Michelle Phillips (born Holly Michelle Gilliam; June 4, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. A native of California, she met and married John Phillips in San Francisco as a teenager, and went on to co-found the vocal group the Mamas & the Papas in 1965. The band rose to fame with their popular singles "California Dreamin'" and "Creeque Alley," both of which Phillips co-wrote. They released five studio albums before their dissolution in 1970. Phillips is the last surviving member of the group.
After the breakup of the Mamas & the Papas and her divorce from John Phillips, she successfully transitioned into acting, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Billie Frechette in the critically acclaimed crime biopic Dillinger (1973). She went on to appear in numerous films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Ken Russell's Valentino (1977), playing Natacha Rambova; Bloodline (1979); and Scissors (1991). She was also a main cast member on the series Knots Landing from 1987 to 1993. Phillips released one solo album, Victim of Romance, in 1977. She is the mother of Chynna Phillips.
Phillips was born Holly Michelle Gilliam in Long Beach, California, the second child of Joyce Leon (née Poole), an accountant, and Gardner Burnett Gilliam, a merchant mariner. She has one older sister. Phillips's mother died of a brain aneurysm when Michelle was five years old. Between the ages of six and twelve, Phillips was raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where her father was studying sociology on the GI Bill at Mexico City College. While there, she attended Mexican schools, and learned to speak Spanish. At age thirteen, Phillips returned to the United States with her father and sister, settling again in Long Beach, where she attended high school. In high school, Phillips played several sports, as well as studying piano, guitar, and cello.
Standing at 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m) Phillips relocated to San Francisco hoping to work as a model. There, she met John Phillips while he was touring California with his band the Journeymen. He divorced his first wife and married Michelle on December 31, 1962, when she was eighteen years old. In 1968, she gave birth to their daughter, Chynna Phillips, who later became vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips.
1965-69: The Mamas & the PapasMain article: The Mamas & the Papas
After her marriage to John Phillips at age eighteen, the couple relocated to New York City, where they began writing songs together. There, Phillips was a founding member of the Mamas & the Papas, helping to form the vocal group in 1965. She co-wrote some of the band's hits, including "California Dreamin'" and "Creeque Alley," which appeared on their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966).
Recording of the Mamas and the Papas' second album (eponymously titled The Mamas and the Papas (1966) and sometimes referred to as Cass, John, Michelle, Dennie, whose names appear thus above the band's name on the cover) was interrupted when Michelle Phillips became indiscreet about her affair with Gene Clark of the Byrds. An affair the previous year between Phillips and band mate Denny Doherty had been forgiven; Doherty and John Phillips had reconciled and ostensibly written "I Saw Her Again" (1966) about the episode, although they later disagreed about how much Doherty contributed to the song. This time, Phillips was determined to fire his wife. After consulting their attorney and record label, he, Elliot, and Doherty served Michelle Phillips with a letter expelling her from the group on June 28, 1966. Michelle was rehired shortly thereafter, when the three original members concluded her replacement Jill Gibson, who was a quick study and well regarded, lacked her predecessor's "stage charisma and grittier edge"; Michelle Phillips was reinstated on August 23, 1966. After Phillip's reinstatement, the band embarked on a brief tour of the East coast, playing a series of precarious shows in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, and at Fordham University in New York City.
After returning to California and settling in Los Angeles, the group recorded their third album, The Mamas & The Papas Deliver (1967). In June of 1967, Phillips performed with the group at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California, an event organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler. The festival also featured other prominent California-based counterculture musicians and psychedelic rock acts, including Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. Recounting the experience, Phillips said: " a Renaissance Fair. It was convenient for the artists and the audience. Practically everyone had a seat, and if not, people were lining up against the fence, and they could see and hear. Or people were sitting outside, you could hear it outside, too... It was lovely.
In August 1967, the band played what would be their final live performance at the Hollywood Bowl. Phillips would go on to record a fourth and final album with the band in 1968, The Papas & The Mamas, before going on a hiatus. Michelle and John Phillips, whose marriage was failing at the time, filed for divorce in a Los Angeles County court in May 1969, and the group officially disbanded in 1971 before the release of their final album, People Like Us, which was recorded to fulfill contract obligations with their record label.
