In the latter half of the ’60s, the Mamas & the Papas dominated the airwaves with their inescapable hit “Monday Monday.” The band released a whopping five studio albums in four short years and sold nearly 40 million records worldwide. Despite the group’s successes, their legacy was tarnished with drug abuse and claims of incest after John Phillips slept with his daughter.
Mackenzie Phillips, the daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, was tortured with a life of drug abuse – it led her to lose her starring role in One Day At A Time and begin touring with a re-formed version of the Mamas & the Papas. On tour, she found herself in her father’s arms. Though Mackenzie Phillips’s sexual relationship with her father started out as rape, it slowly became consensual and the pair had a full-fledged romance that lasted 10 years.
Mackenzie spent much of her life in and out of rehab, always on the brink of relapse and trying her best to stay out of trouble with the law. In 2009, she released a memoir called High on Arrival that detailed the hazy, drug-fueled sexual encounters with her father. Their relationship finally became public and her family was torn apart.
So what led a singer and his bandmate daughter to form a sexual relationship that lasted longer than many marriages? How exactly did the news of incest tear the Phillips family apart? This is the story of John and Mackenzie Phillips.
John Phillips Taught His Daughter How To Use Drugs, Which Would Eventually Lead To Their Incestuous Relationship
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Mackenzie Phillips admitted that she idolized her father, who had more than a few bad habits. She said that he taught her how to shoot cocaine and roll a joint.
“The first time I did cocaine I was 11,” she said. “I was staying with my father and his wife at the time and my brother, and my father never made any bones about doing drugs in front of his children or later on sharing drugs with us. He taught me to roll joints when I was 10.”
Mackenzie admitted that she didn’t have good role models, which led to her drug addiction.
“What you’ve been taught is what you know, and that was kind of like it for me,” she told Winfrey. “I didn’t have very good role models.”
The Incest Started When Mackenzie Was 19 Years Old, On The Night Before Her Wedding
In 1979, the night before 19-year-old Mackenzie Phillips was supposed to marry Jeff Sessler, a member of the Rolling Stones’s touring party, she found herself in a Florida hotel room with her father. John Phillips came to Florida in an effort to stop her wedding, but the pair found themselves out of their mind on drugs.
In a CNN interview, Phillips admits she blacked out and woke up having sex with her father.
“The night before, my father came to Florida with the intention to stop the union. Nobody wanted me to marry Jeff,” she said. “And I went over to my father’s hotel room and we – he had a lot of drugs, I had a lot of drugs, we took a lot of drugs. And all I remember is arriving in the room, getting high and then I remember sort of – yes. He kind of — I don’t know if you know this. You probably don’t know this. If you’re in a blackout and you’re not in your body and then you come to in your body, I was in the act of having sex with my father.”
Phillips was in and out of consciousness during the act. The next morning, she woke up in her own hotel room alone.
Mackenzie Didn’t Address The Issue With Her Father Until Several Months Later
Even though Mackenzie saw her father the day after the incident, she didn’t bring it up to him until seven months later. Both John and Mackenzie Phillips were in New York, and Mackenzie finally confronted him about the rape. He saw things in a completely different light.
In an interview with CNN, Phillips described the painful conversation with her father.
“I said we really need to talk about what happened in Florida. We need to talk about how – and I used the word ‘rape’ for want of a better word – how you raped me,” she said. “And he said, ‘Raped you? Don’t you mean when we made love?’ And I thought to myself, wow, I’m so screwed. I sort of closed my mind to it and put it in a little emotional mental box and took it out and looked at it every once in a while, but I never really – what do you do?”
Mackenzie And John Phillips Didn’t Touch Each Other Again For Three Or Four Years
Though the initial incident happened when Mackenzie Phillips was just 19 years old, her father didn’t touch her again for three or four years. It was only when Mackenzie was fired from her starring role on One Day At A Time that things went even further. After she was fired because of her drug use, she went on the road with the New Mamas & the Papas. She began waking up with John Phillips not knowing what had happened. Her stepmother was at home with her younger siblings, and she was seeing her dad on a daily basis. Both of them were doing lots of drugs.
“…We would take drugs and do the show and, you know, all that kind of insanity,” she told CNN. “And I started waking up in my father’s hotel room bed with – I wore a lot of leggings, you know those tight black legging pants back in the ’80’s, because it was, you know, really big then.
And I would wake up with them down around my ankles. And I would think, ‘how did this – where am I? How did this happen?’ And I look over and I’m in my father’s bed and he’s sleeping next to me. And this happened – it didn’t happen, as I’ve said, it didn’t happen every day. It didn’t happen every week. It occurred.”
By The Time Mackenzie Was 29, Her Relationship With John Phillips Became Consensual
Mackenzie’s relationship with her father didn’t start consensually, but it did turn out that way. By the time she was 29 years old, she was in a full-on, consensual relationship with her father. During this time she was also in a relationship with another man who had no idea about what was going on with her father.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Mackenzie recalled a moment when she was touring with her father in Hawaii. They had adjoining rooms, but she mostly stayed in his room. Again, she found herself in a drug-induced stupor, laying next to him. This time, he urged her to run away with him.
“Dad said, ‘We could just run away to Fiji, and we could take [his children] Bijou and Tamerlane and raise them as our own,'” she said. “He was delusional, talking about living with me as man and wife, and raising my siblings, his children, as our children. The moment he tried to make it romantic, I thought, we’re going to hell for this.”
