Shirley MacLaine. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
By Olivia Barker, USA TODAY
Sachi Parker's famous mother, Shirley MacLaine, was so absent from her life that she sometimes could only connect with her just as the Oscar winner's fans did: on an airplane movie screen.
Working as a flight attendant, "I would look up, and the in-flight movie would be The Turning Point or another (MacLaine) movie. And it would be a moment that I would find that I could be with her. She was right there. And I would just yearn for her," Parker told ABC's 20/20 in an interview to promote her new Mommie Dearest-esque memoir, Lucky Me: My Life With -- and Without - My Mom, Shirley MacLaine.
Yes, the daughter of a Hollywood legend worked as a flight attendant - as well as a maid and waitress, all to pay for college.
"My mother was - is very old-school regarding money and tough love," she told the show.
When Parker, who was sent to Japan to live with her father starting at age 2, asked her mother for $500 to buy a used car, she says MacLaine loaned it to her - with interest.
Parker saw the Downton Abbey star only during holidays and over the summer. Nonetheless, when she came home from European boarding school one Christmas, neither of her parents bothered to show up. And when Parker did spend time with her mom, MacLaine's tolerance for her lasted all of four hours.
"I was very lonely - very lonely. Definitely. And I still struggle with abandonment issues and loneliness," she said.
She last spoke to her mom last summer. She sent her a copy of the book with a note inscribed, "I love you."
"I try to understand her," she told 20/20. "I find myself wanting to protect her so badly, because I so love her. ... And yet the pain is very deep. I would hope that she would own it and apologize. That would really, really be wonderful."
UPDATE, Feb. 5:
MacLaine has issued a statement to USA TODAY in response to Parker's accusations:
"It's a painful moment for me as a mother and as someone who values the truth. I'm shocked and heartbroken that my daughter would make statements about me that are virtually all fiction. I've praised her lovingly and truthfully in my own autobiographies. I'm sorry to see such a dishonest, opportunistic effort from my daughter for whom I've only ever wanted the best."