Michelle Phillips

Biography: A sweet-faced harmonizer on such classic Mamas and
Papas songs as "California Dreamin'" and "Monday Monday," totaling nine top-40 hits in
all, young Michelle then started a Hollywood career late in the decade that flourished in the '70s and '80s. She was born in '44, making her only sweet sixteen in '60 and only 21 when "California Dreamin'" hit it big for the Mamas and Papas in '65. Her exotic birthplace: Long Beach, California: Her moniker at birth: Holly Michelle Gilliam (Papa John's nickname for her when they first met was "California Girl"). Michelle's moment on the national music stage lasted as long as the group did, peaking in June of '67 with the wonderful Monterey Pop Festival and ending two months later with their final concert at the Hollywood Bowl (later albums
A sweet-faced harmonizer on such classic Mamas and
Papas songs as "California Dreamin'" and "Monday Monday," totaling nine top-40 hits in
all, young Michelle then started a Hollywood career late in the decade that flourished in
the '70s and '80s. She was born in '44, making her only sweet sixteen in '60 and only 21 when
"California Dreamin'" hit it big for the Mamas and Papas in '65. Her exotic birthplace:
Long Beach, California: Her moniker at birth: Holly Michelle Gilliam (Papa John's
nickname for her when they first met was "California Girl").

Michelle's moment on the national music stage lasted as long as
the group did, peaking in June of '67 with the wonderful Monterey Pop Festival and
ending two months later with their final concert at the Hollywood Bowl (later albums
came out after the group disbanded). However, Michelle was talented, beautiful, and
well-connected, so it wasn't long before she established a successful career in
Hollywood. Her career in front of the camera had begun in '66 when the group made the
rounds of all the music-variety shows ("Ed Sullivan," "Hollywood Palace," etc.). She also
appeared with the Mamas and the Papas in the documentary film about the Monterey
Pop Festival (the group was the festival's closing act).

With her first major movie, Dillinger in '73, she was
nominated for a Golden Globe as the Most Promising Newcomer. Michelle's long list of
screen credits includes several regular roles on prominent TV shows (including "Beverly
Hills 90210," "Knots Landing," "Hotel," "Second Chances," and "Malibu Shores") plus
over a dozen TV movies (including The California Kid in '74, Secrets of a Married Man
with William Shatner in '84, Assault and Matrimony in '87, Pretty Poison in '96, and
Sweetwater in '99). Along the way Michelle recorded a solo album, Victim of Romance, in
'76, and she wrote an entertaining book, California Dreamin': The True Story of the
Mamas and the Papas, in '86. She's also executive producer on a new 20th Century Fox
movie about the Mamas and the Papas, due to be released in 2001 or 2002. But most of
all, unlike some of her famous friends, Michelle managed to make it to the 21st century,
her beauty and talent and joie de vivre intact. Today Michelle still lives and works in L.A.

While she was a key part of the group's image and sound, Michelle was not the
vocalist that powerful Cass Elliot was. There's only one great M & P song on which
Michelle sings lead: "Dedicated to the One I Love" (a remake of the '61 Shirelles hit) on
the '67 album Deliver. But Michelle's sweet voice, "the purest soprano in popdom,"
declared Time magazine, perfectly complemented Cass's brassy, jazzy vocals.
Furthermore, Michelle was more than just a singer — she was an inspiration. John
Phillips wrote many of the group's hits about her, including "Go Where You Wanna Go,"
"Words of Love," and "I Saw Her Again." And Michelle even co-wrote some of their best
songs, including "California Dreamin'," "Creeque Alley," and "Trip Stumble and Fall"
(she's mentioned by name three times in the great "Creeque Alley"). Her acting in the
'70s quickly brought attention, and with her first major movie, Dillinger in '73, she was
nominated for a Golden Globe as the Most Promising Newcomer, an award she lost to
Tatum O'Neal, who was in Paper Moon that year.

"It was … a time for youth to be itself," Michelle wrote in California Dreamin'.
"Youth was all. To be young was everything. Drugs were young, music was young,
freedom was young." Michelle was young, too. A seventeen-year-old model in San
Francisco, she met and quickly fell for folk-singer John Phillips, who was nine years her
senior, in the summer of '61. She married Phillips at the end of '62. They were living in
New York when they and John's friend, Denny Doherty, took an extended vacation to the Virgin Islands in '65; singer Cass Elliot, who was sweet on Denny, joined the trio there, and they practiced as a quartet while living in tents on the beach. They relocated to L.A. in '65 and at the end of the year recorded "California Dreamin'." The song was an instant smash, and almost immediately Michelle was speeding down the rock 'n' roll highway — tours, concerts, recording sessions, huge celebrity parties, travel by Lear jet, an ocean voyage to Europe on the France, impulsive trips to Acapulco and Morocco, shopping sprees (she and John had two Jags and three Rolls-Royces), and the obligatory drug excesses (marijuana and LSD were the narcotics of choice). The main speedbumps during this time were the affairs Michelle had with Denny and Gene Clark of the Byrds while she was married to John. As marital tensions rose, John, with Denny and Cass taking his side, expelled Michelle from the group in '66. Another singer, Jill Gibson, was brought in for several concert dates, a time Michelle later called "the most desperated, painful, hysterical months of my life." After Michelle begged to get back in, Jill was excused and the reformed Mamas and the Papas continued on for another year. In '68 Michelle had a daughter by Papa John named Chynna, who herself became a popular singer in the '90s. But by the end of '68 Michelle and John had broken up for good. Michelle then took up with actor Dennis Hopper, a relationship that culminated in a disturbing eight-day marriage in '70. With the group finally disbanded, her Hollywood life took over, resulting in romantic links with Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Roman Polanski. In '82 she gave birth to a son, Austin Hines, whose father, as shown and discussed in the April 26, 1982 issue of People magazine, is actor Grainger Hines; Hines has had roles on the shows "The City" and "General Hospital," in addition to appearing in a dozen TV movies. Michelle adopted another son, Aron Wilson, in '88. Both of those sons are now in college. In the spring of 2000 Michelle married a plastic surgeon, whom she'd known for 28 years.
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Michelle Phillips' Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average career score: 40
Highest Metascore: 77 Monterey Pop
Lowest Metascore: 8 The Price of Air
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 5
  2. Negative: 3 out of 5
5 movie reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
53 Good Fortune Jun 23, 2017 Herself / Herself 9.0
31 Harry + Max Feb 4, 2005 Mother 6.0
tbd Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel Dec 7, 2001 DeeDee Westbrook 8.5
8 The Price of Air Sep 15, 2000 Mrs. Rye 3.8
33 Let It Ride Aug 18, 1989 Mrs. Davis 8.4
77 Monterey Pop Dec 26, 1968 Performers 8.5