Family dysfunction can take many forms, but one might shape up like this: On Dec. 1 teen queen Lindsay Lohan and her mom, Dina, kicked back at Manhattan hot spot PM at a party for NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon. “She was just chilling with her mom,” says an observer who was at the club, where an upbeat Lohan danced and drank Red Bull until 1 a.m. Meanwhile, at a Long Island hospital, Michael Lohan—dad of Lindsay, husband of Dina, estranged from both—recuperated from chest pains while handcuffed to his bed; earlier that day he had been arraigned for allegedly violating an order of protection obtained by Dina and for driving under the influence of drugs. “Michael has problems that he needs to deal with—he needs to take care of himself,” says Dina, adding that she plans to file for divorce from her husband of 19 years next week. Not surprisingly, Michael has a different take. “I just want to be a father, I want to take care of my family,” Michael told PEOPLE on Dec. 5 from the Nassau County Correctional Center, where he was being held pending a $1 million bail. (At a Dec. 7 hearing, a judge sentenced him to an in-patient alcohol and substance-abuse facility.) “I want nothing to do with Lindsay’s business or life. I just want to be Daddy. That’s all.”
Unfortunately for everyone involved in this ongoing domestic drama, it’s not quite that simple. And smack in the center of the emotionally fraught storm is one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars. The situation is “a sore subject,” Lohan recently told Jane. “I’m a normal girl and I have normal stuff that goes on in my life, and that’s really all there is to it.”
Of course, most 18-year-olds are hardly livin’ la vida Lohan: The $7 million-plus paydays (her current asking price per film), the new debut album (Speak), the much publicized club-hopping. Neither her October hospitalization for exhaustion nor her subsequent breakup with actor Wilmer Valderrama, the 24-year-old costar of That ’70s Show, has put a damper on her lifestyle, which saw her partying almost nightly during a recent week in New York City (see sidebar)—albeit with her mom in tow some of the time. “Everyone thinks I’m this crazy drug addict, and I would like to straighten things out,” Lohan told a PEOPLE reporter on Dec. 5. Or, as she put it recently, “People made it sound like I’m this party animal—like an old woman who’s partied her whole life…I know my limits.”
This is one subject on which her bitterly divided parents are united. “Any 18-year-old who has accomplished what Lindsay has would party 20 times as much as Lindsay does,” says Michael, 44. Adds Dina, 42: “[Lindsay] is totally fine. She understands that the more successful you are, the more you are in the public eye. She just deals with it.” (But not without some venting: In “Rumors,” the first single off her new album, she sings, “I’m tired of rumors starting/ I’m sick of being followed/ I’m tired of people lying.”)
And yet last week Lohan was once again the focus of a new round of unwanted rumors, this time in connection with her Dec. 6 appearance on Good Morning America. “It was her first time performing live, so it was really cool,” Dina said following the performance. But speculation immediately arose as to whether Lohan’s singing was, in fact, live. In a statement, a rep for the morning show noted “all musical acts that perform on Good Morning America are hired to perform live. On occasion, artists will have backing track to support their vocals.” Lohan herself addressed the lip-synching issue to PEOPLE on Dec. 1, saying of her album, “my main concern for me was, I wanted to sing songs that, when I sing live, it sounds the same and I don’t have to worry about it and I don’t have to stress my voice.”
Now if only herbal tea and honey were enough to combat that other major stress in Lohan’s life: her family. On one hand, the star is extremely close to her mom, who also serves as her manager and seems at ease in her daughter’s world. “We are like best friends,” says Dina. Lindsay spoke about their close relationship to Jane: “I’m a second mom. I’m a mom to my mom.”
And then there is Lindsay’s relationship to her troubled father. The most recent turmoil stems from a Nov. 13 incident in the family’s hometown of Merrick, N.Y., where Michael appeared at a soccer game in which Lindsay’s younger brother, Dakota, 8, was playing. (Michael and Dina also have two other children, Michael, 17, and Aliana, 10.) Last spring, Dina had obtained an order of protection against Michael following his widely publicized fistfight with her brother. When Lindsay and Dina turned up at the same soccer game—Michael says he didn’t realize they would be there—he allegedly violated the protection order and was arrested on Nov. 18.
Then things got worse. Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 29, Lohan says he attempted to go to the family’s three-story home in Merrick to retrieve some clothing. (He moved out last spring; Dina still lives there with the three younger Lohan children.) He was arrested again for allegedly violating the protection order, and officers also charged him with driving under the influence of drugs. Lohan denies all the charges; his lawyer Dominic Barbara says Lohan consistently comes up clean in frequent drug tests and that the DUI charge is the result of hypoglycemia, which can be misinterpreted “that he’s drunk or stoned, which in this situation is not the case,” says Barbara.
A judge has since issued orders of protection for all four Lohan siblings, which means that Michael no longer has any visitation rights. A former Wall Street commodities broker whose family ran a lucrative pasta business, Michael “is at some points very active, very hyper, and then he gets down,” says Barbara. “He obsesses over, Is he going back with his wife? Is he going to see his children? I am hoping the family is smart enough to know that jail is not a place for him, and that he gets help. Because sooner or later they are going to have to deal with these issues.”
And yet many of the issues have been dogging the Lohans, who wed in 1985, for years. At their previous home in Merrick, “they would yell and scream a lot,” recalls former neighbor Evelyn Chapman. “Everyone on the block knew they had troubles.” Young Lindsay sometimes found herself in the middle of the fray. “I’m the oldest, and anything that went on with my parents when I was younger, I was always the one…who kind of gets involved with that,” she said recently.
In the early ’90s Michael served several years in prison for criminal contempt related to securities trading. And the troubles just kept on coming: He served two more prison terms for violating his probation; last December he was charged with assaulting a Manhattan garbage collector in a parking dispute (he pleaded guilty and agreed to attend anger management classes).
Amid mounting family tension, things reached a breaking point between Lindsay and her father in November, when Michael was quoted in the press insinuating that his daughter’s hospital stay for exhaustion may have been drug related. An irate Lindsay told Access Hollywood in response, “It angers me to see that my own father would stoop to such a level.” (“I never said that,” Michael says of the original quote. “Never even insinuated it.”)
Clearly, the ongoing father-daughter drama has been emotionally draining for the young star. “It’s hurt her deeply, and you don’t want to deal with that at 18,” Dina says of Michael’s alleged statements to the press. On Nov. 23 Lindsay canceled a slate of interviews to promote Speak, prompting talk of more health woes (and unreliable behavior, as she had been spotted partying alongside Justin Timberlake the night before). Her publicist attributed the cancellation to laryngitis; Dina says Lindsay has made every effort to meet her obligations. “We have been working night and day,” she says.
Stretched thin—and looking notably thinner too. She recently wrapped the Disney comedy Herbie: Fully Loaded (due in June), and in January she’ll begin shooting her next film, the romantic comedy Lady Luck, in which she plays a charmed woman whose luck turns bad. She also has several projects in development, including Gossip Girl, based on the bestselling novels about rich young things; Fashionistas, about a wannabe fashion designer; and Blindsided, another romantic comedy. It’s enough to make even the most multitasking star feel like a slacker by comparison. “During Herbie she was recording her album, she was shooting her music video on the weekends, she was doing screen tests for Lady Luck,” says Becky Stockton, the actress’s frequent body double. “She was always having somewhere to go, someone to meet with, an interview to do.”
And she’s still nursing her wounds from her breakup with Valderrama. “It had to do with their careers,” a friend of Valderrama’s says of the split. “They are both so busy. And they are so young.” Still, “when you’re 18 and it’s your first love, it hurts,” says Dina, adding, “She is not seeing anyone else.”
As for her father, who had publicly disapproved of the relationship with the older Valderrama, he says he continues to hope for a reconciliation with his famous daughter. “I want this over with, I want it done with,” he says of the strife. “Lindsay has a wonderful heart, and she’s a great kid.” And on that point, at least, both parents can agree.
Michelle Tauber. KC Baker, Saryn Chorney, Mary Green, Katy Hall, Courtney Hazlett, Megan Hickerson, Diane Herbst, Caroline Howard, Tiffany McGee and Natasha Stoynoff in New York City and Dana Meltzer, Brenda Rodriguez, Monica Rizzo and Pamela Warrick in Los Angeles