September 2009 Archives

Sitcom star reveals incest with rock-star dad

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Well, OK then. Mackenzie Phillips promised a bombshell on today's "Oprah" and ... kaboom!

She had sex with her father. A lot.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a591510e970b-250wi.jpgIt's the hot button issue in the "One Day at a Time" star's new memoir, High on Arrival, which hits shelves today.

In the book, Mackenzie details how it began -- on the eve of her first marriage. She's 19 and about to marry Jeff Sessler, son of a member of the Rolling Stones' entourage, and her father, John Phillips (of the Mamas & the Papas), showed up talking about stopping the wedding.

"I had tons of pills, and Dad had tons of everything too. Eventually I passed out on Dad's bed," she writes. "My father was not a man with boundaries. He was full of love, and he was sick with drugs. I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father. Had this happened before? I didn't know. All I can say is it was the first time I was aware of it. For a moment I was in my body, in that horrible truth, and then I slid back into a blackout."

That was 1979. The following year, Mackenzie's drug use got her fired from the sitcom "One Day at a Time." (Here's an interesting People article from 1980 about that situation.) She and her father both went into rehab, and then out on tour with his band. They continued their sexual relationship -- and it became consensual.

"One night Dad said, 'We could just run away to a country where no one would look down on us. There are countries where this is an accepted practice. Maybe Fiji.' He was completely delusional. 'No,' I thought, 'we're going to hell for this.' "

See photos of Mackenzie, John, Chynna and Bijou Phillips and more

Mackenzie and Sessler remained married until 1981. He died in 2005. John Phillips died of heart failure in 2001.

Mackenzie's sexual affair with her father, she says, lasted ... 10 years. It ended when she became pregnant and didn't know who had fathered the child. She had an abortion, which her father paid for, and "and I never let him touch me again."

People Mackenzie Phillips.jpg
John Phillips and MacKenzie during a taping of "The John Davidson Show" in 1981. (AP file)

In today's interview with Oprah, Mackenzie explains that her father also introduced her to the drug use that plagued her life for years to come. "My father shot me up for the first time," she said. Mackenzie was arrested as recently as October of last year, after being found at the Los Angeles airport with needles, cocaine and heroin. She was sent back to rehab.

She told Oprah that her siblings "definitely have a problem with this." Oprah also read a statement from Genevieve Waite, John Phillips' wife at the time of the alleged abuse and Mackenzie's stepmother that said he was "incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, of having such a relationship with his own child."

Mackenzie's sister Chynna Phillips, 41, of the music group Wilson Phillips, tells Us Weekly today about the day she found out about the incestuous relationship. Mackenzie called her in 1997 while she was between flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York City: "She said, 'I don't know why, but I just really felt the need to call you and tell you something that I think you need to know.' And she went on to tell me that she had had an incestuous relationship with our dad for about 10 years. Somebody could have dropped a piano on my head and I probably wouldn't have felt it. But I knew it was true. I mean, who in their right mind would make such a claim if it wasn't true?"

At the end of her new book, Mackenzie writes: "It was, as I've said, a hard decision to reveal the sordid side of my relationship with my father. But these are complex, painful, heart-wrenching truths that infiltrate lives, many lives, not just mine. I can't be the only one. And I needed to tell that part of the story because I wanted to earn the right to talk about forgiveness."

Contributing: AP

Murdered couple's daughter coming to 'Oprah'

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In July, a Florida couple known for adopting 13 special-needs children were shot and killed in their home. The story caught the attention of Oprah, and though the couple's daughter has turned down numerous interview requests -- she's going to appear on "Oprah."

Ashley Markham, her husband and attorney will be in Chicago next week to tape an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

According to CBS: Her attorney says Oprah will focus on the family and their legacy, not the murders. Markham has turned down interview requests from the national media who wanted to focus on the crime.

Six men and a 16-year-old have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the slayings.

One day at a time ... then the Oprah show

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Mackenzie Phillips is the guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" this Wednesday, and the teaser (above) promises that she -- child star, former drug addict, daughter of rock royalty -- will be revealing an "explosive," 31-year-old family secret.

Big surprise: She's also hawking a book that's published tomorrow, High on Arrival.

What do you think the secret will be?

