Whatever Happened to Michelle Phillips, Mamas and the Papas Member & ‘Knots Landing’ Star?

Michelle Phillips
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You may be revealing your age based on what you know Michelle Phillips for. Michelle is now 80 years old and the only surviving member of the 1960s group Mamas and the Papas. After a tumultuous divorce from bandmate John Phillips, she went on to become an actor, appearing in shows such as Knots Landing and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Michelle was in her early 20s when she was kicked out of the group that she helped create. Husband and wife Michelle and John Phillips formed the Mamas and the Papas and later added Denny Doherty and finally Cass Elliot, former members of the Mugwumps. Things were going quite well when the band found out about Michelle’s affair with Gene Clark from the Byrds. John wanted to fire her and the rest of the band eventually agreed, and she received a letter saying that she was fired from the group in 1966 (the letter is still hanging up in her home).

American popular singing group 'The Mamas and the Papas' arrive at Southampton, England. From l to r; Canadian-born Denny Doherty, Mama Cass Elliot (1941 - 1974), Michelle Phillips, and John Phillips (1935 - 2001).

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Jill Gibson was hired in her place but didn’t last. The band realized they needed Michelle and reinstated her later the same year. Michelle and John stayed married until 1969 and had a daughter named Chynna Phillips in 1986. After their divorce, Michelle was determined not to rely on a man ever again. In 1969 she began her transition to acting and when the Mamas and the Papas broke up for good, she went all in on her acting career while staying true to her musical abilities.

In the ’70s, Michelle released her first and only solo album called Victim of Romance. She said it took her so long to release a solo album because she was crippled with doubt, always feeling that Cass was a better singer. Several years ago, she admitted to Rolling Stone, “I enjoyed acting more than I enjoyed singing. Singing for me was so difficult.”

Her first film role was in 1971’s The Last Movie and led to her next marriage to Dennis Hopper which infamously only lasted eight days. Several years later, she was cast in a lead role of Dillinger and received rave reviews, even receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.

Dillinger from left: Michelle Phillips, Warren Oates, as John Dillinger, 1973

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She went on to appear in The California Kid, Shampoo, Bloodline, The Man with Bogart’s Face, Savage Harvest and more, soon making her way on television.

Knots Landing Michelle Phillips, 1979-93

Everett Collection

Many know Michelle as Anne Matheson Sumner on Knots Landing. She became a series regular in 1989 and played the role until the series ended in 1993. In the ’90s, Michelle went on to star in Second Chances, also starring Connie Sellecca and Jennifer Lopez and got the lead role in the 1993 television movie Rubdown. She played a mother in another teen drama as Abby Malone in Beverly Hills, 90210.

Michelle Phillips attends the 9th Annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 05, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California

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More recently, she appeared in the show 7th Heaven and in 2009, a movie called Svik. In 2019, she was interviewed for a documentary called Echo in the Canyon about the Laurel Canyon music scene of the ’60s. In the last few years, she has been relatively quiet, enjoying a more private and peaceful life. Her partner of eighteen years, Steven Zax died in 2017. She admitted that she would love to act again, but the roles that she’s offered are few and far between due to her age, so for now she is enjoying her kids and grandkids.

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March 2023

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