Lindsay Lohan's Father Comes Clean
With Lindsay Lohan set to return to jail today, public scorn is once again being heaped on her parents. In a remarkably candid recent interview, the star's father rose to his own defense—spilling the beans on his relationship with Lindsay and how his bitter battle with ex-wife Dina led to his daughter's addiction.
Linday Lohan is in trouble yet again after getting kicked out of her court-order community service program at Downtown Women's Center in LA. She faces jail for violating the terms of her probation from her drunk driving and shoplifting convictions—although it's possible she could serve her time wearing an ankle bracelet at home, as she did earlier this year. The star's ever-mounting problems can only invite more scrutiny of her parents, who are already viewed by some not only as parasites piggybacking on their daughter's fame, but as major contributing factors to her addictions. Her father, Celebrity Rehab alumnus Michael, gave us a very different side of the story back in July.
Michael Lohan is pacing the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan, yapping on his cell phone. Snooki tan and Gordon Gekko slick, he’s wearing a white button-down shirt, light, baggy Dad jeans, a belt with a phone holster and Ferragamo loafers with no socks ("Don't ask me about my underwear because I'm not wearing any"). Downstairs, he kicks back in a chair and puts his feet up on a table. He’s charming with a dash of perviness, handsome with a sprinkling of cheese, and—even though he’s been doing press all day and must be exhausted, eager to talk about his problems with drugs and alcohol, life on Celebrity Rehab and his troubled relationship with Lilo.
They've surely asked you to do Celebrity Rehab before, right?
It’s come up before, but this was a time in my life when I felt like, what I had to share—Lindsay, my daughter and my family’s in a place where I really need to understand what I had to do.
Wait—you have a daughter? Just kidding.
[Laughs] Actually three: Ali, Lindsay and Dina. She’s my third child.Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m the nicest guy in the world. When you go after my family, or you put your hands on me, then I’m a different person. But I forgive everybody. I’ll put my hand out to anyone. I’ll help anyone. I’ll give you the shirt off my back.
So why now?
Because it became a point when Lindsay’s recovery became really, really important. She went through four months at Betty Ford. She was going through this whole thing in court, and I felt like I really needed to know what the right steps were to go forward and to fix whatever was wrong with me. My codependency issue was really having an effect on my family’s life as well as my own.
That’s what you’re being treated for on the show—codependency?
Not substance abuse?
You’ve been sober for how long?
Since February 23, 2004.
Did Celebrity Rehab “work” for you?
I definitely feel like it worked. I’m in a much better, different place than I was before. I’m looking at relationships and my choices—how I gravitated toward people or even situations that weren’t good for me—differently.
I’ve heard you say you were always the one who tried to solve everybody’s problems.
I was the caregiver. I was the problem solver.
Have you always been like that?
Always. And you know what—it’s funny, because the one thing I always stick by, I’m a minister, and I went to bible college and all that. One scripture that always stood out in my head was, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” I really feel it’s better to make peace than war. It’s always better to overcome things. If you’re going to forgive, you truly have to forget and move forward. If you don’t forget, it’s a cloud that’s going to hang over your head for the rest of your life—you’re never gonna be able to move forward.
When did you become this enlightened? You’ve obviously had a lot of controversy in the past.
And you’ve not necessarily been the nicest guy in the press.
(Laughs) Listen, anyone who knows me will tell you I’m the nicest guy in the world. When you go after my family, or you put your hands on me, then I’m a different person. But I forgive everybody. I’ll put my hand out to anyone. I’ll help anyone. I’ll give you the shirt off my back.
Did you know any of your castmates before the show?
Jeremy Jackson and I have been friends for years. We go to AA and work together. So I walked in, and we looked at each other and I said, “What are you here for? Did you relapse?” And he said, “No. How about you?” And I said no. “Well, why are you here?” And he said, “Steroids.” And I said, “No kidding.” I was shooting steroids, too, at the time.
You were doing steroids at the time?
Oh, yeah. Because I was boxing.
Let’s back up. You were pretty straight growing up, in terms of partying and stuff.
Yeah, until I went to Wall Street.
Most high school and college kids drink and party or at least dabble. Was it a conscious decision not to?
I was really into sports. And my father’s an alcoholic. So I stayed away from everything. I hated cigarettes.
Did you always know he was an alcoholic?
I knew he drank all the time, but I didn’t identify that with alcoholism until when I was in my 20s. I didn’t look at things that way. I just thought it was a normal lifestyle to make a lot of money, go out and drink after work on Fridays, and do coke. In the 80s, that was the thing to do.
You were like a Bret Easton Ellis character. Did you hang out at The Odeon?
Oh my God, every place. Marrakesh, Studio 54.
Any good Studio 54 stories?
