I originally started writing this blog the day after Carrie Fisher died. I was distraught, bummed out, eating a tub a mac and cheese and drinking a peach detox tea trying to counter all the carb and diary I was digesting. Carrie Fisher. You just had to take Carrie Fisher 2016?! Then came the news about Debbie Reynolds. Man 2016…I could punch you so hard right now! As Sarah from the ‘Labyrinth’ would say, “It’s not fair!” And it really isn’t. Screw the peach detox, I’m drinking Titos….
I had to take time to digest this. I read all the articles my Facebook newsfeed would give me. Watched the 20/20 interview with Todd Fisher, scoured YouTube for clips of mother and daughter. Re-watched ‘Wishful Drinking’, ‘Postcards from the Edge’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Unsinkable Molly Brown’, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, and ‘Return of the Jedi’. I picked up the Princess Diarist and read the Entertainment Weekly tribute magazine. Only thing I haven’t done yet is watch their documentary ‘Bright Lights’. I probably need another box of Kleenex or five for that.
The passing of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher within a day of each other is quite possibly the most romantic and tragic celebrity deaths I will encounter in my lifetime. Its almost Shakespearean if not completely so already. To say I adored these two women would be a gross understatement. While I may not bring them the poetic justice so many writers have already given them within the past two weeks, I can most certainly add my own personal recount of just how much they mattered and will always matter to someone as nerd centric and nostalgic as me.
If we want to talk about a princess that went against the grain of stereotype, she was it. For all my love of Disney nostalgia and the princesses that graced my VCR, Princess Leia stood out from all the rest. Seeing a tough as nails female leader with a wit as sharp as a scruffy looking nerf herder was very rare back then. She never wore a crown or pretty dress, never backed down from a fight herself and never sought out a man to fix her problems. She stood beside them, worked with them and even rescued her love herself…with a little help from her twin brother of course. Leia Organa was a woman to look up to, to aspire to. And want to be her, I did. An example, she was.
At that’s just even the tip of who Carrie Fisher was.
There are plenty of articles out there rehashing the life and times of Carrie Fisher. Daughter of golden age celebrity tycoons Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Goddess of Star Wars, literary novelist, comedian, recovering alcoholic, drug addict, dog lover, mistress of Harrison Ford…But what sticks out to me is her will and determination to use her strengths and weaknesses to keep going.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” — Carrie Fisher told to the Herald-Tribune in 2013
She was by far not a perfect human being and she used that, embraced that. Which takes courage, strength and a strong sense of humor.
“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”
― Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher taught me that humor was a powerful coping mechanism and if you can learn to distinguish the things you can control and embrace the things you can’t, you can conquer your misfortunes. Although honestly perhaps it was her mother that taught her that in the first place.
Unless you were trained in the musical theater world (show of hands…Bueller, Bueller….) most 90’s kids knew Debbie Reynolds as either the Mom from ‘Will and Grace’ or Princess Leia’s mother. I actually knew of Debbie before Carrie. ‘Singing in the Rain’ was the first ever movie musical I saw at home and I was OBSESSED. I absolutely adored Gene Kelly and wished desperately to be in Debbie’s shoes. I tried to do my hair like hers a couple of times but couldn’t quite figure out how to get that obnoxious crinkle in the front of the face. It was a rude wake up call when my father informed me that that movie came out back in the fifties and Gene Kelly had already bit the bullet.
When I heard Debbie was still alive and kicking I begged my grandparents to take me to see her in concert; I was the only person under the age of 25 attending and I was 12. I remember finding her absolutely commanding and powerful for a short woman. Debbie also pulled off a very impressive impersonation of Barbara Streisand as well. I left thinking she had an incredible amount of gusto and energy, which shows how resilient she actually was considering how chaotic her private (or not so private) life was. From her first husband leaving her for Elizabeth Taylor to the next two practically bankrupting her, to dealing with Hollywood telling her she’s too old in her later thirties, to Carrie’s illnesses, to continuing to work up into her Eighties; Debbie could take the punches and would claim she “ain’t down yet”.
“Well darling what are the choices? Not surviving?”- Wishful Drinking
Debbie truly was unsinkable until of course she wasn’t.
Perhaps the most powerful act Debbie will go down in history for will be her curtain call from this world. She told her son Todd she wanted to be with Carrie and not fifteen minutes later she closed her eyes and simply left. “And that’s what makes it ok” said Todd, “If it had been any other way, I would not be okay. She wanted to take care of Carrie and that’s what she gets to do.”
Todd posted this photo on Instagram
“I think they would like it, I think Carrie would like it.”
Debbie and Carrie not only graced the world with their talent in life, they taught us something with their passing as well. Love is a powerful thing. Period. And sometimes the bond between a mother and daughter is just as if not more powerful than the love between spouses. Now that’s something to write and sing about.
Thank you ladies for being in my life, even if it was only through your art. You will always matter to me.
And now as per Carrie Fisher’s request-
“I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” (Wishful Drinking)