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Video: Phillips taking sobriety, incest fallout one day at a time

  1. Transcript of: Phillips taking sobriety, incest fallout one day at a time

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Back now at 8:10 with the fallout from actress Mackenzie Phillips ' shocking memoir. The " One Day at a Time " star joined us here on TODAY in 2009 . She claimed that she and her father, John Phillips , of the legendary singing group The Mamas and the Papas had a sexual relationship for 10 years. The allegation has rocked her famous family . Mackenzie writes about that in a new chapter for the paperback version of "High On Arrival." Mackenzie Phillips , good morning. So nice to see you again.

    Ms. MACKENZIE PHILLIPS (Author, "High On Arrival"): Thank you, Meredith . It's nice to see you.

    VIEIRA: One -- thank you -- one of the first things you write in this afterthought, or afterword to the book is how shocked you were that the media jumped on this revelation about you and your dad. I'm surprised that you were surprised.

    Ms. PHILLIPS: I think I was -- I think I was very naive. I expected, certainly, people to go, 'oh my God, that's so crazy.' I didn't -- what I didn't expect was the deeply cruel things that were said, you know, the media...

    VIEIRA: Like what?

    Ms. PHILLIPS: You know, 'Oh, Mackenzie Phillips banged her dad.' You know, or the blogs that I read, and it -- and it -- and, you know, and it was a double-edged sword. I mean, I learned a lot about the dynamic of an incestuous relationship, and I -- from a -- from a community of survivors I -- a community I really didn't even consider that I belonged to.

    VIEIRA: What did you learn that you didn't understand when you wrote the book?

    Ms. PHILLIPS: I learned from people like Dr. Drew and from other survivors all around the world and the country that there is no such thing as consensual incest.

    VIEIRA: Which is what you said, that the relationship became consensual after a certain point.

    Ms. PHILLIPS: I -- and I -- what I found -- what I've come to realize is that I was sort of groomed to believe it was consensual, that I was complicit in some way, that because I didn't scream and fight and that I participated that made me at fault. And, of course, that is the huge thing that all incest survivors suffer from, is taking a portion of the shame and guilt onto their own backs.

    VIEIRA: Let's talk about some of the fallout with your own family .

    Ms. PHILLIPS: Mm-hmm.

    VIEIRA: That year the book came out, 2009 , you were supposed to have a dinner with your family , Thanksgiving dinner , you're invited. Then the book comes out, you're doing interviews, disinvited.

    Ms. PHILLIPS: Yes.

    VIEIRA: At this point, except for your mom, nobody's talking to you. Do you understand why they're not talking to you?

    Ms. PHILLIPS: I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons. Denial. I mean, they've all known about it for years, so the family members that come forward and say, 'This isn't true and she's crazy' are a textbook case of the way a family reacts to incest within the family . It's been really hard. It's been really hard to not have my sisters and my brothers and my wicked ex-stepmother, with whom I've been very close over the years, to have them basically just say, 'That's it. We're done with you.'

    VIEIRA: Well, you -- well, your wicked ex-stepmother, as you referred to her, Michelle Phillips , she did have comment. She -- this is part of it. She said, "After 35 years of a needle up her arm, including several months while she was pregnant" -- this is referring to you -- "it's difficult to believe much of her story. She has hurt everyone in her family tremendously and apparently feels no guilt or shame in doing it or even how she decided to deal with her 'memories.'"

    Ms. PHILLIPS: Ah, Mich. You know, I'm -- again, maybe I'm naive, but I am an eternal optimist, and I certainly didn't expect such vitriol from someone who's expected and thought of as such a classy woman.

    VIEIRA: Do you have any regrets about writing this about your dad? I mean, after his death when he can't defend himself.

    Ms. PHILLIPS: If I had written it while he was alive people would have said, 'Why didn't you wait until he was dead?' You know? I have a story, it is my story. I went out of my way not to tell Michelle 's story or Chynna 's or Bijou 's or anybody else's but my own. And now I've -- they're still trying to tell stories about me. And, you know, I'm -- I said I'm an eternal optimist, and just before the camera came up on this live interview I closed my eyes and I said, 'God, please let me come from a place of love. Don't let me lash out with hurt feelings.' I love my family . I sit here with open arms hoping they'll come back into my life.

    VIEIRA: Do you believe they will?

    Ms. PHILLIPS: As I said, I'm the eternal optimist. I love them, I miss them. But the other day my 24-year-old son, Shane , said to me, 'Mom, don't you realize how much better our life is in a way without them, without the drama, without the family in-fighting?' He said, 'It's so simple now. We just have a good time and play with the dogs and make music.' And I 'm grateful for a simple life . I don't think that "High On Arrival" would signify a person who would be able to go on and live a simple life , but that's what I'm able to do.

