Monday, September 27, 2010

Wishful Drinking

I finally got around to reading Carrie Fisher's most recent book, Wishful Drinking, the memoir that is the basis of her one-woman show that ran on Broadway, and the documentary of which will be on HBO.

As every fanboy knows, Fisher was Princess Leia, and the object of much fanboy lust in her brass bra, which is, of course, a fanboy in-joke. And no, when they shot the first picture, nobody had a clue that Princess Leia and Luke were brother and sister, thank you very much. During the filming, Fisher and Ford reportedly went at it hot and heavy every time the cameras went off.

What a lot of fanboys probably don't realize is that Fisher is funny and a talented writer. Even though Star Wars will pay the rent forever, she has made a good living as a script doctor, i.e., a writer who touches up or rewrites material for the big screen and usually for good money but little or no credit. 

In her books -- four novels and this non-fiction effort -- you can see how funny and clever with words she is. She's a much better writer than actress.

She's also a drug addict, bipolar, and in the book, discusses electro-convulsive shock therapy, which she underwent for major depression.

It takes balls to write a book where you let it all hang out, and all of her personal work has done that. Postcards from the Edge, which was turned into a movie starring Shirley McClaine and Meryl Streep, starts with a stomach-pumping OD and ventures into rehab. 

In this latest effort, you can see the raw edges of Fisher's psyche, only slightly padded by her wonderfully-clever humor and writing. She writes about being manic-depressive. About failed marriages. About a gay man who died in her bed, and it is grin-and-shake-your-head time. About long phone conversations with Cary Grant about LSD ...

Sometimes, funny is right on the edge of madness, and it's laugh or die. I give you the late Richard Jeni, my all-time favorite stand-up comedian, who could put an audience peeing and in tears laughing, and who killed himself. 

Fisher, whose mother is Debbie Reynolds and whose recently-departed father was the 50's crooner Eddie Fisher, was raised in the unreality of Hollywood stardom. Her parents were America's sweethearts, on the cover of every Hollywood fan magazine. Her father, who apparently had a magic zipper that opened every time he stood within dick-range of a handsome woman, nailed actresses left, right, and from all angles, and wrote a tell-all biography about it. When his best friend, Mike Todd, died in a plane crash, he hurried off to hold the widow's hand. And quickly held other body parts, those belonging to Elizabeth Taylor. America's sweethearts split the sheets. Fisher and Taylor married, then divorced when she hooked up with Richard Burton filming the god-awful Cleopatra.

Debbie Reynolds, for those of you asleep in Hollywood history class, was the female lead in Singing in the Rain, with Donald O'Conner and Gene Kelly, and part of what is one of the most fun dance sequences ever put on the silver screen ("Good Mornin'!")

Reynolds was also in a movie called Tammy and the Bachelor, and during the shooting of this, was pregnant with Carrie. I had my first movie-star schoolboy crush on Debbie as Tammy, a picture I saw when I was probably nine. The song that Reynolds sang in this movie, "Tammy," was nominated for an Oscar™, and spent five weeks at #1.  Had lyrics like "the old hootie, owl hootie, whoos to the dove/" in it. That I can remember that fifty-four years later is a measure of ... something ...

Um. Anyway, if you have a warped sense of humor, you'll enjoy anything written by Carrie Fisher. (Doing flack for her one-woman show, somebody asked her about it, and she said she would talk about sleeping with the Ewoks and how she and Jabba did it ... In the book, however, she didn't talk about how she and Harrison Ford broke furniture all over the set of the first SW's movie getting it on, though she did mention that the reefer he had was so potent she had to lay off the stuff because it put her over the edge. And remember, she was only nineteen when she starred in that first one.)

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