Bad Muthas
Parental neglect, Hollywood style

In Hollywood, where nepotism is one of the only dividends of family relations, bad mothers abound. No, I'm not talking about Shaft, although even the private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks would likely have cowered before coat hanger-wielding mommie dearest Joan Crawford.

See also...
... by Kat Giantis
... in the Dirt section
... from December 13, 1999

As anyone with a uterus knows, a mother has a certain way of getting under her daughter's skin. Self-esteem issues, body image issues, men issues -- all can be traced back to how well you got along with dear old mom. But add fame and fortune into this already emotionally complex relationship and those ties that bind can begin to strangle.

Once upon a time, famous mothers from Joan Crawford to Bette Davis to Nancy Reagan faced humiliations galore when their no-name daughters stopped looking for approval and instead sought closure by writing scathing tell-alls.

Nowadays, however, no-name mothers of famous women are more likely to use their progenies' fame to make a quick buck and bask in the second-hand spotlight. In recent weeks, two prominent actresses and one up-and-comer have faced the wrath of their mothers' nature.

Mother's Bilk

First up is Jennifer Aniston, who hasn't spoken to her mother, Nancy Aniston, for three years. Seems the Friends star was mad that mom blabbed to a tabloid TV show (mommy claims she was set up). Now Nancy has attempted to reconnect with the future Mrs. Brad Pitt by penning From Mother and Daughter to Friends: A Memoir, a misleading and painfully unpunny title if there ever was one.

Nancy claims she wrote the book in "hopes that 'outing' the separation from her daughter will help lighten the burden of shame carried by growing numbers of abandoned parents." Did she really think that including unflattering photos of a pudgy pre-fame Jennifer would pave the way for a reconciliation? The now reed-thin actress has refused to comment on the tome.

But Nancy is still a few rungs higher on the Hollywood food chain than Jaid Barrymore, the desperate-for-attention mother of Drew. Jaid, you may recall, took her preadolescent daughter -- who was riding high off the mega-success of E.T. -- to nightclubs, where the youngster learned, among other things, to pour Bailey's Irish Cream over her ice cream.

Drew did several stints in rehab and survived a halfhearted suicide attempt before shutting her mother out of her life. But Jaid didn't go quietly. Not only did she follow her daughter to the pages of Playboy, but she recently put her famous spawn's childhood mementos, including the red cowboy hat she wore in E.T., up for sale on the Internet.

"Drew is such a special, amazing, magical person. I decided to put some of her things up on the Web site to allow people to be a part of Drew's life," explained the new-styled mommie dearest, who describes her relationship with Drew as "a bit estranged."

Drew, like Jennifer, had no comment on her mother's actions, which was a wise move: None of the items listed received the minimum bids. Drew still needs to watch her back, though: Jaid has apparently been shopping around a memoir focusing on what it was like to raise the onetime wild-child.

Young Jena Malone had to take the law in her own hands to get rid of her mother. In November, the 15-year-old Stepmom star filed suit against mom Deborah Malone, accusing her of squandering more than $1.2 million of her earnings through "excessive spending and mismanagement." In an out-of-court settlement, the actress was emancipated from the alleged shopaholic and successfully blocked her from getting her greedy paws on any more of her money.

Sadly, Jennifer, Drew, and Jena are just the latest in a long line of female celebs who've decided that life without mother is a life worth living.

In 1990, perpetually perky actress Meg Ryan broke off all contact with her mom, Susan Jordan, who walked out on her when she was 15 to pursue an acting career. In 1994, Jordan attempted a reconciliation with her now famous daughter in the pages of Redbook, asking, "Couldn't we just... be friends?" She's still waiting for a response, although Meg did say in a 1995 Vanity Fair interview, "It's a very long story. It's 32 years of stuff with this woman."

Kim Basinger's mother has said that her Oscar-winning daughter would be working at Woolworth's if it wasn't for her. Ann Basinger believes she's responsible for Kim's success; Kim disagrees. Ann wasn't invited to Kim's wedding to Alec Baldwin, and has never seen her granddaughter, Ireland. She claims not to care, since "I've got 12 other grandchildren."

Despite these tortured tales, it wouldn't be Hollywood without a few happy endings.

Forgive and Forget

Brooke Shields was raised by single mom Teri, who was so terrified of crib death that she would bind the infant Brooke to her chest each night. The stage mother to end all stage mothers soon turned her beautiful daughter into a mini-corporation, pushing her to do steamy ads for Calvin Klein and cavort, nearly naked, with Christopher Atkins in The Blue Lagoon.

In 1995, a few months before her 30th birthday, a smothered Brooke finally fired Teri as her manager. The post-pink slip relationship has been rocky, but Brooke worked through it, and invited Teri to her wedding to now ex-husband Andre Agassi.

It took impending death to reconcile Demi Moore and her long-estranged mom Virginia Guynes. Guynes had a history of substance abuse problems and a long criminal history, including arrests for drunken driving and arson. She also reportedly sold gossip about Demi to the tabloids.

In 1993, Guynes appeared butt nekkid in High Society magazine, striking a pose in front of a potter's wheel in a twisted maternal homage to Demi's turn in Ghost. But Moore was willing to put all this aside when she learned her mother was dying. She kept a vigil at Guynes' bedside, and was with her when she died in July, 1998.

As long as there are famous women, there will be predatory mothers waiting in the wings for an opportunity to grab the spotlight. As a precaution, all young actresses should be required to read Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest, in which she describes the horror of realizing her mother was taking over her life.

After undergoing emergency surgery in 1968, Christina, who at the time was starring in the soap opera The Secret Storm, woke up in the hospital to discover that Joan, then 60, had stepped into her role as a 24-year-old housewife.

"I'll never be as good as you, but I'll keep the spot warm for you," Joan told Christina.

"It is extraordinary how entangled in each other we had become," Christina wrote in her memoir. "Now it was my mother looking to me for the same love and approval I had always sought from her ... She had become me for a while and I felt I was sinking into oblivion. It was insanity for both of us."

In other words, it might not hurt if the Screen Actors Guild threw in a few family therapy sessions and a couple of wire hangers with each new membership card.

Kat Giantis writes about popular culture, even though she lives in Seattle.