1970-76: Transition to acting
In 1969, while still a member of the Mamas & the Papas, Phillips appeared in Gram Parsons' science fiction film Saturation 70, alongside Nudie Cohn, Anita Pallenberg, and Julian Jones, the then-five-year-old son of the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. The film was never finished, and became a lost film. The following year, after the breakup of the Mamas & the Papas, she enrolled in acting classes in Los Angeles, and has said that she intended to start her acting career "from scratch," stating that the royalties from the band's records provided her a sustained income while she began to venture into film.
Her first film role came in Dennis Hopper's 1971 film The Last Movie, in a minor bit part; she would later marry Hopper shortly after the production, a marriage which lasted only eight days. Two years later, she was cast in a lead role in the thriller film Dillinger (1973) as John Dillinger's girlfriend, Billie Frechette. The film was critically acclaimed, and Variety said of her performance: "Phillips, making her film bow after having been a member of the Mamas & the Papas singing group, scores heavily as Dillinger’s girlfriend," while The New York Times noted it as "mildly effective." Phillips was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer for her performance. Reflecting on the film, Phillips said:
I was so lucky to have been surrounded by really great actors. Everybody in that movie was a real actor: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Richard Dreyfuss, Harry Dean Stanton. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience for me and I had so much support and so much help and so much encouragement. That was really my first movie. Dennis’ movie was a lot of improvisation and craziness.
The same year, Phillips recorded vocals as a cheerleader along with Darlene Love, for the Cheech & Chong single "Basketball Jones" which peaked at No.15 on the Billboard singles chart. In 1974 she was featured in the action-horror television film The California Kid opposite Martin Sheen, and also appeared briefly in a party scene with Warren Beatty in Shampoo (1975); Phillips had been dating Beatty at the time, and the appearance was a cameo. In 1975 Phillips signed a solo recording contract with A&M Records and released a promo single, "Aloha Louie", a song she wrote with ex-husband John Phillips. Phillips released her first solo single in 1976, "No Love Today", on the Mother, Jugs & Speed movie soundtrack.
1977-1986: Solo album; film
In 1977, Phillips released her first and only solo album, Victim of Romance, produced by Jack Nitzsche for A&M Records. Commenting on the record, she said: "I didn't do it earlier because I never felt secure enough as a vocalist. I'm good, but Cass was always better." Phillips also commented on her involvement in its production, saying that she had been involved in "every aspect, from mixing to putting together the package and cover myself." Her first two solo singles from the album failed to make the U.S. music charts.
The same year, she sang backup vocals with former stepdaughter Mackenzie Phillips on "Zulu Warrior", for her ex-husband's second solo album, Pay Pack & Follow. The same year, she starred as Rudolph Valentino's second wife Natacha Rambova in Ken Russell's film Valentino (1977). The film received mixed reviews, with Time Out London saying: "Structured as a series of flashbacks from Valentino's funeral to his early years in America, the first hour or so of this biopic is Russell's sanest and most controlled work in several years, despite its hollow cynicism."
In 1979, she appeared in the film adaptation of the Sidney Sheldon novel Bloodline (1979), a thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara. Released in June 1979, Bloodline received negative reviews from critics, and Phillips's performance (along with those of James Mason and Maurice Ronet) was criticized by Variety as being "drab." The same year, she recorded the song "Forever" for the movie soundtrack of California Dreaming the same year, a surf film that had nothing to do with her former group.
Her other film credits during this period include roles in The Man with Bogart's Face (1980), Savage Harvest (1981) and American Anthem (1986). On television, Phillips played the mermaid princess Nyah in three episodes of Fantasy Island, and Leora Van Treas in Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All starring Stacy Keach in the title role, and appeared in TV miniseries such as Aspen (1977) and The French Atlantic Affair (1979). She has made guest appearances on programs such as Spin City and Star Trek: The Next Generation (where she appeared in the episode "We'll Always Have Paris" as a former love-interest of Jean-Luc Picard).