    VIEIRA: Mm-hmm. Mackenzie Phillips , thank you so much for joining us this morning.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 2/22/2011 11:13:14 AM ET 2011-02-22T16:13:14

A year and a half after she released a memoir revealing she was the victim of incest at the hands of her singer father, Mackenzie Phillips is still dealing with the fallout — a decided chill from family members, a psyche still bruised over criticism about her confession.

Image: Mackenzie Phillips and her father
TODAY
Phillips maintained an incestuous affair with her father for 10 years. He died in 2001.

The 51-year-old former child star has updated her best-selling autobiography, “High on Arrival,” to address the resulting storm that came from writing that her father coaxed her into bed on the eve of her wedding night, and continued an incestuous affair with her for 10 years. Her folk-rock star father, “Papa John” Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, died in 2001.

Speaking with Phillips live on TODAY Tuesday, Meredith Vieira told the actress she was surprised she didn’t see the fallout coming over her hair-raising story.

Story: Mackenzie Phillips: ‘High on Arrival’ excerpt

“I think I was very naïve,” Phillips told Vieira. “I expected, certainly, people to go, ‘Oh, that is so crazy.’ What I didn’t expect was the deeply cruel things that were said ... ‘Mackenzie Phillips banged her dad,’ or the blogs that I read.”

Perhaps less surprising was the family reaction to Phillips’ publicly airing her incest story. While Phillips told Vieira she has received waves of support from other incest victims and has unwavering support from her mother Susan Adams, other parts of her extended family are now lost to her. Her brother Jeff and celebrity stepsisters Chynna and Bijou Phillips no longer speak to her, while her stepmother, actress and former Mamas & the Papas singer Michelle Phillips, has repeatedly lambasted her incest story.

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In a statement to TODAY, Michelle Phillips said: “After 35 years of a needle up her arm (including several months while she was pregnant) it’s difficult to believe much of her story … she has hurt everyone in her family tremendously and apparently feels no guilt or shame in doing it or over how she decided to deal with her … umm … ’memories.’ ”

Shown the quote from her stepmother, Phillips sighed and said, “Oh, Mich.

“Maybe I’m naïve, but I’m an eternal optimist. And I certainly didn’t expect such vitriol from someone who’s expected and thought of as such a classy woman,” she told Vieira.

Speaking with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford later in the show, Phillips said Michelle Phillips’ comments may be the result of her stepmother’s “protecting a legendary rock band of which she was a huge part.”

“I’m very disappointed in Michelle, because she’s known me since I was 4 years old,” she told Kotb and Gifford. “She has known about the incest for many years, and yet she chooses to try to discredit me publicly.

Story: Mackenzie Phillips: I was high on TODAY

“When Michelle says I feel no shame or guilt — the woman won’t speak to me, so how does she know how I feel? I’m very, very sorry that my family has been hurt by the truth.”

Looking back, looking forward
In “High on Arrival,” first published in September 2009, Phillips recounted a childhood surrounded by her father’s rock star friends, finding fame playing rebel Julie Cooper on the long-running sitcom “One Day at a Time,” and her lengthy battle with drug addiction, capped by a 2008 arrest that sent her to rehab.

TODAY
Phillips shot up cocaine while she was pregnant with her son, Shane, who was nevertheless born a healthy, normal child.

But it was her story of incest that grabbed headlines and sent her family running the other way. In her new chapter, Phillips writes that she “shouldn’t have been surprised” by the reaction, “but I was.” She said her family purposely disinvited her from Thanksgiving dinner in 2009, and has fiercely defended John Phillips because “my family stayed loyal to the cult of my father.”

During Tuesday’s interview, Phillips said her family’s reaction is “a textbook case of the way a family reacts to incest within a family.”

Video: Mackenzie Phillips: Dad ‘was a very sick man’ (on this page)

“It’s been really hard to not have my sisters and my brother and my ‘wicked’ ex-stepmother, with whom I’ve been very close over the years, to have them basically say, ‘That’s it: We’re done with you,’ ” she said.

In her memoir, Phillips writes that what began as incest under pressure from her father eventually became consensual, but she has since learned through counseling and from other incest survivors that “there is no such thing as consensual incest.”

“I was sort of groomed to believe it was consensual, that I was complicit in some way, that because I didn’t scream and fight and I participated, that made me at fault,” Phillips told Vieira. “And, of course, that is the huge thing that all of us survivors suffer from, is taking a portion of the blame and guilt onto their own backs.”

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Still, Phillips holds out hope that she will one day be on speaking terms with her estranged family members.

“I love my family,” she said. “I sit here with open arms hoping they’ll come back into my life.”

“Do you think they will?” Vieira asked.

“I’m an eternal optimist,” Phillips replied. “I love them; I miss them. But the other day, my 24-year-old son Shane said, ‘Mom, don’t you realize how much better our life is, in a way, without them, without the drama, without the family infighting?’ ”

“I’m grateful for a simple life; I don’t think ‘High on Arrival’ would signify a person who would be able to go on with a simple life, but that’s what I’m able to do,” she said.

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