From the Archives: Carrie Fisher’s ‘Wishful Drinking’ shows that when it’s her story on stage, she brings it home
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in the 1977 film “Star Wars.”(20th Century Fox)
Carrie Fisher, in 2007.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher at the Farmers Market in 1987.(Ellen Jaskol / Los Angeles Times)
Three generations: Carrie Fisher, with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and daughter, Billie Lourd, in 1994.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher sits with her dog, Gary, at a panel at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim in 2015.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Twenty-three-month-old Carrie Fisher with her mother, Debbie Reynods, on Sept. 9, 1958.(Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, 3, gives mother Debbie Reynolds a hug after her afternoon nap in their home in West Los Angeles, on Nov. 16, 1959.(Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia to Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films.
Carrie Fisher with Mark Hamill, left, and Harrison Ford in “Star Wars.”
(Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher with Harrison Ford, left, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew as they relax during a break from the filming of a television special presentation in Los Angeles on Oct. 5, 1978.(Associated Press)
Carrie Fisher speaks with director Irvin Kershner during filming of “The Empire Strikes Back.”(HANDOUT / MCT)
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), in iconic slave-girl bikini, is held captive by Jabba the Hutt in “Return of the Jedi.”(20th Century Fox / Lucasfilm Ltd)
Carrie Fisher leafs through her novel “Delusions of Grandma” before speaking at the Los Angeles Times’ annual authors luncheon in 1994.(Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)
Debbie Reynolds, left, and her daughter, Carrie Fisher, hosted “All Star Moms.”(Cliff Lipson / CBS)
Singer-composer Paul Simon and actress Carrie Fisher leave the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, after a memorial service for comedian John Belushi.(Marty Lederhandler / Associated Press)
Carrie Fisher interviews Steve Martin in 1999.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher photographed in her house in Beverly Hills in 2004.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, in her bedroom in her Beverly Hils home.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher stars in her one-woman autobiographical show, “Wishful Drinking,” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood on Nov. 4, 2006.(Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher, promoting her HBO special “Wishful Drinking,” in her home on Dec. 2, 2010.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher in HBO’s documentary about her one-woman stage show, “Wishful Drinking.”(Patrick Harbron / HBO)
Carrie Fisher, host of “In the Know.”(Michael Jacobs)
Carrie Fisher, right, with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2015.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher autographs her book “The Best Awful” at a promotional event in London.(John D. McHugh / Associated Press)
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford at the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” panel at San Diego Comic-Con on July 10, 2015.(Richard Shotwell / Associated Press)
Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher attend the Midnight Mission’s Golden Heart Gala at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.(Araya Diaz / Getty Images)
Carrie Fisher with her daughter, Billie Lourd, on the red carpet at the premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Hollywood on Dec. 14, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise their iconic “Star Wars” roles in “The Force Awakens.”(Disney/Lucasfilms)
Carrie Fisher in a poster for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”(Disney / Lucasfilms)
A scene from the documentary “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”(Festival de Cannes)
Carrie Fisher’s most recent book is “The Princess Diarist,” a memoir based on the diaries she kept during the filming of the first “Star Wars” film.(Blue Rider Press / Associated Press)
Actress and author Carrie Fisher, the child of two Hollywood icons who rose to fame as Princess Leia in the blockbuster “Star Wars” series, died Dec. 27 at 60.
In 2006, Fisher brought her one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking,” to Los Angeles. This review was originally published by The Times on Nov. 17, 2006.
By now you’ve probably heard a good deal about the psychological case study known as Carrie Fisher. To review the basic facts: Hollywood icon parents torn asunder by lavender-eyed Jezebel, early movie stardom marred by laughingstock hairdo, a minor shipwreck on the shoals of Paul Simon, rehab, resurrection via “Postcards From the Edge,” rehab again, confession of mental illness to Diane Sawyer, bipolar acclaim, fresh scandal involving dead gay Republican operative in bed, more rehab. Prognosis: one-woman show.
“Wishful Drinking,” the Beverly Hills yard sale of juicy anecdotes that opened Wednesday at the Geffen Playhouse under the direction of Joshua Ravetch, is an L.A. story that would defy credulity were it not for the very credible presence of its narrator. You can call Fisher many things -- an unflagging exhibitionist for starters -- but she has a candor that makes her a most reliable witness to the far-fetched autobiography that is at once her curse and cure.
Is a solo stage gig the ideal medium for her lancing, ironic wit? No. Fisher has a jittery, lump-in-her-throat quality that suggests more comfort as a writer than as a performer. There’s a reason Princess Leia was her acting high point and that Meryl Streep played her surrogate in “Postcards.” Yet, as her self-parodying turn as host on “Saturday Night Live” in the late ‘70s colorfully bears out, she has always been adept at spoofing herself.
Stepping out amid a glittery backdrop in a black pantsuit, Fisher opens with “Happy Days Are Here Again” as tabloid headlines recall her breakdowns, hospitalizations and other trials and tribulations. Her voice is the kind that knows how to sing even though it really wasn’t meant to do so before paying customers. (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher might be her parents, but when she belts a tune she could pass as the perky offspring of Liz Taylor and Mike Todd.)
Fortunately, what follows is mostly gossipy chat. Yes, much of the dirty laundry has been aired elsewhere. But the sight of the unsinkable daughter of the unsinkable Molly Brown reasserting control never grows old. I haven’t seen a spectacle this hilariously ennobling -- or could I mean ignoble? -- since Liza Minnelli hobbled out of hip replacement surgery to perform her Broadway tribute to her father, “Minnelli on Minnelli.” Needless to say, there’s no Hollywood trouper quite like the child of Hollywood troupers. Quick, lend me your hanky, I’m having a tearful Mary Hart moment.
“Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’m an alcoholic,” Fisher greets us before launching into a personal epic that only someone like the novelist Bruce Wagner could do justice to. Dad bears the brunt of her comic recap, not merely for leaving Mom for Mom’s best friend but for providing her with such a vivid example of showbiz sleaze. We hear about his drug use and his sexual fetishes, though surprisingly little beyond her joke-strewn disdain. If tender feelings remain, she’s not advertising them. Apparently, she has adopted Reynolds’ survival ethic, which seems to put mothers and daughters before anything, save lucrative engagements -- and who could blame her for that, given the track record of men in her life?
Mom doesn’t get off scot-free, but Fisher has a sneaky admiration for her flamboyant eccentricity and work ethic. Not for nothing do they live side by side in a high-priced compound. Sure, they can make each other chuckle all day with zingers about “celebrity inbreeding,” but they share something greater: a luxuriously appointed independence. After all, it takes more than luck for two single women to remain high atop the hills of Beverly for as long as they have. It takes smarts and gumption and, yes, a death-defying desire to stay there.
Husbands invariably get short shrift. Fisher admiringly recollects how her mother got out of one of her marriages “by taking a play in New York.” Her own relationship to Simon fatally foundered from all the bicoastal to-ing and fro-ing during the filming of “Postcards.” Easy come, easy go -- and don’t worry about the alimony, thank you very much.
“Wishful Drinking” is a love story, though certainly not with the bottle, which figures mostly as background baggage. It’s a family romance, told by a 50-year-old girl who has always known that she has had the prettiest and most charming mother of anyone in her class.
Eternally a work in progress, Fisher will no doubt have more chapters to regale us with down the road. But one can’t help wishing that she’d cut herself some slack and accept that she already has enough material for a lifetime. And with her cleverness, she could easily fashion something more lasting than a patched-together stand-up memoir. Heck, with so much female inspiration to draw on -- and wry ambivalence to keep it from getting sappy -- she might happily surprise us yet.
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