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Michelle Phillips
Phillips in 2002
Phillips in 2002
Background information
Birth nameHolly Michelle Gilliam
Born (1944-06-04) June 4, 1944 (age 80)
Long Beach, California, U.S.
GenresFolk, pop, psychedelic pop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, actress
Years active1965–2009
Associated actsThe Mamas & the Papas

Michelle Phillips (born Holly Michelle Gilliam, June 4, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. A native of California, she met and married John Phillips in San Francisco as a teenager, 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. Phillips is the last surviving member of the group.

After the breakup of the Mamas & the Papas and her divorce from John Phillips, she successfully transitioned into acting, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Billie Frechette in the critically acclaimed crime biopic Dillinger (1973). She went on to appear in numerous films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Ken Russell's Valentino (1977), playing Natacha Rambova; Bloodline (1979); and Scissors (1991). She was also a main cast member on the series Knots Landing from 1987 to 1993. Phillips released one solo album, Victim of Romance, in 1977.

Early life[]

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.[2] She has one older sister.[3] Phillips's mother died of a brain aneurysm when Michelle was five years old.[4] Between the ages of six and twelve, Phillips was 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 learned to speak Spanish.[5] At age thirteen, Phillips returned to the United States with her father and sister, settling again in Long Beach, where she attended high school.[4] In high school, Phillips played several sports, as well as studying piano, guitar, and cello.[4]

In 1961, she moved to San Francisco to do modeling work,[3] and 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 18. In 1968, she gave birth to their daughter, Chynna Phillips, who later became vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips.[6]


1965–69: The Mamas & the Papas[]

File:The Mamas and the Papas Ed Sullivan Show 1968.JPG

The Mamas & the Papas on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968. Michelle Phillips is at far left.

Main article: The Mamas & the Papas

After her marriage to John Phillips at age eighteen, the couple relocated to New York City, where they began writing songs together.[3] There, Phillips was a founding member of the Mamas & the Papas, helping to form the vocal group in 1965.[7] She co-wrote some of the band's hits, including "California Dreamin'" and "Creeque Alley," which appeared 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.[8][9] An affair the previous year between Phillips and band mate Denny Doherty had been forgiven; Doherty and John Phillips had reconciled and ostensibly written "I Saw Her Again" (1966) about the episode,[10][11] although they later disagreed about how much Doherty contributed to the song.[12] This time, Phillips was determined to fire his wife.[13] 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.[14] Michelle was rehired shortly thereafter, when the three original members concluded her replacement Jill Gibson, who was a quick study and well regarded, lacked her predecessor's "stage charisma and grittier edge"; Michelle Phillips was reinstated on August 23, 1966.[15][16]

The following year, the group performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California, an event organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler.[17] The festival also featured other prominent California-based counterculture musicians and psychedelic rock acts, including Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. The group went on to release two more studio albums, The Mamas & The Papas Deliver (1967) and The Papas & The Mamas (1968), before going on a hiatus. Michelle and John Phillips, whose marriage was failing, 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.[18]

1970–76: Transition to acting[]

File:Michelle Phillips and Warren Oates Dillinger 1975.jpg

Phillips with Warren Oates in Dillinger (1973)

In 1969, 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.[19] The film was never finished, and became a lost film.[19] 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.[18]

Her first film role came in Dennis Hopper's 1971 film The Last Movie, in a minor bit part; she would later marry Hopper shortly after the production, a marriage which lasted only eight days.[20] 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."[21] Phillips was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer for her performance.[22] 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.[23] 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[]

In 1977, Phillips released her first and only solo album, Victim of Romance, produced by Jack Nitzsche for A&M Records.[24] 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."[20] 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."[25]

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,[26] and Phillips's performance (along with those of James Mason and Maurice Ronet) was criticized by Variety as being "drab."[27] 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 programs 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).

1987–present: Knots Landing; film work[]

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 1997 TV movie Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac). During this time, she also appeared in the films Let It Ride (1989); the thrillerScissors (1991), opposite Sharon Stone; and Joshua Tree (1993), starring Dolph Lundgren. In the mid-1990s, she played Abby Malone, mother of Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) in Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210.

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 1996 television movie No One Would Tell.

After the millennium, Phillips continued to occasionally appear in films. She had supporting parts 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.[28] She also appeared in a minor role in the Norwegian historical film Betrayal, which chronicles the German occupation of Norway.[29]

Personal life[]

Phillips has married five times and has three children:

  • John Phillips (December 31, 1962 – May 1969)[30] (divorced) 1 daughter, singer Chynna Phillips[2]
  • Dennis Hopper (October 31, 1970 – November 8, 1970) (divorced after 8 days)[2]
  • Robert Burch (1978–1982) (divorced)[2]
  • Grainger Hines (divorced) 2 sons, Austin Hines, and Aron Wilson[2]
  • Steven Zax (2000–present)[2]

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.[31] 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 the Bahamas 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 a new song he was writing).[32]

