Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips

Birth name: Holly Michelle Gilliam
Born: June 4, 1944
Age: 78
Birthplace: Long Beach, California, U.S.
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Michelle Phillips (born Holly Michelle Gilliam; June 4, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She rose to fame as a vocalist in the musical quartet The Mamas & the Papas in the mid-1960s. She later established a successful career as an actress in film and television in the 1970s.

A native of Long Beach, California, she spent her early life in Los Angeles and Mexico City, raised by her widowed father. While working as a model in San Francisco, she met and married John Phillips in 1962, 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. Michelle Phillips is the last surviving member of the group. With John Phillips, she gave birth to a daughter, singer Chynna Phillips.

After the breakup of the Mamas & the Papas and her divorce from John Phillips, she transitioned into acting, appearing in a supporting part in The Last Movie (1971) before being cast as Billie Frechette in the critically acclaimed crime biopic Dillinger (1973), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She went on to appear in numerous films throughout the 1970s including Ken Russell's Valentino (1977), playing Natacha Rambova, and the thriller Bloodline (1979). She released her first and only solo album, Victim of Romance, in 1977.

Phillips became a main cast member on the series Knots Landing from 1987 to 1993, portraying Anne Matheson, the mother of Paige Matheson (portrayed by Nicollette Sheridan). She subsequently had supporting roles in the comedy Let It Ride (1989), and the psychological thriller Scissors (1991).

Phillips was born Holly Michelle Gilliam in Long Beach, California, the second child of Joyce Leon (née Poole),[1] an accountant, and Gardner Burnett Gilliam, a merchant mariner in the U.S. Navy.[2] She has one older sister, Russell Ann.[3] Her mother, who was originally from Canada, had numerous health problems, including subacute endocarditis,[4] and died of a brain aneurysm when Phillips was five years old.[5] Her father remarried a total of five times following her mother's death.[6]

Between the ages of six and twelve, Phillips and her sister were 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 became fluent in Spanish.[7] Throughout her childhood, Spanish remained Phillips's primary written language, though she would later learn to write in English.[8] She resided with her father and sister in the Roma Sur district of Cuauhtémoc.[8] Phillips recalled that she and her sister's experiences living in a different culture "helped us get over my mother's death, and instead of grieving, we became very strong, independent, and free."[8]

At age thirteen, Phillips returned to the United States with her father and sister, settling again in Los Angeles.[5] There, was a childhood friend of Sue Lyon.[9] Phillips attended several high schools in Los Angeles, including Alexander Hamilton High School[10] and John Marshall High School, and Eagle Rock High School.[11] While a student, Phillips played several sports, and studied piano, guitar, and cello.[5] Standing at 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m)[12] Phillips relocated to San Francisco hoping to work as a model while still in high school.[13] 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.[14] In 1968, she gave birth to their daughter, Chynna Phillips, who later became vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips.[15]


1965-1969: The Mamas & the Papas

Main article: The Mamas & the Papas Philips performing with the Mamas & the Papas at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

After her marriage to John Phillips at age eighteen, the couple relocated to New York City, where they began writing songs together.[13] There, Phillips was a founding member of the Mamas & the Papas, helping to form the vocal group in 1965.[16] She co-wrote some of the band's hits, including California Dreamin', which appears 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.[17][18] An affair the previous year between Phillips and bandmate Denny Doherty[19] had been forgiven; Doherty and John Phillips had reconciled and ostensibly written I Saw Her Again (1966) about the episode,[20][21] although they later disagreed about how much Doherty contributed to the song.[22] This time, Phillips was determined to fire his wife.[23] 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.[24] Michelle was rehired shortly thereafter, when the three original members concluded her replacement Jill Gibson, who was a quick study and well regarded,[25] lacked her predecessor's "stage charisma and grittier edge"; Michelle Phillips was reinstated on August 23, 1966.[26][27] 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.[28]

After returning to California and settling in Los Angeles, the group recorded their third album, The Mamas & The Papas Deliver (1967). In June 1967, Phillips performed with the group at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California, an event organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler.[29] 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."[30]