1987-present: Knots Landing; film work
Phillips starred for six seasons on Knots Landing as the constantly scheming Anne Matheson Sumner, the mother of star Nicollette Sheridan's character Paige Matheson (a role which Phillips returned to for the 1997 TV movie Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac). During this time, she also appeared in the films Let It Ride (1989); the thriller Scissors (1991), opposite Sharon Stone; and Joshua Tree (1993), starring Dolph Lundgren. In the mid-1990s, she played Abby Malone, mother of Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) in Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210.
In late 1987, Phillips sang backup vocals on Belinda Carlisle's number one hit, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", as well as on the Carlisle LP, Heaven on Earth. She had a guest role on the television series The Magnificent Seven, where she played Maude Standish, the mother of one of the Seven. Phillips' most recent serious acting job has been a recurring role on the WB drama 7th Heaven as Lily Jackson, sister of family matriarch Annie Jackson Camden (Catherine Hicks). She played Laura Collins in the 1996 television movie No One Would Tell.
After the millennium, Phillips continued to occasionally appear in films. She had supporting parts in the comedies Jane White Is Sick & Twisted (2002); the drama Harry + Max (2004); and the independent comedy Unbeatable Harold (2006) In 2009, Phillips appeared at the annual TV Land Awards for the 30th year celebration of Knots Landing. She also appeared in a minor role in the Norwegian historical film Betrayal, which chronicles the German occupation of Norway.
Phillips has married five times and has three children:
- John Phillips (December 31, 1962 - May 1969) (divorced) 1 daughter, singer Chynna Phillips
- Dennis Hopper (October 31, 1970 - November 8, 1970) (divorced after 8 days)
- Robert Burch (1978-1982) (divorced)
- Grainger Hines (divorced) 2 sons, Austin Hines, and Aron Wilson
- Steven Zax (2000-present)
In 1986, Phillips wrote an autobiography, California Dreamin': The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas, released just weeks after her former husband's autobiography Papa John. In it, Michelle describes such events as her first meeting with fellow Mama, Cass Elliot, of winning 17 straight shoots at a crap table in the Bahamas when the band was broke and could not afford the airfare back to the United States, and how her writing credit on "California Dreamin'", which still nets her royalties, was "the best wake-up call" she ever had (she was asleep in a New York hotel room when her then husband John Phillips woke her up in order to help him finish a new song he was writing).
In 2007, Phillips publicly protested the Iraq war and stated her belief that president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney be investigated for war crimes. Phillips is an advocate for legalization of marijuana, and in 2008 credited it with helping her quit smoking cigarettes: "When I really, really, really wanted a cigarette, I would take a puff of pot, and the cravings would go away," she said.
On December 2, 1987, Phillips was arrested in Amarillo, Texas, for marijuana possession after being pulled over for speeding. Phillips was a passenger in the car with then-boyfriend Geoffrey Tozer, and the marijuana was discovered after police searched the couple's vehicle. Phillips was booked and released on $500 bond.
- The Mamas & the Papas
|Year||Album||Catalog number (U.S.)||U.S. Billboard 200||U.S. Cashbox||UK||Certifications|
|1966||If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears||Dunhill D 50006 (Mono)/DS 50006 (Stereo)||1||2||3||US: Gold|
|1966||The Mamas & the Papas||Dunhill D 50010/DS 50010||4||5||24||US: Gold|
|1967||The Mamas & The Papas Deliver||Dunhill D 50014/DS 50014||2||1||4||US: Gold|
|1968||The Papas & the Mamas||Dunhill DS 50031||15||10||-||-|
|1971||People Like Us||Dunhill DSX 50106||84||45||-||-|
|Victim of Romance||1977|