“It became a consensual relationship over time, and I know that I can’t be the only one this has happened to. Nobody’s talking about this, and someone needs to put a face on not only nonconsensual incest but consensual incest, because I know it exists.”
Mackenzie Chalked Up Her Incestuous Relationship To Stockholm Syndrome
Though John Phillips’s relationship with his daughter started out as non-consensual, it eventually became a full-fledged romance. Mackenzie Phillips believes it was like Stockholm syndrome, when a prisoner falls in love with their captor.
“It was the Stockholm syndrome where you begin to love your captor. I felt love for my father, but the moment he tried to make it a romance, I was shot into the present time,” she told Oprah Winfrey during an interview.
Mackenzie Finally Ended Their Relationship After She Became Pregnant
It took 10 years for Mackenzie Phillips to end her relationship with her father, which only happened when she was faced with the terrifying reality that she could be pregnant with a child of incest.
Mackenzie fell pregnant for the second time, only this time, she didn’t know who the father was – it was either her boyfriend or her biological dad. John Phillips knew the child could be his, so he paid for her abortion. She aborted the child and never let him touch her again.
“It was one of those moments where you’re either going to live or die,” she told Oprah Winfrey. “I don’t mean death. I mean, wake up dead. Dead to feeling. Dead to reality.”
The News Of Mackenzie’s Incestuous Relationship With John Phillips Tore Her Family Apart
When Mackenzie revealed the details of the incestuous relationship she had with her father in her book High on Arrival, it tore her family apart. To this day, her family remains saddened and angered that she exposed her long-held secret. Though her sister Chynna Phillips and biological mother Susan Adams believed her claims, some family members didn’t. Phillips became a pariah, and was barred from certain family activities.
In Phillips’s book Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, the singer recalls a time she was uninvited from a birthday party.
“Another family member was angered that I might attend, and I was told she was just not willing to forgive me yet. She wouldn’t forgive me! For abuses perpetrated against me as a child, or for exposing those abuses perhaps,” she said.
Mackenzie Forgave Her Father On His Deathbed
In 2001, when John Phillips became increasingly more ill after a life-long battle with alcoholism, Mackenzie Phillips finally forgave her dad for what he had done. Phillips revealed the details of their final conversation during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
“I said to him, ‘Dad, we’ve been through a lot—good, bad, indifferent,'” she said. “He was looking up at me, and I said, ‘I would not be the woman I am had I not been your daughter, and I’m very proud of the woman I am, regardless of my past.’ I said, ‘So I want you to know that I love you, and I forgive you.'”
Mackenzie also admitted that she doesn’t blame her dad because she could have stopped it.
“I’ve taken a lot of accountability for this, as you can see.” She told Larry King in a CNN interview. “I’m not blaming my father. I could have stopped it. I didn’t. I didn’t stop it until I was scared with eternal damnation, Larry.”
Mackenzie Phillips’s Stepmothers Refuted Her Claims Of Incest, Blamed Drug Addiction
When Mackenzie bravely detailed her relationship with John Phillips in her book High on Arrival, her family was shocked and appalled with the news. Mackenzie’s former stepmother, Genevieve Waite, refuted her claims alleging that no such thing ever happened.
“I am stunned by Mackenzie’s terrible allegations about her father,” Waite wrote in statement to the Oprah Winfrey Show. “I would often complain about her overly familiar attitudes towards him, and he said it was just her way. John was a good man. … He was incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, to have sexual relations with his own child.”
John’s second wife, Michelle Phillips, wasn’t sure if Mackenzie was telling the truth or filled with drug-induced delusions, but she believes sharing this news was a calculated move. She blamed Mackenzie’s ongoing issues with drug addiction and mental illness.
“Mackenzie has a lot of mental illness. She’s had a needle stuck up her arm for 35 years. She was arrested for heroin and coke just recently. She did ‘Celebrity Rehab’ and now she writes a book,” Michelle told The Hollywood Reporter. “The whole thing is timed… Mackenzie is jealous of her siblings, who have accomplished a lot and did not become drug addicts.”
Mackenzie’s Sisters Had Mixed Reactions To The Allegations
When Mackenzie’s half–sister Bijou Phillips was just 13 years old, Mackenzie shared her tale of incest. Bijou recounted the emotional strife that followed as she tried to wrap her head around her sister’s story.
“When I was 13, Mackenzie told me that she had a consensual sexual relationship with our father,” she said in a written statement to The Oprah Winfrey Show. “This news was confusing and it was also scary, as I lived alone with him since I was three. I didn’t know what to believe, and it didn’t help that shortly thereafter, it didn’t happen. “
Bijou maintained the fact that John Phillips was an amazing father, and lamented that her half-sister brought the allegations public after his death.
“Mackenzie’s history with our father is hers, but also clouded with 30 years of drug abuse. I hope she can come to terms with this and find peace. The life I had with my father was very different. He was Mr. Mom. He was encouraging and loving. The man that raised me would never be capable of doing such things, and if he was, it is heartbreaking for me to think that my family would leave me alone with him. I understand Mackenzie’s need to come clean with the history that she feels will help others, but it’s devastating to have the world watch as we try and mend broken fences, especially when the man in question isn’t here to defend himself.”
On the other hand, Chynna Phillips instantly believed her sister the moment she was told about their 10-year relationship.
“Somebody could have dropped a piano on my head and I wouldn’t have felt it. But I knew it was true,” she said.