- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I told you so, Billy Ray Cyrus, but you wouldn’t listen.

In 2007, I wrote a column about the iconic (because of the mullet) Billy Ray Cyrus and his famous daughter, Miley, criticizing the celebrity dad for describing his relationship with his daughter as that of “best friends.”

Back then, Mr. Cyrus and Miley were riding the Disney Channel wave, starring in the wildly successful show “Hannah Montana.” In an interview, the former one-hit wonder turned family man/actor (don’t pretend you don’t remember “Achy Breaky Heart”) discussed his faith-based approach to parenting and revealed that the real reason he took the role of Hannah Montana’s sitcom father was to have something to do while he supervised his underage daughter on the set.

His repeated references to his Christian faith, his apparent dedication to his wife and four other children, and his earnest hope to control the media frenzy around his child-star daughter, struck me as laudable.


But that whole “best friend” thing irked me. Here’s what I said then: “I don’t really believe Cyrus wants to play the role of Miley’s BFF. But when he had the chance to say so, I just wish Billy Ray had made a stronger statement about the part that only he can play (and apparently the casting folks at Disney agree) — that of a father.”

I was wrong. He did want to be Miley’s best friend.

Mr. Cyrus didn’t read that column, nor did he listen to lots of other folks who admonished him to be a stronger father to his vulnerable daughter. Today, he regrets it.

In an article in the March issue of GQ magazine, Mr. Cyrus says “Hannah Montana” destroyed his family, causing his marriage to fail and Miss Cyrus to spin out of control.

Miss Cyrus, for those who follow only serious news, has spent the better part of three years transitioning from “tween idol” to “tacky teen star,” with missteps such as a partially nude Annie Leibovitz photo shoot, an appearance on a Teen Choice Awards show that included pole-dancing choreography and, more recently, alleged photos of her smoking from a bong at her 18th birthday party.

In the GQ article, based on a December interview with Mr. Cyrus at his home in Tennessee where he now lives alone, the veteran singer/actor acknowledges that he made mistakes. “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right.”

Today, his daughter’s future is being directed by “handlers” who apparently have little interest in her well-being and none in Mr. Cyrus’ input, and his entire family is essentially obliterated.

Mr. Cyrus now wishes the Disney gig had never come along, though he expresses this notion as though it were something that just fell into their lives like an unexpected rainstorm. “I hate to say it, but … I’d erase it all in a second if I could,” he said.

It’s a cautionary American tale: Be careful what you wish for, especially if it’s fame and fortune. In today’s culture, a solid marriage based on the foundation of a shared faith is no match for the vagaries of child stardom and all its attendant idolatry.

Then again, on the slim chance Mr. Cyrus reads my column this time around, it wasn’t “Hannah Montana” that destroyed your family, sir. It was the fault of a husband and father who led them into the lion’s den, and now wonders why they were eaten alive.

Visit www.marybethhicks.com.