The Greatest Momagers and Dadagers in the Business – Rolling Stone
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The Greatest Momagers and Dadagers in the Business

How the parents of stars like Britney Spears, Usher, The Beach Boys and more micromanaged their kids’ careers

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While most entertainers have to wait until they are at least old enough to drive to start their careers, a few are born with the blessing (and, sometimes, the curse) of a natural momager (or her male counterpart, the dadager). The most extreme want to stay involved long after other professionals have (or should have) stepped in, quitting their jobs to hit the road – and the conference room – with their offspring. Some, of course, are in it for the money; some are chasing a piece of the spotlight (a not-surprisingly high percentage once harbored dreams of dreams of stardom for themselves); some just simply believe they know what’s best.

Justin Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette, was barely older than her son is now when she gave birth to him in Ontario, Canada. The story of how Bieber was discovered is now legendary: When he won a local singing contest, Mallette uploaded a clip of the performance to YouTube for the benefit of family and friends. She continued to post videos of Justin doing covers of R&B singles, until the online cache was discovered by marketing executive Scooter Braun. Though Braun and Usher manage Bieber, Millette keeps a close eye on her son, accompanying him on tour and acting as a very public cheerleader via Twitter. Her biography? “Yes Justin Bieber is my son. I have many other great qualities besides being his mom haha! No really.”

Here are 11 other momagers and dadagers who have made careers out of managing their offspring – for better and for worse.

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The Beach Boys and Murry Wilson

In 1967, Murry Wilson – the father of Beach Boys members Brian, Dennis, and Carl (and uncle to original bandmate Mike Love) – released an album of his own work called The Many Moods of Murry Wilson. An appropriate choice, it seems, for a figure primarily remembered for his violent temper (Brian has said he is deaf in one ear as a result of a beating by his father). A notorious micro-manager and tough negotiator, Murry handled the group’s business decision and acted their co-producer and publisher, eventually securing their first deal with Capitol Records. Though Murry was officially relieved of his managerial duties in 1964, he was determined to maintain a role in his son’s careers. In 1965, in an incident captured on tape, he drunkenly interrupted the recording of “Help Me, Rhonda,” to berate and criticize before muttering the immortal line, “I’m a genius, too!”

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Lindsay Lohan and Dina Lohan

Lindsay Lohan got her start in the entertainment business at three years old, when her mother Dina signed her up with Ford Models. Dina’s star rose along with her daughter’s; as Lindsay’s personal life and wild behavior became national news, Dina was frequently pictured partying alongside her. A former dancer and singer with a taste for self-promotion and a willingness to discuss her daughter with the press, Dina has often behaved more like a hanger-on than a manager or parent, leveraging her relationship with her daughter into paid appearances, a TV show (Living Lohan) and free Carvel ice cream. Despite encouragement from everyone from Elton John to the staff of the Betty Ford Clinic to drop her mom, Lindsay has long defended Dina, calling her “the best mom ever.”

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Beyoncé Knowles and Matthew Knowles

In 1995, Matthew Knowles quit his job as a salesman to become the manager of the earliest incarnation of Destiny’s Child, adjusting the lineup, booking local gigs in Houston, and running organizing a summertime “boot camp” to improve the girls’ singing and dancing skills. When his professional gamble paid off with a 1997 record deal with Columbia, he maintained control of the group, though it seems that his daughter Beyoncé’s interests were his first priority. In 1999, citing favoritism, original members LaTavia Roberson and LaToya Luckett requested a personnel change and found themselves unceremoniously dumped from the group (they later sued for breach of contract). Knowles now manages Beyoncé’s solo career, though though he was reportedly close to losing his job this summer, when his daughter learned he had cheated on wife Tina with actress Alexsandra Wright.

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Judy Garland and Ethel Milne

Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, first appeared on stage as a toddler, performing with her older sisters in a Christmas concert at her father’s movie theater in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Realizing she had something special on her hands, mother and former vaudevillian Ethel Milne appointed herself the girls’ manager and launched a campaign to get the group, dubbed The Gumm Sisters, onto the big screen. The trio made their film debut in 1929, when Judy was seven, but Ethel soon pulled her most talented daughter out of the group to travel the country as a solo act until she was signed by Louis B. Mayer (it was then that she adopted her stage name). Garland went on to become something of a momager in her own right, encouraging the careers of daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, who appeared with her on The Judy Garland Show.