|"No Love Today"||1976|
|"There She Goes" (remake)||1978|
|1970||Saturation 70||Unfinished; lost film|
|1971||The Last Movie||Banker's Daughter|
|1973||The Death Squad||Joyce Kreski||Television film|
|1973||Dillinger||Billie Frechette||Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer|
|1974||The California Kid||Maggie||Television film|
|1975||Shampoo||Girl at Party||Uncredited|
|1978||The Users||Marina Brent||Television film|
|1980||The Man with Bogart's Face||Gena|
|1982||Moonlight||Meredith Tyne||Television film|
|1983||Murder Me, Murder You||Chris Jameson||Television film|
|1984||Secrets of a Married Man||Katie Jordan||Television film|
|1985||Covenant||Claire Noble||Television film|
|1985||Stark: Mirror Image||Jennifer Clayton||Television film|
|1986||American Anthem||Linda Tevere|
|1987||Assault and Matrimony||Madge Evers||Television film|
|1989||Let It Ride||Mrs. Davis|
|1989||Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All||Leora Van Treas||Television film|
|1989||Trenchcoat in Paradise||Suzanna Hollander||Television film|
|1991||Keep On Running||Tracy|
|1993||Joshua Tree||Esther Severance|
|1993||Rubdown||Jordana Orwitz||Television film|
|1996||No One Would Tell||Laura Collins||Television film|
|1996||Pretty Poison||Mrs. Stepanek||Television film|
|1999||Sweetwater||Nancy Nevins||Television film|
|2000||Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel||DeeDee Westbrook|
|2000||919 Fifth Avenue||Mrs. Janet Van Degen||Television film|
|2000||The Price of Air||Mrs. Rye|
|2001||Stop at Nothing||Television film|
|2002||Jane White Is Sick & Twisted||June|
|2004||Harry + Max||Mother|
|2005||Kids in America||Singer|
|2006||And the Sea Took Us||Herself (voice)||Documentary|
|1973||Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law||Stephanie Marks||1 episode|
|1977||Aspen||Gloria Osborne||3 episodes|
|1979||The French Atlantic Affair||Jennie Barber|
|1979-84||Fantasy Island||Various||7 episodes|
|1980||Vega$||Officer Cassandra Hunt||2 episodes|
|1981-84||The Love Boat||Barbara Carroll/Sheila Price/Linda Gammon||5 episodes|
|1982||Matt Houston||Glenda Collins||1 episode|
|1983||The Fall Guy||Fay Charles||1 episode|
|1983||The Mississippi||Caroline Foster||1 episode|
|1983-86||Hotel||Elizabeth Bradshaw Cabot/Claire Talbot Ames/Gerry Howland||7 episodes|
|1984||Automan||Veronica Everly||1 episode|
|1984||Fox Mystery Theater/A.K.A. Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense||Sandra Lorenz||1 episode|
|1984||Finder of Lost Loves||Alicia Marsh||1 episode|
|1984||Murder, She Wrote||Regina Kellijian||1 episode|
|1985||T.J. Hooker||Teri Sherman||1 episode|
|1987-93||Knots Landing||Anna Matheson||88 episodes|
|1988||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Katherine Clark||1 episode|
|1988||Star Trek: The Next Generation||Jenice Manheim||1 episode|
|1993-94||Second Chances||Joanna Russell||4 episodes|
|1994||Burke's Law||Denise Kima||1 episode|
|1994||Herman's Head||Sandra Clayton||1 episode|
|1994||Heaven Help Us||1 episode|
|1994-99||Diagnosis Murder||Livia Parkinson/Christine Shaw||2 episodes|
|1995||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Claudette Wilder||1 episode|
|1996||Malibu Shores||Suki Walker||10 episodes|
|1996||Too Something||Karen Reeves||1 episode|
|1997||The Big Easy||Collette||1 episode|
|1997||Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac||Anne Matheson Summer||2 episodes|
|1997||Spicy City||Raven||6 episodes|
|1997-98||Beverly Hills, 90210||Abby Malone||9 episodes|
|1998||Love Boat: The Next Wave||Quinn Ford||1 episode|
|1998-2000||The Magnificent Seven||Maude Standish||3 episodes|
|1999||Providence||Blair Mason||1 episode|
|1999-2001||Rude Awakening||Vivian||3 episodes|
|2000||Twice in a Lifetime||Edwina Lewis||1 episode|
|2000||Popular||Hellacious Akers||2 episodes|
|2001||All About Us||Juliana Merrick||1 episode|
|2001||Spin City||Jane Moore||1 episode|
|2001-2002||That's Life||Maureen||2 episodes|
|2001-04||7th Heaven||Lilly||3 episodes|
|2003||Abby||Christine Newton||1 episode|