Oh my God. There was just coke laid out on the tables, and people having sex—it was insane. And although all that was going on, I still was pretty rational about what I did. I wouldn’t party during the week. I just worked. But on Friday night, when that bell rang on the exchange, you got in touch with any one of the clerks on the floor and they had coke.
That was your drug of choice at the time?
Yeah. The sick part is I wouldn’t even do coke before I drank. Even if I had it in my hand, I would drink first before I did it. Because when you drink, and you want to have fun, you use the coke to straighten yourself up. I didn’t want to act stupid or look stupid, and coke just kept me straight. And it became a never-ending cycle.
What was your rock bottom?
The first one was in 1989, and I worked for a guy named Marc Rich—I traded for him, and I wouldn’t tell, and I got three years for contempt, but at the time I was facing 15 years under the Rico Act, and when the feds were looking for me, I went on the run, and Dina and I split up, and I just felt like my life was at the end. And I drank and did coke one day, and went back to my parent’s house, where my gun was…I was destroyed. I didn’t even talk about this on the show. Before that happened, I grew up in the church and went every Sunday. But that day I went into my parents’ room, and there was a cross on the wall that was passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mom. And I took the cross off the wall, and I said, “God, how could you do this to me?” and I took the cross, and I hit myself in the head with it, and it actually buried itself in my head.
Do you have a scar?
Yeah. When I went to prison, they shave your head, and I saw the scar and was like, Oh my God. Then after that, I got so mad at myself for even doing that, I was like, How did I defy God like that? How did I denounce him? I hated myself. And I was like, “I don’t deserve to even live. They’re after me, I’m gonna go away for 15 years and disgrace the family,” and I went in my room and got the gun.
After I put the gun down, I picked up the phone and called Betty Ford. And I was at Betty Ford the very next day.
What will people learn about you from the show—will anything surprise them?
Just that I’m a real person. Good, bad or indifferent.
Do you think you have an image now in the press?
Of course. People depict me as an outspoken, angry person, but I’m the opposite. I’m only outspoken when people attack my family or me. That’s it. And if you lie, I’m gonna refute it. As far as the anger is concerned, don’t ever cross paths with or hurt my family or me. Other than that, I’m not an angry or a violent person at all. If anything, I try to stop people.
If a random person on the street came up to you right now and said, “I’m an addict, do you have any advice?” what would you say?
I’d ask what their problem was, and where it came from, and sit down and try to identify with things. I love doing that with people. I had a radio show down in Florida, and last Sunday a guy called in and was gonna kill himself, and I put him on another line confidentially, and I spoke to him. We got his sister over the house, we got an interventionist there, and he went into a program.
Wow. How does that make you feel?
Would you ever work in a rehab facility?
I do. I speak at them. The thing I’m most passionate about is kids because I really don’t think we should wait for a person to be a husband or a wife or a father or a mother and wait for addiction to take over their life. We should nip it in the bud before it gets to that point.
You tweet a lot about God and spirituality. You still go to church?
What’s your relationship like with God?
He’s my father and I’m his son. I have to answer to him, nobody else.
Do you pray?
Every morning and every night. I have a bible in every room of my house—in my bathroom, next to my bed.
You recently tweeted: “Marriage and children have three things in common: they bring happiness and grief but they also bring tears.” A lot of your family drama has played out in the public eye. What’s the status with you and Dina?
Dina and I were on the phone this morning. I was on speakerphone in the car. And [people in the car] were like, “My God, you guys are that friendly?”
From the time Lindsay did The Parent Trap right until the pinnacle of her career, doing Mean Girls, did you ever see or hear a negative thing about Dina or I? Did you even know who we were?
You are friendly?
Yeah, but the problem is, even though we are, Dina won’t tell the kids that we even talk. I don’t know what the problem is. She’s coming to the city tomorrow, and she said. “I need money for Cody’s lacrosse.” And I said, “How much?” And she said, “$600,” and I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll bring it tomorrow.” She goes, “I’ll be with my brother, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” And I’m like, “Why does it matter if you’re with your brother or not? Why do you let them dictate your life?” We have four children who need their mother and father. And her brother is the guy who robbed the 9/11 victims fund for a million dollars. And he did a year in federal prison because he ratted on everybody. And now, he’s out there, involved in Dina’s life again. He’s out in the Hamptons going, “Hey I’m Lindsay Lohan’s uncle.” And he changed his last name—it’s not Sullivan anymore, because everyone knows what he did, so now he goes by Paul Anthony. That’s a big problem with addiction and with children. If you look at statistics, most kids that are products of divorce become addicts in some way. Because it’s like a broken heart syndrome—kids are torn apart. They love their mom and dad, but they’re being pulled to both sides, and it puts a crack in their heart and they fill it with all the wrong things. If parents just focus on their own issues and keep the kids out of it, and don’t let other people get involved or influence them, their kids have a much better change of living a happy and sober life.