Photo: Judy Garland and Liza Minelli, November of 1960.

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Jessica and Ashlee Simpson and Joe Simpson

For a former psychologist and minister, Joe Simpson appears to be surprisingly clumsy when it comes to maintaining a healthy family dynamic. As manager to daughters Jessica and Ashlee, Joe has gained a reputation for being both overbearing and bungling. (Recent missteps include insulting a group of combat veterans scheduled to perform with Jessica on a PBS Christmas special and killing her chances of an American Idol judgeship), and has been known to meddle in his daughter’s romantic relationships (in the wake of his 2006 divorce from Jessica, Nick Lachey told Rolling Stone, “I don’t pretend to understand Joe. And I can’t speculate about what he did or why he did it or for what purpose.”) And, of course, who can forget his infamous observations about his “sexy” eldest daughter’s “double Ds”?

Photograph courtesy of Deb Antney via Twitter

Waka Flocka Flame and Deb Antney

Though some artists come into the music business with parents who are just starting out as managers, rapper Waka Flocka Flame had the good fortune to have a mother who was already established as the manager of Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj. Deb Antney, the founder of Mizay Entertainment, built her firm to establish Gucci Mane as an artist, but has since expanded her roster to include Waka, OJ Da Juiceman, Cartel MGM and reality star Heidi Montag. Antney has had some setbacks in her career – Minaj fired her last year, she was detained in a raid of Waka's house in Atlanta and has been accused of running a prostitution ring – but that hasn't kept her from relentlessly promoting her son's music career. She's so fiercely protective and media savvy that when he was questioned by police about a shootout in North Carolina she had posted a YouTube video explaining the situation within 24 hours of the incident.

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Hank Williams Jr. and Audrey Williams

Though he’s best known as his father Hank Williams’ son, it was Hank Williams Jr.’s mother, Audrey Williams, who was the real force behind his career. Audrey was frequently featured in her husband's music, contributing backup vocals, recording duets and, it’s rumored, penning the lyrics to “Mansion on a Hill.” When Hank Sr. died in 1953, she turned her energy toward her son, encouraging him to record and perform covers of his father’s music and dressing him in stage costumes that were mini versions of those worn by her late husband. Eventually, however, Hank Jr. tired of his role as a "Hank Williams impersonator,” and cut ties with his mother in order to pursue his own musical style and tastes.

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Usher and Jonetta Patton

When it became clear that her son Usher had exhausted the possibilities of the church choir, Jonetta Patton moved her family from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta in search of a big break. At 11, Usher landed a place in an R&B quintet called NuBeginnings, but Jonetta quickly pulled him from the group, eventually finding a place for him on Star Search, where at 13 he was discovered by an A&R rep. After signing with L.A. Reid, Patton appointed herself her son’s manager, but Usher hasn’t always been convinced that mother knows best: In 2007, he fired her, allegedly because she disapproved of his marriage to stylist Tameka Foster, from whom he is now divorced. She was hired back in 2008 but, in 2009, as tensions surfaced over girlfriend Grace Miguel’s involvement in the making of Raymond vs. Raymond, Jonetta agreed to once again sever their professional relationship.

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Miley Cyrus and Tish Cyrus

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus may be his daughter’s professional role model, but it’s mom Tish who seems to be pulling the strings. Of course, as the wife of a megastar, Tish has had access to some pretty specialized advice, particularly in the form of Dolly Parton, who is Miley’s godmother. It was Parton who suggested that Tish hire Jason Morey to manage alongside her. However, the increasingly heavily-tattooed 18-year-old may not be under mom’s thumb for that much longer, if her recent behavior – including lap dances and salvia smoking – are any indication. As Billy Ray Tweeted in the wake of the latter controversy, “Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time myself. Im [sic] so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.”

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