Author 'humbled' to be O's book club pick

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Last week, Oprah announced her latest book club selection -- Uwem Akpan's debut collection of short stories, Say You're One Of Them -- on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

"This is a first for me because each one of these five stories really just left me gasping," she said in brief remarks toward the end of her show. "Just an incredible book."

Books Winfrey's Choice.jpgThe author was not on the show, but this week he remarked that he is "very, very humbled" to have his work selected for Oprah's reading club -- and what surely will amount to huge sales.

Akpan, 38, is a native of Nigeria and an ordained Jesuit priest who in 2006 received a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.

He told Reuters he's not working on another book right now because he's busy with church work.

"I have permission to write, but I do not need an imprimatur from the church -- that is more for people who are writing about theology and philosophy. They see that I am writing fiction and assume it is made up," he said.

"Don't forget that Jesus was a priest and a poet."

Mariah Carey on 'Oprah: Central Park Edition'

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From Michigan Ave. to Central Park

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You thought the Michigan Avenue bash was a big deal? Check out Oprah's public taping of another episode this Friday -- in New York City's Central Park.

Guests on that outdoor show will be Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa -- who will show up just moments after wrapping up their own morning talk show -- and Mariah Carey, who's expected to perform a song from her new album, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel."

Methinks Chicago got better guests. Regis and Kelly? Really? You're in New York and that's who you got? Maybe Oprah's clout is on the decline ...

Oprah also will announce her 63rd Book Club selection.

Apropos of maybe nothing, when Whitney Houston performed in Central Park for "Good Morning America" a few weeks ago, her voice cracked a little during one song -- and she blamed it on the amount of talking she'd done the day before in taping her interview with Oprah!

Pushing 'Precious' at the Toronto Film Fest

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Oprah smiles as she arrives to the red carpet for the gala screening of "Precious" during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. (AP)

Where in the world is Oprah Winfrey? This week she was in Toronto. Because even though producer Lee Daniels has an Oscar-winning movie to his credit, he still needed some big-time help to draw attention to his latest film about a girl who overcomes crushing abuse.

So who do you call? Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry: The two are executive producers of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (really, what's up with that silly, legalese title?), which had a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Winfrey said she was happy to help bring more attention to the film. "Everyone needs someone to help them navigate," the TV talk show host explained. "I had Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier and Maya Angelou who I look to. You can't do that on your own. Someone has to show it to you."

Of course, Oprah seized the opportunity not only to attend and be seen, but to chronicle the event. Her own camera crews were tagging along, getting footage for an upcoming edition of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" about the movie.

You can already watch the trailer for the film on the Oprah site.

Oprah and Tyler Perry arrive at the screening of the film "Precious" during the Toronto International Film Festival. (AP)

Did politics create a slippery slope for Oprah?

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In TV, 24 years is an awfully long time. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" having been on the air that long can't help but struggle to stay on top. And an Associated Press story this week illuminates that -- despite the hubub we've experienced here in Chicago, with the Mag Mile shut-down, plus the big Whitney Houston interview and more -- Oprah's show has slipped 7 percent in the ratings. Like so many other daytime programs right now.

The story concludes that one of the reasons for the slight decline is that the once apolitical Oprah began showing her personal allegiances:

By endorsing Barack Obama and campaigning for him, she shucked her apolitical image. Winfrey's book club selection of Eckhart Tolle's New Age religion book A New Earth angered some conservative Christians -- even though Winfrey's producer said Winfrey was careful not to push Tolle's views on viewers through the television show.

The New York Times commented on the situation, quoting itself from an analysis during the campaign:

She is, without a doubt, the most powerful endorsement in pop culture. Her book club can turn obscure novels into immediate hits, and anything she endorses on her annual "Favorite Things" show becomes impossible to find. But that's because in her contract with her audience, she never has a piece of what she is pushing. Her interest is your interest because she is not for sale.

After her endorsement of Mr. Obama, however, the message boards on are alive with allegations of "betrayal" and "sellout." Mr. Obama's base may have been engaged, but part of Ms. Winfrey's base is livid.

Even on this blog, you'll still find comments of that tone. When Oprah remarked how "stunned" she was at the backlash to Obama's health-care speech, comments included the suggestion that she is "infatuated with this man [and has] little objectivity."

Nearly a year past the Obama campaign, what's your perspective? Did Oprah's siding with the president influence your opinion of her -- or your viewing habits?


First, word came that first lady Michelle Obama would go to Copenhagen next month to promote Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. (President Obama, no surprise, said she was our "best representative.") Now, another fashionable, famous pillar of city pride might make the case before the Olympic committee: Oprah.

Oprah was asked Sunday whether she'd be up for the trip to lobby for the games, and told the Tribune: "There's some talk about it, and if I feel I can be useful there, then that's what I will do."

Adds NBC Chicago: "Of course, Chicago 2016 Chief Executive Patrick Ryan said his team would 'absolutely' like to have Winfrey on board."

Can the Wonder Twins snare the big bid?

Oprah's a salty gal, but not with her tequila

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IMG00092.jpg oprah.jpg

(Photo by Kathy Hart)

Tuesday night from her massive stage in the middle of Michigan Avenue, Oprah Winfrey joked to the thousands in the throng that she'd like to pour everyone a tequila shot. The legalities of drinking in public, however, prevented her from playing barkeep.

"Nice party," Winfrey said. "We just need a few tequila shots. Believe me, I wanted you to have 'em but I'd end up being sued a time or two."

Earlier that afternoon, however, Oprah previewed the evening taping of her show -- a stunt to kick off the 24th season of her Chicago-based daytime talk show -- in an interview with Eric & Kathy on WTMX (101.9 FM). Even then she said she was hankerin' for a shot -- lime, no salt -- because, she said, that's how you know it's a party.

She promised to do tequila shots with Eric & Kathy after the big Mag Mile event, and apparently it was indeed a party. Kathy Hart took the photo above of Miss O and Eric Ferguson following through at one of the clubs in the new Trump International Hotel & Tower hours after the big show.

Allegedly, this is the tequila Oprah enjoys. And here's hoping they later feasted on the Tequila-Lime Chicken Brochettes from

What would you do to throw back a few shots with Oprah? The conga line starts over by Dr. Oz's table ...

Tequila - The Champs

Winfrey and Wintour reunite for Met gala

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Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and Mag Mile party host/talk show host Oprah Winfrey at a 2003 Vera Wang fashion show (Associated Press)

First, Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Next, the Met?

E! News is reporting that Oprah Winfrey will host the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute Gala, high fashion's biggest night out, on May 3, 2010.

Oprah is teaming up with Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, for the annual event, E! reported.

This isn't the first partnership of Winfrey and Wintour.

Oprah appeared on Vogue's October 1998 cover. Wintour traveled to Chicago prior to the photo shoot, telling the talk show host to drop 20 pounds, Wintour told 60 Minutes earlier this year.

Wintour said Winfrey went on a "very stringent diet" after their chat, leading to "one of our most successful covers ever."

Jay-Z and Oprah: together a lot (and on TV...)

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Oprah and Jay-Z
sittin' on TV
t-a-l-k-i-n-g ...

So Oprah was in town Tuesday night, performing her show before a throng of crazed fans on Michigan Avenue. Just 3-4 blocks away, and about 3-4 hours later, superstar rapper Jay-Z was performing his show before a select throng of crazed fans at a promotional event in the House of Blues. It's not the first time in recent weeks the two moguls have been in each other's orbit.

Last months, some photos crept onto the Web of Jay-Z and O hanging out in some Brooklyn projects. Turns out the connection was for an interview for an upcoming edition of O magazine -- but now that same interview, which was videotaped, will be aired on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Sept. 24.

Asked what they were doing in the projects, Jay-Z told an NYC radio station: ""I brought her around there really for the neighborhood. 'Cause a lot of times, when you see people or you hear about Oprah Winfrey, she seems almost untouchable. When I saw her, it was shocking to me. So I know how that feels, to see someone on TV and hear their name and know they're so hugely successful. They seem unattainable ... but for them to be around the way and for kids to just see that."

Word has it Rihanna was also present for the chat.

"There was a lot of people out there," Jay-Z said. "It was Oprah, you know? You don't want people to come snatch her up. [There was] like secret service and helicopters all around."

Oprah 'stunned' by backlash to Obama speech

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In other Oprah news -- that is, Oprah dish not having to do with Tuesday's Michigan Avenue mob -- the queen of daytime talk is weighing in on the "controversy" surrounding President Obama's Tuesday speech to the nation's schoolchildren.

In an interview with "Access Hollywood," set to air Wednesday, Oprah says she's "stunned" by the backlash to the president's speech.

When asked if she unerstands the concerns of people who opposed him speaking directly to America's schools, she says, "No, I do not. No, no, no, no and no. I'm just really stunned by people who feel that the President, the leader of our country and of the free world, saying to your children it's important for your success, the success of your families and our country for you stay in school, that education is vital to your well-being... I don't understand it. I do not understand it."

Some children in some schools were not permitted to watch the speech. Oprah reacts: "I think those children missed out and I think that's the message we're trying to send. If you're a country that doesn't want your children to hear that message, then who are we really? That's what I think."

People Winfrey Houston.jpg
Whitney Houton (left) and Oprah Winfrey gab in an interview set to air Monday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." (Harpo)

If you think you're excited about Oprah Winfrey's interview with pop diva Whitney Houston -- scheduled as the debut show of her 24th season on Monday -- Oprah herself is pretty ecstatic about it. She says it's "the best interview I've ever done."

"My approach to this interview was to not be judgmental in any way, and not to go in trying to get her to say things to make a 'moment,'" Winfrey says in a statement released ahead of today's Michigan Avenue bash.

"I just wanted to be able to have an honest conversation with her," Winfrey continued. "One woman to another woman. And the day of the interview I literally prayed about that all day long. I just wanted a connection between the two of us. And that is what happened. And that is why I believe it's one of the most, if not the most, powerful interviews I've ever done."

The Whitney interview will kick off "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at 9 a.m. Monday on WLS-Channel 7. It's being called the "premiere" of the new season -- but there are two new episodes airing this week. The star-studded show she taped before a throng of crazed fans this evening on Michigan Avenue will air at 9 a.m. Thursday, and Friday's show will be a recap of "summer newsmakers."

mariahwhitney.jpg oprahwhitney2.JPG
Oprah Winfrey's pulling out all the stops for what's mounting to be quite the star-studded season premiere week.

Winfrey's touted an exclusive interview with Whitney Houston for weeks now with no topic off limits -- including drugs, divorce and the singer's career.

The Houston interview, which kicks off the show's 24th season on Sept. 14, will be a two-parter airing Monday and Tuesday.

Winfrey will pay tribute that Wednesday to late pop singer Michael Jackson -- who died in June after an overdose of the drug propofol. Included in the tribute will be excerpts from her 1993 interview with Jackson.

Dr. Phil returns to Winfrey's show Thursday -- telling the story of a woman whose father is a serial killer.

Winfrey's season premiere week ends live from New York -- with Mariah Carey, Regis Philbin, Kelly Ripa and her new book club announcement.

The first leg of a trial over a sex abuse scandal at Oprah Winfrey's South Africa school is over.

Prosecutors finished presenting witnesses Wednesday -- most of whom are students that testified behind closed doors because of their age -- in the case against a former dorm matron accused of abusing six students and another supervisor.

The matron -- Tiny Virginia Makopo -- pleaded not guilty to the accusations last July.

Oprah Winfrey greets Mayor Richard Daley at a private reception before a women's development conference in 2006 at Navy Pier. Winfrey announced yesterday she's throwing a kick off party in Chicago that'll close down part of Michigan Avenue. (Rich Hein/Sun-Times)

From my colleague Fran Spielman who covers City Hall for the Sun-Times:

Mayor Daley this morning defended the city's decision to close down a congested choke of North Michigan Avenue next week to let talk show diva Oprah Winfrey kick off her 24th season in style.

Oprah plans to tape her show -- with special guests the Black Eyed Peas -- at the intersection of Michigan and Ohio. It will require the city to close Michigan between Wacker and Ohio at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 7 and keep it closed until 5 a.m. Sept. 9th Although Oprah's Harpo Studios will reimburse taxpayers for the cost of city services, the inconvenience to motorists cannot be calculated.

But Daley said it's worth the cost.

"This is a great thing we're doing," Daley said. "Wish we could do this every day in Chicago. How many people it will employ. How much publicity we'll receive throughout the world. It is unbelievable.

"You can't even give us that exposure globally. She's an icon in the industry. It's very, very important.

"What other cities do it? Take New York City. Take Los Angeles. . . For the filming industry. They do this every day unfortunately."

But what about the inconvenience to the average person?

"They'll understand how important this is, dealing with jobs, dealing with international exposure," Daley said. "This is really important. This is a great opportunity. I'm very proud. I wish your media outlets would do something like this. Hello?"

Erin Andrews to Oprah: Nude video was 'nightmare'

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ESPN reporter Erin Andrews said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that having secretly videotaped nude footage of her distributed on the Internet was a "nightmare."

Winfrey's interview with Andrews will air Friday, Sept. 11, as part of a "Summer Headlines" show that previews the 24th season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Andrews also tells Winfrey she "opened up the computer (and) could feel my heart pounding."

Andrews' attorney has said the blurry five-minute video was shot at a hotel without her knowledge and she plans to seek criminal charges and file lawsuits against whoever shot the video and anyone who publishes it.

The reporter also says she's excited to get back to work this fall, adding "it's really going to help me heal my wounds."

Andrews will be working on air Thursday night for the first time since the video became widespread news. She'll be the sideline reporter for ESPN's broadcast of South Carolina at North Carolina State.

It was not clear when the video of Andrews in the hotel room first appeared on the Internet. The person who first posted the video didn't identify the nude woman, and Andrews' attorney later confirmed the video was of the 31-year-old reporter.

Andrews, a former University of Florida dance team member, was an Internet sensation even before the video's circulation. Some Web sites have referred to her as "Erin Pageviews" because of the traffic she can generate, and Playboy magazine named her "sexiest sportscaster" in both 2008 and 2009. She has covered numerous sports for the network since 2004, often as a sideline reporter. -AP

Olympic athletes pose during a taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Sept. 3, 2008, at Millennium Park. The show kicked off Winfrey's 23rd season. (HARPO)

Oprah Winfrey's throwing a party -- and she's inviting EVERYONE to come.

Winfrey will kick off the 24th season of her show with a free bash in downtown Chicago Sept. 8 that'll shut down parts of Michigan Avenue for almost three days.

The kick off will be headlined by a special appearance from the Black Eyed Peas, as well as other surprise guests. The group recently re-recorded its "I Gotta Feeling" song with a Winfrey twist to promote her upcoming season.

Doors for the taping open at noon, Sept. 8, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street and no overnight camping is permitted. The city plans on shutting down Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Ohio Street at midnight the night before until 5 a.m. the day after the event.

According to the Red Eye, Winfrey is picking up the tab for the event and the city expenses that come with it, including the cost of shutting down the streets.

This isn't the first time Winfrey's used downtown Chicago as a landscape for her show.

Last year, Winfrey kicked off her season with an olympic-size debut in Chicago's Millenium Park welcoming more than 100 athletes from team USA back from the Beijing Olympics.

Target and T-Mobile are co-sponsoring the show, which will air Sept. 10.

Here's the details:

Admission is free and open to all ages. Minors should be accompanied by an adult. Doors will open at 12:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, September 8 at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street, and space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Camping overnight will not be permitted.
The taping will begin promptly at 5:00 p.m., rain or shine. Space is standing-room only for the approximately two-hour taping.

Attendees making a day of the production are encouraged to bring their own snacks and water. No food of any kind will be provided. Water stations will be available within the designated production area. There will be no seats provided or available for guests attending the show. No professional recording equipment is permitted.

• The City of Chicago anticipates closing Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Ohio Street on Monday, September 7 at 12:01 a.m. for the taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Expect the closure to remain in effect until Wednesday, September 9 at 5:00 a.m.
• Traffic is expected to be heavy in these areas. Traffic patterns may need to be adjusted periodically throughout the day.
• Pedestrian access along Michigan Avenue will remain open at all times, including access into all buildings along the Michigan Avenue corridor.
• CTA reroutes will be in effect. Customers may obtain travel information by visiting CTA's website at, by calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA or the RTA Travel Information Center at 836-7000 from any local Chicago area code. Attendees are strongly encouraged to take public transportation to and from the show taping. Public parking options will be limited.

• Clark Street, Dearborn and Lake Shore Drive may be used as alternates.
• Lower Illinois Street, Ohio Street and Grand Avenue will remain open to traffic.

The transportation pick up and drop off location for Paratransit vehicles and private vehicles transporting guests with disabilities will be located on the west side of Cityfront Plaza Drive between Illinois and North Water Streets (across from NBC Tower). Guests with disabilities will be escorted to designated ADA areas.

You can find more information at


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