasha) that I didn’t want to do it and he ended the story.
Bradley Wiles from Adelaide, Australia asks
Hi Michelle, I once read somewhere that you follow a strict routine in cleansing your face! What is the technique called and do you still do this daily? You look even better today than in your Knots days! Love from Australia xxxx
Michelle Phillips: Oh isn’t that sweet. The routine began with using Erno Lazlo products but you don’t have to use those by any means. The idea is that you wash your face with soap every morning, with a mild cleanser and rinse it with the same soapy water 30 times.
AS: Thirty times!
Michelle Phillips: Thirty times. Erno Lazlo had an astringent that he sold. I use rosewater. You can buy rosewater in any Indian store where you can get a half-gallon for $6 or a few ounces for $12 in a major department store. I always use moisturizer. And I always use L’Oreal. And here’s the big reason why I use it. I use it because I can buy it at my supermarket! (Laughs) A moisturizer with a sun block, and at night you use a moisturizer without sun block. Lazlo also has what’s called active phelatyl cream that is an eye, lip, throat cream. Remember, it doesn’t have to be these exact products. The big thing is that you do this in the morning and at night. I don’t care what you did during the day; you have to follow this routine. Do this like saying your prayers (Laughs)
Diana (Doherty) Wilson from Halifax, Nova Scotia asks
Hello Michelle ...a long time since we spoke. The days of Denny Show in Halifax when John dropped Denny's guitar, are you remembering now or how could you forget?
Anyhow, how have you been keeping.... you look terrific!!! Just wanted to say hello.... Denny was in town on the weekend (11/29/03) the family went to dinner and Emberly's play at Dalhousie. Good time!! Cheers.
Michelle Phillips pauses.
AS: I don’t know if there’s a question in there. Do you know this person? Is this his daughter or some Internet ruse?
Michelle Phillips: She’s not his daughter, maybe a cousin of Denny’s. Emberly is his daughter and is going to school and lives in Nova Scotia. Denny lives in Mississauga, outside of Toronto. So … hi back! I’m doing great! (Laughs loudly)
AS: Tom from New Jersey asks:
Do you have a favorite story/memory about your relationship with Cass Elliot?
Michelle Phillips: That is a hard question. There are so many memories that I have of her. (Pauses) The first memory is as weird as it gets. The night I met Cass was the first time I had taken acid. John and Denny were waiting for her to come by and I said, “I don’t know about you but this drug does nothing for me.” Then Cass knocked on the door and I opened it and said, “But maybe it does!” And we had the most interesting conversation for 20 hours.
AS: Do you remember the date?
Michelle Phillips: January 9, 1965. Within four months we were all living together, even after the group disbanded. We were all a dysfunctional family, inextricably linked for the rest of our lives.
AS: So why did Cass come over to begin with? Did she just show up?
Michelle Phillips: She was coming to meet John and me. She was a friend of Denny’s. That was also the first time I had heard the Beatles. Don’t ask me where I was for the year and a half before. (Laughs)
Paul from Florida asks
Hi Michelle. Loved you in Knots Landing and especially the chemistry you and Nick shared. How would you envision life with Nick in Monaco after the series end?
Michelle Phillips: Nick was just a ladies’ man so he probably would have had lots of female admirers. I assume he would be just like a gigolo. I don’t think Anne was really in love with him; she was just using him. They were partners in crime. But they probably had great sex.
AS (Laughs): Yeah I bet they did.
Michelle Phillips: I actually ran into Lorenzo (Caccialanza) recently.
AS: Ran into him? Where?
Michelle Phillips: At a wedding. I just had to give him the third degree. I tried to reach him many times and hadn’t heard from him in 4 years. He was always the perfect person to get back to you and come to parties and things.
Bob from Scotland asks
I'm the producer of the web fan fiction 'Fantasy Knots Landing' and would
be grateful if you could give me some advice on how to write Anne who will
feature heavily in the next season. I want Anne's human side to be revealed.
While I fully intend to feature her as the schemer at times, I also want to
see the audience routing for her against the series' villains. Do you agree
with this portrayal or would you prefer her to be truly nasty?
Michelle Phillips: As I mentioned last time, in the back-story I thought of, Anne had suffered at the hands of her father. Their relationship bordered on the physical. That’s why she’s so helpless. That’s why she has to have her daughter’s money. She tricks Sumner into marrying her. But I do think there’s a wonderful side to her. I do think she’s a lost little lamb. I know most people won’t see that very clearly but there are some other dimensions to her character. She only embezzles the money because she’s penniless; then again she plays very fast and loose with the rules. She’s always the seductress and temptress. That’s not to say she shouldn’t have these very pointy sides to her. She is a dangerous kind of person. (Pauses) I think it’s wonderful that’s she’s rather kind of complex.
AS: There are a few web series that continue the story of Knots Landing, like Knots Landing Reborn and Fantasy Knots Landing. What’s interesting about Fantasy Knots Landing is that it fills in the four-year gap between the end of the series run and the reunion. So we’re getting closer to you becoming a psychic.
Michelle Phillips: I should become a preacher, an Aimee Semple McPherson, mixing with all this new age mumbo jumbo then. Yeah, Anne could be a spiritual leader and maybe it all starts with her telling fortunes. I love these preachers; it could be really funny.
AS: And that would be very classic Californian too, a side of the state that Knots never really explored. Anne could be like Marianne Williamson.
Michelle Phillips: Exactly. Anne is into crystals and all the herbal mixtures. But when she finally gets alone, you see her making a martini. (Extended laughter)
Séverine from France asks
Michelle, What was your favorite movie, your favorite
actress and idol, what "pushed" you to do this job? How did you feel the first time you were face to a camera?
With regards from France!