Do you think you’re making it harder for your family that everything has been so public? You’re doing this show, you do tons of interviews…
Let me make a point. From the time Lindsay did The Parent Trap right until the pinnacle of her career, doing Mean Girls, did you ever see or hear a negative thing about Dina or I? Did you even know who we were?
No but the tabloid culture now is so much more ravenous and so much more prevalent now. Back then, you didn’t even know about anybody’s personal life.
It was still out there. But my point is that after the divorce and when everything started to unravel, that’s when it got messy. And when there are divorce papers filed and people saying horrible things, you have to defend yourself. I never wanted to say anything.
But you didn’t want to be silent?
I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know if I just shut my mouth and took the brunt of it that it would’ve been water off a duck’s back and wouldn’t really affect me. My pride got in the way, and it hurt not only me but also my family. For my parents, if my dad was alive, God rest his soul, to have these…it affects your family, and that’s one thing I don’t stand for. That’s when I get really pissed off.
Do you have any regrets about things you’ve said to the press in the past?
It’s a laundry list. I’m not gonna B.S. Of course I do. There’s no excuse for doing that whatsoever; I can’t take it back. All I can do is not do it again and I haven’t. Until I went to family therapy at Betty Ford with Lindsay and she sat down and opened her heart to me, which lead me to say, “You know what? I need to do this myself.” And then when they asked me to, by the grace of God, they called me and asked me to be on Celebrity Rehab, that was really it—it was a Godsend. My father was hard on me when I was a kid—really hard—and that hurt. That damaged me.
In what way was he hard on you?
Trust and betrayal. And that led me to drink and use because I felt like I was betrayed. Everyone has a predisposition. Let’s look at this—a mother and a father—one’s a drug addict, one’s an alcoholic—have four kids: only one becomes an alcoholic. Why don’t the other three? I’ll tell you why—and Dr. Drew helped me realize this. Because something happened in that kid’s life that made it happen. Some trauma. Some kids can handle it and some people just can’t. With Lindsay…usually it’s the one with the very, very good heart that can’t handle it, because they just don’t know how to handle these emotions. They’re like, “I can’t take this, give me something, I don’t want to feel this, I don’t want to deal with it,” and that’s what happens.
What’s your relationship with Lindsay like now?
Fantastic, but the problem is…I love Dina, I really do—she’s twisted, but I love her. No seriously, no I mean it, I was sitting on Lindsay’s bed a month ago talking to her and having bagels, and Dina calls her and she’s on the phone and she’s saying, “If you see your father… “
How would you describe yourself as a father?
I would go to any length to protect my family. Especially my ex-wife and kids. Would I die for Dina? Not anymore, but would I have died for her? Yes. Would I die for my kids? In a second.
So you and Lindsay are on speaking terms?
Yeah. I see people drinking and I get repulsed by it. To look at them, and that sloppiness, I can only imagine how I was.
If you called her now, would she pick up?
Yeah, As long as she’s not around Ali, she’ll pick up the phone. (He calls Lindsay but gets a busy signal.)
Bummer. So what are you like in a romantic relationship?
I love sex. Seriously. I don’t know what happened when I turned 46, but forget it. Someone flipped a switch. You have no idea.
Have you done Viagra?
No, I take heart medication. I’d be dead. I love going to cornfields, walking on the beach…
Sex in a cornfield?
I’ve done that. Elevators, cornfields, planes. You can’t do it on commercial planes anymore because the bathrooms are too small. But private planes…
Do you find yourself being drawn to dramatic women?
Are you kidding? (Laughs) But seriously, I like normal things—horseback riding, boating. I just bought a yacht. I love family stuff.
Do you like being in the spotlight?
Only when it serves a purpose. I think God puts us in a position when he wants to use us in a positive way. I worked on Wall Street, I still trade a hedge fund for my family. We have an eight billion dollar market cap. And people don’t know that side of me. People don’t know we have a private jet and I have a helicopter in California.
There’s no question that you’re smart.
Isn’t it a shame that people who are addicts are truly geniuses?
Do you have urges anymore—to drink or use?
No, I see people drinking and I get repulsed by it. To look at them, and that sloppiness, I can only imagine how I was.
Lindsay is so talented. I really think she could have a big comeback.
From your lips to God’s ears.
Alison Prato is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment journalism. Her work has appeared in a wide array of publications including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar U.K., Women’s Health, New York, Maxim, Page Six Magazine, Playboy and The Daily Beast. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her baby and her dog and can be followed on Twitter at @alisonprato.