Mackenzie Phillips is back in the news, and not in a good way. Now just in case you might have a life and do not know who Mackenzie Phillips is, let me tell you about her.
1973 marked the debut of American Graffiti, the movie that started George Lucas' career. There's one scene when John Milner (Paul LeMat) is trying to pick up a girl while cruising main street. We hear a voice saying "I'll go! I'll go!" Pretty soon a girl comes running out of the car. She had a perky ponytail, white T-shirt and jeans. She hopped in the car and she was about thirteen, fourteen years old. It was Mackenzie Phillips, and a star was born.
Mackenzie Phillips followed the success of Graffiti with a TV show called One Day at a Time. Norman Lear, who wanted to do a show about divorce, developed it but also a show about two teenage girls close in age (based on his two teenage daughters). He cast stage veteran Bonnie Franklin as the mom, Valerie Bertinelli as the younger sister, but they knew they had better have a big name to get the pilot off the ground. Enter Mackenzie Phillips.
Phillips played Julie, the older sister who always was getting into trouble. She was like a butterfly, always flying to something else. She did not want to do college so she did job after job, not happy either way. She got married but had problems with her husband. Julie was always getting into trouble. She was a good kid but she attracted trouble like a moth to a flame.
Now when I was a kid I LOVED One Day at a Time. I loved it because it was an untraditional family like mine. My parents weren't together and my mom was the same age as Ann Romano, a woman on her own, a feminist, embracing life. All the other shows had the mother, the dad, and the kids. Here was something to watch, something to realize hey! I'm not alone after all. Only two TV shows mirrored us: ODAT and Gilmore Girls. Yes, so much for that feminist wave of taking over the country, two shows in thirty something years.
It was because of ODAT is why I never had a problem with my mom's last name was different from mine. My mom changed her last name back to her maiden name after she left my dad. People would ask me wasn't I upset about that? I said no, she had her name, I had mine, plus I just figured every woman when they got divorced was like my mom and Ann Romano: they just changed their name back to their maiden name.
They always changed ODAT's time slot, which I hated. Sometimes I couldn't watch it because it was too late for me to stay up. That's what happened in 1979-1980. It wasn't until years later I saw Phillips in reruns that year, and I was shocked. She looked anorexic, almost yellow. When she delivered punch lines, her comic timing, always pitch perfect before, was off. It wasn't funny.
Therefore, it was a real shock to me when I saw a People magazine that had Mackenzie Phillips on the cover and it said she was fired. "Why was she fired?" I asked.
"Well, she has a problem with drugs," Mom said.
"Can't she just stop doing drugs?"
"Honey Girl, it's not as easy as that. She's very addicted to them and she couldn't do her job. That's why she was fired."
"But they shouldn't fire her. They should help her."
"This is their way of helping her. They're hoping that by losing her job, she'll realize she needs to get help."
I was in Catholic School at the time. I prayed for a couple of things: I prayed my grandmother would get better from her cancer. I prayed I would get better in math and my handwriting would improve. I prayed for Mackenzie Phillips, so she would get off drugs.
Yes, I was (and still am sometimes) media obsessed. If you don't like it, sorry chum. It is what it is.
One time I admitted in school, I prayed for Mackenzie Phillips to get better. Boy if they weren't concerned about me when it came to my handwriting and math problems, they were concerned about me praying for some actress who had a drug problem. I couldn't help it. I felt like I knew her. Okay, I really knew the character she played, Julie Cooper. Still, I felt like I knew her.
A year and a half later Phillips got sober and she came back to the show. I watched her and I thought she doesn't look well. She gained weight but something was off. Two years later my gut feeling was right-she was fired again for not submitting to a drug test and walking off the set. She stopped acting, stopped everything and disappeared for years.
Then in 1994, she was back! She had been sober for two years and had a son. She did guest starring work and she looked happy and healthy. I was relieved. Oh, she's okay again. She survived.
Seven years ago, I started a novel and I had her in mind for one of the characters. This is what I do when I write fiction; I try to get someone in mind for the character and make a collage of him or her. I didn't continue with the novel, but I'm starting to outline my NanoWriMo book and had Mackenzie Phillips again as one of the characters.
She hadn't been in the spotlight lately; however I did read Valerie Bertinelli's book and I enjoyed it, and bought a ODAT episode off Itunes.
Then today I saw that she was a top person in the msn searches. Hmm, did she have a TV show coming out? A book, like the one Valerie Bertinelli wrote? Then I saw the headline, busted for drugs. In addition, I thought oh, crap. Oh, Mackenzie. Damnit.
She was in an airport and they found heroin and cocaine on her, so they arrested her. Of course the other blogs had a field day with this "Hey, will she go on Celebrity Rehab?" "She looks ugly. Must be all that coke." I have no idea why there are people who take joy in cruelty. God knows I'm not perfect and I throw my arrows as well (people writing crappy soap operas, President Bush, For Better or for Worse) However, kicking someone when they are already down is just a low down, snake in the grass thing to do. It's not funny, it's not witty, it's just plain out obnoxious.
I doubt Mackenzie Phillips will ever read this. If she did, I would tell her this: I know you feel terrible now. You screwed up today. I hope that you will get treatment and the help you need. However, you can do the best you can from where you are today. Just for today. Lately I've been listening to the song "Falling Slowly" which won Best Song at the Oscars, and there's a lyric that brings tears to my eyes: "And you have suffered enough, and warred with yourself, it's time that you won." Mackenzie, you have suffered enough, and warred with youself. You won before; you will win again, if you stay off drugs. In some ways I'm still that little girl, praying for you. I am sending you light and love. Wherever you are, I hope you feel it.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries