The success of those ’60s folk-rockers the Mamas and the Papas may have been the only silver lining ever to conceal a dark cloud. By 1968 the group was breaking up, and so was John and Michelle Phillips’ marriage. In 1974 Mama Cass Elliot died, at 33, of a heart attack. In 1980 John’s troubled daughter Mackenzie got sacked from One Day at a Time, and he was arrested for conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Later that year Mackenzie, John and his third wife, Genevieve Waite, joined a rehab program to end their drug problems. For her part, Michelle seemed determined to OD on men: She had romances with Jack Nicholson (whose baby she miscarried), Warren Beatty, Nicholson again and Beatty again. She wed Dennis (Easy Rider) Hopper for eight days and radio exec Robert Birch for three years.
Lately, however, the other Phillipses have kicked their addictions, and 37-year-old Michelle, who has a daughter by John, has become a mama once more. Last month she bore her second child, Austin Devereux. His dad is actor Grainger Hines, 33. Mama and Papa have no immediate intention of becoming Mr. and Mrs. “We feel married,” Hines says. “We don’t feel the need to be married.” Says Michelle, “This relationship has been so spontaneous we haven’t taken time to think about what’s right or wrong.”
Michelle met Grainger three years ago while she was driving in L.A. with Warren Seabury, her publicist. “Look at the cute guy,” she said as they pulled up to Hines’ car at a light. Sea-bury knew Hines, honked him down at Michelle’s request, and asked him to her place for drinks. “Things started to get intimate last year,” Michelle says. “Then on a trip around the world I became overwhelmed with the idea of having another child. When I got back I asked Grainger, and he seemed excited about it. I had said I’d do the parenting if he didn’t want to, but we saw our relationship blossom after I got pregnant. John wasn’t a doting parent, but Grainger has already taken over as Daddy. I love it.”
Proving he takes fatherhood seriously, Hines joined Michelle when she underwent amniocentesis. “I went in there acting so cool,” he says sheepishly, “but when I saw the needle going in, that was it.” When they roused him from his faint, he and Michelle “started giggling like crazy,” Hines reports. Later he rallied at the natural delivery, coaching Michelle while her daughter, Chynna, mopped her face. “I even got to cut the cord,” he says proudly. The experience, Michelle adds, “did a lot to bond us all together. It was also wonderful having a drug-free delivery—or a drug-free anything these days.”
Phillips and Hines, who live in her Spanish-style L.A. house, are in the midst of career changes. The leggy blonde, who was born Holly Michelle Gilliam, the daughter of an L.A. postal worker, has wearied of singing, especially since the flop of her 1977 album, Victim of Romance. She’s now writing a TV pilot about “a strong, independent woman.” Hines, the son of a construction firm manager in Greenwood, S., married and divorced young (he has a 13-year-old son) and worked as a Congressman’s assistant in Washington. “I could have attained a political career had I asked for it,” he says, but he turned to legitimate acting instead. He’s done TV guest shots, appeared in the acclaimed TV movie Amber Waves, and last year starred with Lynn Redgrave in Thursday’s Girls onstage in L.A. Still, Michelle is better established than he. “We acknowledge it, but she’s wonderful to me.” he says. “It’s a difficult situation for a man,” Michelle concedes. “But I know he’s a star. It’s just a matter of time.”
There was a time, of course, when Michelle was regarded as an appendage herself. When she was dating Nicholson and Beatty, she observes, “People said, ‘Any work she gets, it’s because of them.’ In fact, producers were inclined not to cast me. There’s a notion that you just don’t cast someone’s girlfriend.” Michelle has been both praised and panned: None of her six feature movies has fared well, though she’s not necessarily to blame. She insists that Valentino flopped in 1977 because of her co-star, Rudolf Nureyev. “His accent hurt,” she says.
Michelle’s relations with the Phillipses are both less angry and less close than they were. John and Mackenzie came to her baby shower, and her ex-husband let his 10-year-old son, Tam, stay with her briefly last summer. “It was a peace offering,” she says. “But I think I’ve finally made a break from them, which is important for me.” She is less enthusiastic about the latest incarnation of the Mamas and the Papas, in which Mackenzie has her role. “They have a lot to live up to,” she says. And a lot to live down. “There was a time for all that craziness,” Michelle says, “but it’s in the past.”