Michelle Phillips: I loved Jean Tierney. I loved Audrey Hepburn. I loved Katherine Hepburn. I had an odd relationship with film in that I didn’t really see a movie until my teens. The first movie I saw was The Red Shoes and then I think after that The Tales of Hoffman. Two movies that were about ballet with a classical theme. When I was in Mexico I remember all the film stars there like Maria Felix, Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete. When I got to America I loved Kim Novak, she was my idol, and Brigitte Bardot. When I was growing up I watched a lot of French films, there were so many new French directors like Godard and Truffaut. We didn’t watch American films really.
Vince from New York asks
What were your feelings on being reunited with your Mamas and Papas band mate Denny Doherty for the American Soundtrack production that was recently aired on PBS?
Michelle Phillips: That was great. A folk music festival. Kind of like the true-life A Mighty Wind. The Journeymen were there with Dick Weisman and Scott McKenzie; Judy Collins was there. The Lovin’ Spoonful without John Sebastian. The Serendipity Singers – all nine original members.
AS (Laughs): That reminds me of that squeaky clean group from A Mighty Wind, all those members, all with matching outfits.
Michelle Phillips: Yeah, “squeaky-clean” is the way to put it all right, for all the bands. There was no Bob Dylan at this thing. Eric Weisberg played banjo, and the Rooftop Singers were there. I’m sorry, but these were the real commercial bands. (Sings) “Oh no/Don’t let the rain come down/Oh Oh! Don’t let the rain come down”
AS: Was the irony that you were doing a show like A Mighty Wind lost on anyone?
Michelle Phillips (Laughs): No, it wasn’t lost on anyone. We were actually cracking up watching some of the groups in the wings.
AS: Did they have a grand finale like in the movie?
Michelle Phillips: Oh yes. It was “California Dreamin’.”
AS: Oh no! (Laughs) What a joke. I think it’s great that the Academy Award voters had enough of a sense of humor to nominate that Mitch and Mickey song. Who were they supposed to be anyway? Paul and Paula?
Michelle Phillips: I’m not sure. Maybe Ian and Sylvia. Even if they weren’t based on anyone real they would have existed in somebody’s mind.
AS: Speaking of group music, how is your daughter’s Wilson Phillips album coming?
Michelle Phillips: I just heard the first teaser on the radio this morning. It was the Fleetwood Mac song “Go Your Own Way.” I’ve listened to the album and it’s great. They have a cover of “Monday, Monday” and “In My Room.” Brian Wilson came in and sang one of the verses. They have a version of Joni Mitchell’s “California.”
AS: Is this a whole album of covers?
Michelle Phillips: Yes. They were in the middle of doing an album of their own songs when the record company heard a few covers and said, “Why don’t you do all covers?” Peter Asher produced it and it’s going to be called Pacific Coast Highway.
AS: When is it coming out?
Michelle Phillips: Three weeks.
AS: What’s the first single going to be?
Michelle Phillips: They don’t know yet. They’re going to see what the stations pick up.
AS: It’s great they’re back together but I never understood why they broke up when they were so popular.
Michelle Phillips: Well, there are a lot of dynamics between three young women. It’s not always what it seems. The fact is that now Wendy has a baby and Carnie has two babies and Carnie is not 150 pounds overweight. She looks great, by the way. But they’re just a totally different group right now.
AS: Did you ever think of the identity of the “redheaded girl” from Part One? You know, the teen actress who was making an album and said it was “so hard”?
Michelle Phillips: Kristy McNichol.
Michelle Phillips: She had red hair, right?
AS: Maybe. I think it may have been strawberry blonde.
Michelle Phillips: Yeah. It was she.
AS: Tell me about your two sons.
Michelle Phillips: Aron (Wilson) is 23 and is a sound engineer and Austin (Hines) is 22 and he is in college and is taking acting classes.
AS: Is he a senior?
Michelle Phillips: Umm … he’s taking it at a nice leisurely pace (Laughs).
AS: Are you married?
Michelle Phillips: No. I was engaged from 1988 and we were going to get married on January 1, 2000 but we had broken up in the middle of 1999. I have been dating someone since late 1999 and though we’re not married we still see each other a lot and are just as happy.
AS: What is his name?
Michelle Phillips: Steven Zax. He’s a plastic surgeon.
AS: It’s nice to get the update. You’ve come a long way from your tabloid days.
Michelle Phillips: Yeah I have. Though speaking of the tabloids, there is this story that came out recently that I should mention. The National Enquirer said I had dated John Kerry and that we broke up. And I was so mad at him that I had sent money to his opponent in a race for the Senate. This was utterly false. We had never had a romance. In early 1987 I had one dinner with him! So that is not true and I’m going to vote for him. He’s very intelligent, very charming and I would say, very presidential.
The thing is, the National Enquirer had my number, and they could have called me. But they never did. I called the editor and said this wasn’t true but they said they don’t run retractions. They printed another story saying that I had said it wasn’t true instead. I got faxes from Germany, from Japan, all wanting a comment on this story. Even the Boston Herald printed a story with a source as “The National Enquirer.” This is what the world is coming to? Since when does anyone treat the National Enquirer as a credible news source?
AS: Did this rumor originate on the Internet? Like the John Kerry dating an internet rumor?
Michelle Phillips: No, I don’t think so. But the Internet is a source for a lot of wrong information as well. As you know, I don’t have a computer but I was over at somebody’s house and they said, “I wonder what it says about you on the Internet.” So they Googled me and so much of it was half-truths or not true at all. But people read things on the computer and they think it’s got to be the God’s truth. It’s all probably put together by some lackey at the Google Company. That’s why the Internet doesn’t interest me.
AS: On that note, it’s time to end our Internet interview. Thanks again for your time and generosity, Michelle.
Michelle Phillips: Thank you Art. Call me in six months if you want to do this again.
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