In August 1967, the band played what would be their final live performance at the Hollywood Bowl.[31] Phillips would go on to record a fourth and final album with the band, The Papas & The Mamas (1968), 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.[32]

1970-1976: Transition to acting

Phillips with Warren Oates in Dillinger (1973)

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.[33] The film was never finished, and became a lost film.[33] 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.[32]

Her first film role came in Dennis Hopper's film The Last Movie (1971), in a minor bit part; she would later marry Hopper shortly after the production, a marriage which lasted only eight days.[34] 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,"[35] while The New York Times noted it as "mildly effective."[36] Phillips was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her performance.[37] 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.[38]

Phillips with Warren Beatty at Harvard University, 1975

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.[39] She would later state that she considered Beatty the love of her life.[40] 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, and writing

In 1977, Phillips released her first and only solo album, Victim of Romance, produced by Jack Nitzsche for A&M Records.[41] 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."[34] 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."[42] The following year, Phillips married radio executive Robert Burch,[43] to whom she was married until 1982.[2] After divorcing Burch, Phillips began dating actor Grainger Hines; with him she gave birth to a son, Austin Deveraux Hines, in April 1982.[44]

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,[45] and Phillips's performance (along with those of James Mason and Maurice Ronet) was criticized by Variety as being "drab."[46] 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 series 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). From 1983-1986 she joined the cast of Hotel as the concierge, the daughter of hotel owner Victoria Cabot's rival, who plants his daughter as a spy to further his aim of acquiring control of the St. Gregory. Sometime in the late-1980s, Phillips took in Aron Wilson, a friend of her son Austin's, whom she legally adopted.[47]

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.[48] 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 San Juan, Puerto Rico, 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 the new song he was writing.[49]

1987-present: Knots Landing; film

Phillips in 2002

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 TV movie Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac (1997)). 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 Malone (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) in Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210.

On December 2, 1987, Phillips was arrested in Amarillo, Texas, for marijuana possession after being pulled over for speeding.[50] Phillips was a passenger in the car with then-boyfriend Geoffrey Tozer, and the marijuana was discovered after police searched the couple's vehicle.[50] Phillips was booked and released on $500 bond.[51]

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 television movie No One Would Tell (1996). Phillips began dating Steve Zax, a plastic surgeon, in 1999.[13]

After the millennium, Phillips continued to occasionally appear in films. She had supporting roles 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.[52] She also appeared in a minor role in the Norwegian historical film Betrayal, which chronicles the German occupation of Norway.[53]

In 2007, Phillips publicly protested the Iraq War and stated her belief that president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney should be investigated for war crimes.[54] The following year, she advocated for legalization of marijuana, crediting 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.[55]

In 2017, Zax, Phillips's long-term partner of eighteen years, died.[56]


Phillips has been noted for her soprano vocals, and was once deemed by Time as "The purest soprano" in pop music.[57]


The Mamas & the Papas

Main article: The Mamas & the Papas discography


  • Victim of Romance (1977)

Solo singles

Single Year Ref.
"Aloha Louie" 1975 [58]
"No Love Today" 1976 [58]
"Aching Kind" 1977 [59]
"There She Goes" 1978 [59]



Year Film Role Notes
1970 Saturation 70 Unfinished; lost film[33]
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
1975 Miracle Trixie Short film
1977 Valentino Natacha Rambova
1978 The Users Marina Brent Television film
1979 Bloodline Vivian Nichols
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Gena
1981 Savage Harvest Maggie
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
1991 Scissors Ann Carter
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 March Joan
2001 Stop at Nothing Television film
2002 Jane White Is Sick & Twisted June
2004 Harry + Max Mother
2005 Kids in America Singer
2006 Unbeatable Harold Erma
2006 And the Sea Took Us Herself (voice) Documentary
2009 Betrayal Eva Karlsen


Year Series Role Notes
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
1985 Glitter 1 episode
1987-93 Knots Landing Anne 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 Pauly Cassandra 1 episode
1997 Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac Anne Matheson Sumner 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

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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