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Friday, January 07, 2011

CARRIE FISHER'S WISHFUL DRINKING--A GOOD TRAVEL COMPANION

When my friend gave me Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, I was awfully skeptical. I shy away from celebrity memoirs because I DON’T REALLY WANT THE DIRT on people I see on screen. Additionally, in this case I’ve liked her mother, Debbie Reynolds, since Tammy. When the show Wishful Drinking was on Broadway, I just avoided it. But I was 100% wrong. This is a sad but delightful memoir full of humor—often self-deprecating—and it is very, very funny. It’s laugh-out-loud funny. I’m sorry I didn’t see the show.

At 52, Carrie Fisher is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, a Hollywood icon because she was Star Wars’ Princess Leia and daughter of two very famous, though not necessarily for the same reasons, Hollywood stars, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. She is also the former wife of Paul Simon. And she has had electroconvulsive therapy—something many unfamiliar with it refer to as electroshock. She is also a very talented and entertaining writer with a sharp wit and an in-your-face delivery. When you read about her childhood, you’ll see why they call Los Angeles La-La Land.

Amazingly absent from this book is bitterness. She lives next door to her mother, and while she pokes fun at Debbie Reynolds’s idiosyncrasies, Carrie even shares her mother’s clothing closet with us. “My mother’s closet was the magical place that she entered as my mom and emerged as Debbie Reynolds. Her closet was huge, like an enormous room, with an entrance and an exit, lined on each side by clothes of every sort…My mother was magnificent when she was decked out in all her glory.”

She talks about her father, Eddie Fisher, referring to the time after Elizabeth Taylor’s husband (and Eddie’s best friend) Mike Todd dies in a plane crash. “Well, naturally my father flew to Elizabeth’s side, gradually making his way slowly to her front…Now this made marriage to my mother awkward, so he was gone within a week.”

The book was written while Eddie Fisher was still alive, and despite everything, he is described in this manner: “My father is beyond likeable. I mean you would just love him. My father also smokes four joints a day. Not for medical reasons. So I call him Puff Daddy.”

The point is, of course, that Carrie Fisher’s talent has not been swallowed up by the demons that plagued her life, and she is a fighter. The book, the play, and her relationships are all part of her struggling recovery. For all its humor, it has an undercurrent of sadness. But maybe that’s because it seems very true.

I’m sorry I passed up seeing Wishful Drinking on Broadway because if there would be one thing to bring out this book to its fullest, it would have been hearing the stage version in her own voice. Somehow, when I finished the book, I felt sorry for her life as it must be tough when you begin life anew at 52. But I admire her strength because she has made it through, is raising a daughter, Billie, of whom she is very proud, and she seems to have made peace with her past. So this is a book read with a smile on your face, and that makes it an excellent traveling companion.

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