Sunday, January 01, 2017

In celebration of Carrie Fisher

Happy New Year.  I can't believe how many wonderful people we lost last year, including Carrie Fisher.  As I mentioned earlier we were casual friends (until shock treatments erased any memory of me.)  I had forgotten but nine years ago I did a post showcasing her then-just released autobiography, WISHFUL DRINKING.  Reader ScottMc  reminded me of it and suggested I re-post it.  Thanks, ScottMc, that's a great idea.  So here it is. 

These are just a couple of brief excerpts to give you a taste of what a wonderful, perceptive, and hilarious person she was, and the insane shit she had to put up with growing up in Hollywood royalty.  And I don't mean to be callous but when I heard that Debbie Reynolds had died the day after Carrie my first thought was, "Are you kidding?  She upstaged Carrie again?"  Now why would I think that?   Read on.  (And now we learn they're having a joint funeral.  Carrie doesn't even get her own memorial service.)

When I was born, my mother was given an anesthetic because they didn't have epidurals in those days. Consequently, she was unconscious.

Now, my mother is a beautiful woman - she's beautiful today in her 70s, so at 24 she looked like a Christmas morning. All the doctors were buzzing round her pretty head, saying: 'Oh, look at Debbie Reynolds asleep - how pretty.'

And my father, upon seeing me start to arrive, fainted. So all the nurses ran over saying: 'Oh look, there's Eddie Fisher, the crooner, on the ground. Let's go look at him.'

So when I arrived I was virtually unattended. And I have been trying to make up for that fact ever since.


Mom and Dad were great friends with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Mike Todd. Mike died in a plane crash in 1958, when I was two, and my dad flew to Elizabeth's side, making his way slowly to her front.


He later wrote his autobiography, Been There, Done That - well, he called it an autobiography, but I thought of it more as a novel. I like to call it Been There, Done Them, because it really was just about the women he'd slept with and how the sex was and what their bodies were like (so it is a feelgood read).


There was also my mother's closet - which I always thought of as the Church Of Latter-Day Debbie because it was the magical place that she entered as my mom and emerged as Debbie Reynolds.


At a certain point in my early 20s, my mother started to worry about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.


Some years later, I was in London en route to my mother's wedding to Richard Hamlett, her third husband (I don't like to miss any of my parents' weddings). She called me at my hotel, and when I didn't answer she became concerned.

So she let the phone ring and ring - until finally she panicked. She knew I was in the room so, in her mind, probably the only reason I wasn't answering the phone was that I had overdosed.

So she did what any normal concerned mother might do when troubled about her daughter's well-being. She called Ava Gardner. And she asked Ava to make sure I was not dead.


I live next door to my mom now. She is still a little eccentric.

Whenever she calls she says: 'Hello, dear, this is your mother, Debbie.' (As opposed to my mother Vladimir or Jean-Jacques.) My brother and I talk this way to each other now: 'Hello dear, this is your brother, Todd.'

Another example of her eccentricity: she suggested several times that I should have a child with her last husband, Richard, because 'it would have nice eyes'. It hadn't occurred to her this might be odd. I think she just thought, you know, my womb was free and we're family.


When I spoke about my mental illness publicly, I won great acclaim. I waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything (OK, fine, not acting, but what about a tiny little award for writing? Nope), I now get awards for being mentally ill.


Remember the white dress I wore all through that film (STAR WARS)? George (Lucas) came up to me the first day of filming, took one look at the dress and said: 'You can't wear a bra under that dress.'

'OK, I'll bite,' I said. 'Why?' And he said: 'Because ... there's no underwear in space.'


Among George's many possessions, he owns my likeness, so that every time I look in the mirror I have to send him a couple of bucks. That's partly why he's so rich.


When I was about 16 and my brother Todd was about 14, my mother took a part in a musical in New York, so we moved there for a year. I was out one evening when someone told me my mother was on the phone.

'I'm at the hospital with your brother,' she said. 'He shot himself in the leg with a blank.'

'What?' I said. 'He'll be fine,' she continued. 'He's in surgery now. Anyway, the police are here and they want to come to the house to examine the gun.