In 2007, Phillips publicly protested the Iraq war and stated her belief that president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney be investigated for war crimes.[33] Phillips is an advocate for legalization of marijuana, and in 2008 credited 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.[34]

Legal troubles[]

On December 2, 1987, Phillips was arrested in Amarillo, Texas, for marijuana possession after being pulled over for speeding.[35] Phillips was a passenger in the car with then-boyfriend Geoffrey Tozer, and the marijuana was discovered after police searched the couple's vehicle.[35] Phillips was booked and released on $500 bond.[36]


The Mamas & the Papas[]

Michelle Phillips[]

Album[37] Year
Victim of Romance 1977
Single[37] Year
"Aloha Louie" 1975
"No Love Today" 1976
"Aching Kind" 1977
"There She Goes" (remake) 1978



Feature films
Year Film Role Notes
1970 Saturation 70 Unfinished; lost film[19]
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


Television series
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 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 Anna 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 Summer 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


  1. "Holly Michelle Gilliam, Born 06/04/1972 in Los Angeles County". The California Birth Index. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Michelle Phillips Film Reference Biography". Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Weller, Sheila (November 20, 2007). "California Dreamgirl". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Windeler, Robert (November 14, 1977). "Victim of Romance". People. 8 (28).
  5. "Michelle Phillips". The Arsenio Hall Show. Season 5. October 26, 1992. Unknown parameter |episode= ignored (help)
  6. Wenning, Elizabeth. Wilson Phillips. In Contemporary Musicians Vol. 5 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1991), p. 212.
  7. Decker, Ed. Mamas and the Papas. In Contemporary Musicians Vol. 21 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998), p. 147.
  8. M. Phillips 1986, pp. 84–87.
  9. J. Phillips 1986, pp. 140–48.
  10. M. Phillips 1986, pp. 80-81.
  11. J. Phillips 1986, p. 136.
  12. Doherty said, "I wrote the tune. John wrote the lyric." See "Dream a Little Dream (the Nearly True Story of the Mamas and the Papas)", Denny Doherty website. Retrieved 2 May 2013. Phillips said he wrote everything, but gave him a co-composer credit because Doherty had inspired the song. See John Phillips, Papa John, p. 132.
  13. J. Phillips 1986, pp. pp. 147-148.
  14. M. Phillips 1986, p. 87.
  15. J. Phillips 1986, p. 203.
  16. "Jill Gibson's Vocals on the 2nd Mamas and Papas LP", Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  17. McDonough, Kevin (June 16, 2007). "'Monterey 40' recalls 1967 L.A. music scene". South Coast Today. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Phillips, Michelle (April 19, 2011). "Michelle PHILLIPS". InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse (Interview). Interviewed by Manuse, Ernie. Houston Public Media. Retrieved July 9, 2016 – via YouTube.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Campion, Chris (September 5, 2014). "Saturation 70: the Gram Parsons UFO film that never flew". The Guardian. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Crowe, Cameron (February 23, 1978). "Michelle Phillips' world turns". Rolling Stone (59).
  21. Variety Staff (December 31, 1972). "Review: 'Dillinger'". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  22. "Michelle Phillips". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  23. Biskind 1998, p. 145.
  24. Template:Cite article
  25. T.R. "Valentino, directed by Ken Russell". Time Out. London. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  26. "Sidney Sheldon's 'Bloodline'". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  27. Variety Staff (December 31, 1978). "Review: 'Bloodline'". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  28. "7th Annual TV Land Awards – Show". Getty Images. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  29. Couzens, Gary (January 17, 2011). "Betrayal". The Digital Fix. Film. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  30. "California Divorce Index, 1966-1984," database, FamilySearch (May 15, 2014), Holly M Gilliam and John E Phillips, May 1969; from "California Divorce Index, 196–1984," database and images, Ancestry ( : 2007); citing Los Angeles City, California, Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento.
  31. J. Phillips 1986.
  32. Michelle Phillips (1986). California Dreamin': The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas.
  33. "Michelle Phillips - Impeach Bush". World Can't Wait. October 17, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  34. Proffer, Ben (May 18, 2008). "Legalize Pot and Everything's Groovy". NY Mag. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Caulfield, Deborah (December 7, 1987). "Entertainment: Movies". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  36. "Phillips Arrested on Drug Charge". The Lewiston Journal. Associated Press. December 8, 1987. p. 8D.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "Michelle Phillips: Discography, songs, biography, and listening guide". RateYourMusic. Retrieved February 2, 2016.


  • Biskind, Peter (1998). Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Save. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-68485-708-4.
  • Phillips, John (1986). Papa John: An Autobiography (of the Mamas and the Papas): A Music Legend's Shattering Journey Though Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-38523-120-6.
  • Phillips, Michelle (1986). California Dreaming'. Warner Books. ISBN 978-0-44651-308-1.

External links[]

Template:The Mamas & the Papas Template:Wilson Phillips