Mother-Daughter Acts: Friends vs. Foes

Dina and Lindsay Lohan are Hollywood's latest mother-daughter rivals.

May 22, 2008, 5:34 PM

May 23, 2008 — -- Trying to make it in Hollywood as a young actress is hard enough. Obstacles abound -- from fellow would-be starlets and established celebrities to the industry's impossibly high and ever-changing standards.

Imagine having to contend with the woman who gave birth to you as well.

Mother-daughter relationships can be contentious enough on their own. Under the bright lights of Hollywood, they can turn downright destructive.

Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli's relationship was marred by dueling voices onstage and substance abuse off.

Carrie Fisher revealed her struggles with her larger-than-life actress mom, Debbie Reynolds, in the semi-autobiographical novel-turned-screenplay "Postcards From the Edge."

Jamie Lee Curtis has spent her career trying to separate herself from her bombshell, screen-goddess mom, Janet Leigh.

Now, with her own reality show debuting on E! May 26, Dina Lohan, the 45-year-old divorced mother and manager of troubled starlet Lindsay, seems to be continuing the tradition. "Living Lohan" will follow Dina as she tries to hustle another Lohan daughter -- Ali, 14 -- into Hollywood.

"Our back was against the wall, and we kind of had no choice but to defuse the rumors that were out there about my family," Dina told ABC News' "What's the Buzz" about her decision to turn the cameras on her family. "We're not here to be famous. This is [Ali's] dream as an artist. … People can judge for themselves."

People have already judged. With her oldest daughter making more headlines for her antics (the latest -- being sued for allegedly stealing a college student's $12,000 mink coat) than for her movie and music career, celebrity followers and psychoanalysts said Dina is trying to swoop in and steal Lindsay's spotlight.

"Dina and Lindsay fit right into the grand tradition of show biz mother-daughter acts -- relationships filled with both love and rivalry," said Village Voice columnist Michael Musto. "But there's a twist. Unlike Debbie Reynolds and Janet Leigh, Dina wasn't a major performing force at all, unless you count her supposed gig as a Rockette.

"She became something to reckon with after helping push her daughter into the limelight and then grew eager for more of a taste of her own fame," he continued. "For all the good things the spotlight brings to this situation, it also seems to draw out a neediness and opportunism that are not attractive."

Dina's not the first fame-hungry mom to jockey for her daughter's celebrity.

In the 1980s, when Drew Barrymore was at the height of her "E.T." stardom, her mom, B-list actress Jaid Barrymore, used her to get into Studio 54 and let her drink, smoke and snort cocaine. Drew landed in rehab by age 13.

Dina's relationship with Lindsay seems eerily similar: The ex-Rockette and current starlet used to club-hop hand-in-hand until Lindsay checked into rehab in February 2007.

And some say Dina's latest look -- long, layered blond locks and heavy black eyeliner in the same style of her daughter -- makes it seem like not only does she want to be seen with Lindsay, maybe she actually wants to be Lindsay.

"There's a natural tendency to be competitive in a mother-daughter relationship," said Shannon Fox, a marriage and family therapist and contributor. "The mother used to be young and beautiful. And in this case, Dina's still an attractive woman, but she's not in her 20s anymore. So she's struggling to compete with her daughters with how she looks, how sexy she is, how she can still party like a teenager."

Her behavior makes it clear: Dina wants stardom. Dina wants money. And her famous daughter is her key to getting both. But Dina's desires turn the parent-child relationship upside-down and may ultimately undermine what's best for Lindsay.

"Because the child is a celebrity, there's a dangerous imbalance of power," Fox said. "Lindsay's in control in her family because she earns all the money. Dina works for Lindsay. She can't tell her no. That's a really dangerous, really unhealthy imbalance.

"Dina's also making choices for her daughter based on what's best for her career, not based on what's best for her as a young adult," Fox said. "She said, 'Sure, go ahead, pose nude as Marilyn Monroe. It'll be great for your career!' But is it great for her as a young woman?"

Some argue Dina's a great parent. Earlier this month, she was honored as a Top Mom by the Mingling Moms Organization, a charity based in the Lohans' native Long Island, N.Y., for her "behind-the-scenes" contribution to Lindsay's "tremendous career."

And there are celebrity moms who have made such helpful contributions to their kids' careers. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn succeeded in nudging their daughters, Mamie Gummer and Kate Hudson, into the acting industry without scandal.

But, said Fox, by selling out Lindsay and now Ali in what appears to be a bid to extend her own 15 minutes of fame, Fox believes Dina has failed in her role as a mom.

"I think Lindsay has lost a mother and instead she's getting a tag along," she said. "Dina's like her other younger sister who also wants to be a star."

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