Mackenzie Details Incest On 'Oprah'
'One Day At a Time' star sells books, breaks hearts via uber-candid Winfrey chat
By Kenny Herzog Sep 23, 2009 3:34PM
When news broke during the last 24 hours that Mackenzie Phillips' tell-all, "High On Arrival," would detail an incestuous affair with her father/Mamas and the Papas leader John Phillips, there was an instant, nationwide cringe of discomfort.
And by the time the former sitcom starlet finished an hour-long chat with Oprah Winfrey this afternoon, that had mutated into an all-body seizure of ickiness and mixed emotions. Unless, of course, anyone happened to be at work and missed the broadcast. Which is why, of course, you're reading this.
So, apart from the major disclosure itself, here are the other five prominent revelations that emerged during this harrowing, but cynicism-sparking, installment of the Big O.
5. Oprah is kind of a bully. She talks over guests, prolongs painful questions to really stir their emotions and pulls rugs out from under them like she was a dimestore magician with a tablecloth. Case in point: After Mackenzie reads a passage from her book about how a father is supposed to "protect you, not f**k" you," Oprah says they're going to change the subject from her intra-family copulation. Mackenzie, tearing up, expresses thanks. At which point Oprah almost comically announces she's going to move on, specifically, "to how you came to have sex with your father." Jeesh. Is this a talk show or a cross-examination?
4. Valerie Bertinelli was a secret badass. Phillips' "One Day At a Time" co-star emerged as a final-segment special guest, and confessed her guilt for blowing lines with Mackenzie but never getting the scrutiny or stigma. That said, she did get the misfortune of incurring a marriage to this guy.
3. Mick Jagger is a slimy bastard but isn't a criminal. The wide-lipped-and-eyed singer, perpetually rolling stoned, apparently had sex with Mackenzie when she was 18 and declared he'd been waiting for that moment since she was 10. But, Phillips was quick to point, there wasn't technically any pedophilia involved. Sure, just the really creepy intimation of it. Isn't that four-tenths of the law in certain provinces?
2. In general, Mackenzie is a victim looking for total validation and catharsis by sharing her story with the world, when—as she acknowledged—her celebrity siblings and in-laws (Chynna Phillips, the Baldwin brothers et al) won't even support her and encourage closure.
1. Selling books while achieving authentic and necessary catharsis is a difficult balance. Mackenzie's (or "Mac," as her friends apparently call her for short) tale is harrowing, cautionary, shocking and tragic. But it's also one that's had an awkwardly PR'd unveiling, and included careful coaching to ensure Mackenzie referred to her memoir by its full title in any instance where it was referenced.
All told, it was a complex hour of television, as part of a whirlwhind day in the life of an abused actress-cum-child of excess in desperate need for compassion and recovery. Waves of cynicism (entirely on account of the strategic calculation behind the bombshell confession and promotional ramp-up for her book's release) were washed over with tremendous helpings of sympathy while digesting a truly devastating and bizarre story that illustrates the dysfunction behind being both famous and merely human.
Man, is it time for "Tool Academy" yet?