'Wishful Drinking': Carrie Fisher looks at fame, star warts and all
Carrie Fisher stars in "Wishful Drinking" Sunday on HBO.
She focuses on a life that seems created for tabloids. She focuses on the gossip frenzy that was her parents' marriage and divorce. The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, Carrie Fisher was what Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's children could become if they go into show business, marry and divorce equally famous people, and devolve into a life of drugs and madness.
Fisher, though, is special. She survived the tsunami of Hollywood insanity that has drowned so many others and, in doing so, lives to tell the tale with good humor in the one-woman stage show "Wishful Drinking," airing Sunday, Dec. 12, on HBO.
Though Fisher refers to Pitt and Jolie in her film, she likens her mom more to Jennifer Aniston. Reynolds, the perky blonde of "Singin' in the Rain" among scores of others, was America's sweetheart. Her husband, Eddie Fisher, who recently died, took off with Elizabeth Taylor, and that Hollywood scandal was pretty similar to the Pitt/Aniston/Jolie affair.
Fisher is that rarity -- self-aware and self-mocking. She's funny and deals with the fact that though once a poster girl for every nerd who fantasized about her in that bikini from "Star Wars," she's now a stocky, middle-aged woman.
"Everything else is going really well, so I give myself a problem," Fisher says of her weight. "Or I could kill myself and look like Demi Moore. I hate that it matters. It does because I am a public figure and people get so down on me."
She was recently looking up something on the Web and came across a posting: "I wonder what ever happened to Carrie Fisher," she quotes. "She used to be so hot and now she looks like Elton John."
"I wrote back that I didn't realize when I donned the metal bikini at 19, I made a contract to look the same for 40 years," she says. "You have not been invited to look at my house. You have been invited to listen to my fountain. I got to the point where I got so heavy. I'm very clear about what I'm confident about. I know what I know, and I know I have a gift.
"I am taking down dictation from something in me that urgently wants to be expressed," she continues. "I have been doing that since I was 14."
She pops up out of a wing chair as if it's electrified, talking about "compulsively reading and writing." Fisher, like any true Dorothy Parker fan, can recite her poems. Fisher reflects on being a bookish kid, gazing adoringly at her movie star mom.
"I looked up at Debbie Reynolds," Fisher says. "Blond, green eyes, beautiful teeth and graceful. Her thing is to be a movie star. She walks like a queen."
With that Fisher pretends to float across the hotel room. "And I walk like this," she says, stomping across the room so loudly, the carpet barely muffles her steps. She perches on the edge of the chair only to pop back up.
"My mother grew up white trash in Texas," she says. This isn't quite the image usually associated with the glamorous Miss Reynolds, but Fisher lacks the filter most people have between their brain and mouth; it's part of her charm.
"I was just thinking last night, 'I've had all these experiences. What the f--- was I doing?' " she says, apropos of nothing. "I stayed with the Kennedys once. I didn't feel like I deserved to be there. I felt like this show-business schlump, and they are blue bloods."
Fisher realizes that she always had the writer's ability to observe life as it unfolded.
The propulsion behind writing the amusing book, which led to a traveling stage show that was eventually filmed for the HBO special, was to help recapture lost memories. Drugs and electroconvulsive therapy had toyed with her recollections.
"I emerge from my three-week-long ECT treatment to discover that I am not only this Princess Leia creature but also several life-sized dolls, various T-shirts and posters, some cleaning items, and a bunch of other merchandise," Fisher writes.
Yet she endures it all and emerges as funny, a bit wacky and very much a woman of the boomer generation, dealing with her mom and her daughter, her jobs and herself.
These days Fisher spends a lot of time writing. "I didn't go into show business," she says. "The trick would have been to stay out."
And a bigger trick would have been to stay sane. Fisher writes openly about being bipolar and jokes about her image being used on a psychology textbook -- an image of her as Princess Leia.
"Obviously my family is so proud," she writes. "Keep in mind, though, I'm a PEZ dispenser, and I'm in the 'Abnormal Psychology' textbook. Who says you can't have it all?"