'I need you to get to the house before them to let them in, but also I need you to hide all the guns and bullets and - what else ... Oh yes! I need you to flush your brother's marijuana down the lavatory.'

It was Saturday night and you would think that this wouldn't be a particularly slow night for crime in New York. But you wouldn't know it looking at our living room because we had five policemen milling around, asking my mother pertinent questions such as: 'Did you know John Wayne? What kind of guy was he?'

Finally they told us they had established the gun could discharge live ammo, so my mother was in possession of an unlicensed firearm and had to go to the police station.

We got home just before 6am and there was a knock at the door.

Mom went to see who it was and came back laughing. 'It was a couple of reporters,' she said. 'They heard Todd had been shot in the leg and they wanted to know if I had done it for publicity for the show. I so badly wanted to tell them, "Yes, and now I can only do one more Broadway musical because I only have one child left to shoot for publicity."'

"Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher, is published by Simon & Schuster and available here.


Unknown said...

"...the insane shit she had to put up with growing up in Hollywood royalty" - The Fisher-Price of fame

B.A. said...

It's as if she wrote like she talked, and I always enjoyed her appearances on talk shows. Not having read the book, what comments did she reserve for Warren Beatty? (remember her spot in SHAMPOO?)

Johnny Walker said...

I've got to read her memoirs, but I may start with Postcards. What an amazing person she was.

Quote: "And I don't mean to be callous but when I heard that Debbie Reynolds had died the day after Carrie my first thought was, "Are you kidding? She upstaged Carrie again?"

I wanted to post the same thing to my Facebook feed, but I wasn't sure how it would go down. Glad I'm not the only one who thought the same thing!

VP81955 said...

Somewhere, the lady in my avatar is welcoming Carrie and Debbie to Hollywood heaven -- and they're all swapping incredibly funny anecdotes. Godspeed to an actress, "princess," writer, script doctor and humorist.

James said...

Ed Wynn's Son and We Will Always Live in Beverly Hills

Carol said...

I just read her most recent (and sadly last) book The Princess Diarist, and immediately had to get Wishful Drinking, too. I loved her writing as well as her acting, and I'm still so sad she's left us so soon.

YEKIMI said...

Somewhere up there Debbie is saying to Carrie "Sorry I'm late dear, but move over. It's my turn to give Eddie some shit. We'll just take turns, after all, we have all of eternity to do this."

Todd Everett said...

HBO's running the "Wishful Drinking" one-woman show/film tonight (Sunday) and a Carrie/Debbie documentary next weekend.

Brian said...

I see what you mean, Ken, tough life. Love her humor. Never knew that about space. Thanks for re-posting.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've never read any of her stuff. I had no idea her writing was so good.
This one and POSTCARDS have just been added to my New Year's resolutions.


Ken Keltner said...

Just watched Wishful Drinking video, Saturday, for the second time. She was brilliant and so funny. Another tragic loss.

VP81955 said...

To YEKIMI: Elizabeth Taylor is adding, "Count me in, Debbie! What did we see in him, anyway?"

Charles H. Bryan said...

The WISHFUL DRINKING show on HBO is also a great showcase for her talents as a performer. She does crowd work! It's an excellent production.

I also recommend listening to her audiobook performances of her work. They're available through Audible, and are substitutes for her novels (which are not available, as yet, as ebooks).

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Just saw the new Star Wars Rogue One. Go ahead. Tell me you don't tear up upon seeing the last scene...and reading the last 'special thanks to' acknowledgment in the credits.

So sad.

Johnny Walker said...

@BA When Carrie Fisher interviewed Madonna (well worth tracking down and reading) she revealed that Beatty offered to relieve her of her virginity no less that four times during filming. She declined.

tavm said...

Oh, Johnny Walker, if that's true, then it shows how much of a horndog Beatty really was in those days. Makes me wonder if Carly Simon's song, "You're So Vain" was really about him...

Roger Owen Green said...

I just happen to catch Wishful Drinking on HBO last night - not hysterical., but knowing.

Mark said...

Ken, can you do this for every Hollywood memoir -- read it and just give us the good parts? In fact, if you could do that for every book, that'd be great...