Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60 at 8:55 a.m. Tuesday in Los Angeles. Fisher once requested that her obit say she “…drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” Done.
With but four days left in 2016, it is impossible to address the passing of Carrie Fisher without putting it in the context of all the deaths and the atrocities of the previous calendar year and perhaps those to come.
I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in a George Harrison-type of omniscient and benevolent being. The odds are simply too great that we would all be here together, right now, without the help of something pulling the strings that science cannot yet completely explain. With that in mind, whoever or whatever it is doing the heavy lifting beyond the curtain of the planets and stars is sending us some kind of message.
Or maybe there was just another empty seat in the first-class cabin to the great, shiny beyond—this one next to George Michael.
What Fisher has in common with Bowie and Prince and Ali and Palmer and Haggard and Rickman and the literal dozens upon dozens of of others who left us after having spent their lives defining ours, is also what set her apart. They give us everyday folk true faith in a power so great and used for such good, that we couldn’t help but sing and laugh and shout and clap along with and ultimately for them.
…But the person we were rooting for in Fisher’s case was the authentic her.
There’s this thing about Fisher that her life was never her own and it’s as if this go-around was her second or third or maybe nineteenth chance at getting it (mostly) right. Nobody ever gets it totally right. She was the daughter of the pop singer Eddie Fisher and the actress Debbie Reynolds. She became an actress, she made great art on screen, but her real talent was for torching that veil and showing us who she really was.
I was fortunate enough to catch her final public appearance on the season finale of the Graham Norton show ten days ago. She was on an extended stay in London and had recently wrapped the next Star Wars as well as the third season of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe—the best kind-of-funny/schlubby-middle-aged-American-ad-exec-bro-man-meets-and-impregnates-socially-acceptable-alcoholic-Irish-preschool-teacher-spinster-type-and-all-the-awful-things-they-do-to-one-another-Amazon-Prime-sitcom of the last five years.
Fisher played Delaney’s caustic, claustrophobic and perversely sensible mother. She did it, as with all her great roles, pouring herself into the dialogue like a scotch, neat.
Fisher was the wisecracking soul of Princess Leia Organa, the over-the-top psycho bitch ex “Mystery Woman” in The Blues Brothers, the mightily insecure but assured-on-the-outside Paula in The Man with One Red Shoe. She was Marie, the consummate best friend who always deserves better and finally got what she deserved in When Harry Met Sally. As April in Hannah and Her Sisters she was concerned, quiet and self-aware. She was perfunctory-yet-reactionary as Betsy Faye Sharon in Soapdish …and surprisingly/not surprisingly a woman of the habit, a devil in saint’s clothing, a send-up of her own bad self in both Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Fisher never took any of it too seriously, they were only acting parts anyway. And she admittedly really only knew how to do one person, herself. To paraphrase, the bipolar Fisher said she only seemed to have versatility because she had so many personalities.
On Norton’s show she dished a little about an early days tryst with Harrison Ford and then a lot more about her boredom with the Star Wars material. “[Leia] watched her home planet get blown up, including her mother and father and she’s pining for Harrison?” she deadpanned.
And with that single swipe she took down a franchise that’s approaching the net value of $100 billion in today’s swollen dollars.
Fisher, maybe as much as any star that’s been sucked up this year by the heavens, knew better than to trade on simple celebrity. But if she could infuse a bit of her own self, her own wit, her own compassion—well, maybe she really would make her worth watching.
To me, it was her semi autobiographical novel “Postcards From the Edge” and the one-woman show “Wishful Drinking,” (which later became a memoir) that revealed her true talents beyond the edifice of a bra-less damsel in white cult garb and cinnamon roll buns. Those books are guffaw-inducing funny about entirely depressing subjects. She could have played it all for meanness and blamed everyone around her for her shortcomings. But she did not and she never would. Only one person was accountable for the tremendous good and the not-easily-forgotten bad that was Carrie Fisher …and that was Carrie Fisher.
Her latest memoir, “The Princess Diarist” was more take downs and ruminations on her most famous role. She quips: “Who wears that much lip gloss into battle?” But the rhetorical question is just the quintessential truth, not only of her but for the whole of us.
We have learned a good bit about ourselves in those we have lost this year. And this may only be a preview of what’s to come now that we have for whatever reason decided to put warmongering, thieving billionaire oligarchs at the controls giving them a free pass to attempt to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for money, hypocrisy, power and destruction…at the unknown cost the rest of us fools who put evil in charge will have to bear.
…Maybe it’s time we do what Carrie did when things went off the rails: Throw on a fresh face, grab a blaster and fight with everything god gave us, and then fight some more. We owe her—and the others—that much back.
Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight Tuesday, strangled by her own bra.