An Interview with Carrie Fisher
Editor’s Note: Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016, at the age of 60. The below interview was conducted in 2012.
Carrie Fisher’s acts of self-destruction seem to be over. Her latest act, as writer and star of her one-woman play, Wishful Drinking, comes to Houston May 15-20 for its last performances.
By Blase DiStefano
In early April, Carrie Fisher calls me from L.A., sounding a tad bit groggy. Assuming she’s on the road with her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, I ask if she’s doing the show there. “No, no,” she says. “I’m doing the show just two more times. And Houston is my swan song.”
And what a song it’s been! Wishful Drinking—the autobiographical story of the up-and-down life of Carrie Frances Fisher—began in 2006 in California, moved on to numerous theaters, advanced to Broadway (where it won the 2010 Outer Critics’ Circle Award), became a book (which was on the New York Times bestseller list for 14 weeks and was nominated for a 2010 Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category), became an HBO documentary, went to DVD, and finally became a national tour that takes its final bow in Houston this month.
Fisher’s parents are movie star Debbie Reynolds and the late Eddie Fisher, the heartthrob singer who dominated the pop charts in the early 1950s. The young A-list couple had been best friends with film producer Mike Todd and wife Elizabeth Taylor, until Todd died in a 1958 crash in his private plane. The affair that developed during Eddie Fisher’s attempts to console the grieving widow became one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals, when he left his wife and children (three-year-old Carrie and her infant brother Todd) to marry Taylor.
In her show, Fisher teaches a Hollywood 101 class in which she suggests that the younger audience members think of Eddie and Elizabeth as Brad and Angelina, and Debbie as Jennifer Aniston. Using a teacher’s wooden pointer, she points to one or the other of a bevy of photos mounted on a blackboard and intertwines the Fisher/Taylor affair with a slew of other juicy tales that form this hilarious comedy class. In a Star Wars segment, the now-aged Princess Leia (she was 19 when she made the film) dons “cinnamon buns” on either side of her head.
The Star Wars trilogy wasn’t Fisher’s only claim to fame. She’s also the bestselling author of Postcards from the Edge (also writing the screenplay), Surrender the Pink, and Shockaholic.
It might sound like fun and games, but the 56-year-old Fisher has been through some tough times. Her show covers her bouts with drugs, bipolar disorder, and electric shock therapy, all delivered with a self-deprecating humor that keeps the audience in stitches.
Fisher had a seven-year relationship with singer Paul Simon that included a brief marriage. Fisher’s only child, daughter Billie Catherine Lourd, was the fruit of her relationship with casting agent Bryan Lourd, who left her for a man. That gem doesn’t escape mention in her show.
And numerous other gems don’t escape mention in this OutSmart interview: Princess Leia, The Blue Lagoon, Wikipedia, placenta, food, Mitt Romney, John Travolta, and much, much more.
This is our Mother’s Day issue, so I thought I’d start by asking you about your earliest memories of your mother.
When she was dressed up like Debbie Reynolds, she was just like a queen. There was that version, and then there was her in bed and you had to be very quiet because mom was sleeping and she didn’t have that much
down time. And there was this certain smell of powder and Albolene cream [when she was] putting her makeup on.
How has your relationship with her changed over the years?
It’s only gotten better. She just had her birthday [April 1, 2012], so she came up here. It was her 80th birthday.
And she’s still doing great?
Probably compared to most people her age, she’s doing great, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have pains. But she still looks unbelievable.
I’ve got a photo of you and Billie and your mother at Debbie Reynolds’ Auction Preview. You all look great.
My daughter looks a lot like my mom.
Who was Billie named after?
Really, no one. My mother’s brother is named William; his name is Bill. I just really liked that name. We weren’t a big naming-after family, although, yeah, my brother and I were both named after… I didn’t do naming-after. I did it like I was creating a character and just wrote it fresh.
[Laughs] I know Todd was named after Mike Todd, but what about you?
My mom’s name is Mary Frances—her real name—so I’m Carrie Frances. I should have named Billie “Larry Frances.”
[Laughs] That would have been really bizarre. By the way, I interviewed your mother in 1998, and I asked her if she would let you write The Debbie Reynolds Story, and she said, “Well, only with Todd, because I don’t want her writing another Postcards.”
I guess everyone thought it was her.
I know. I felt bad about that. No, actually, she was hardly in the book.
Ah, it was the movie.
Yeah, it was. That was really it, ’cause I wrote one scene when I did the initial adaptation, and Mike Nichols and all the people were like, “Oh, you have to write more of those scenes, with the mother.”
I didn’t know that. So how old is Billie now?
Twenty years ago when you gave birth to Billie, did you save your placenta?
You haven’t heard that recently?
Yes, January Jones saved her placenta.
Because it’s nutritional, and she’s actually taken it.
That’s disgusting! That’s horrible. I’m so glad I hadn’t heard it. Now I have to try to get it out of my mind.
Now I’ve ruined your day!
Well, you’ve certainly ruined my food day.
Well, speaking of food, how is your diet going?
It’s okay. I have my terrifying lapses…
Being on the road with your show probably makes it worse, right?
It makes rice pudding and ice cream an issue. Especially when I’ve been in Asia for about a month, and [whispers] I don’t love the food. And so I had a lot of ice cream. I admit it. A lot of ice cream.
So that’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream, then rice pudding.
What kind of ice cream?
I like Baskin & Robbins’ Chocolate Chip.
This has nothing to do with food, but you don’t have to worry about turning me gay, because I’m already gay.
[In a sultry voice] Well, how do you know I didn’t do that anyway?
Could that be possible?
Anything is possible.
Do you really think you could have turned me gay, considering I was born in 1947 and you were born about 10 years later?
Well, you probably didn’t become gay ’til you were like 10. You were like, “Oh, wait a minute…” And that was me.
[Laughs] You did do it. I’ll be damned.
How much can you tell me about that whole situation with Bryan, without his privacy or yours being invaded?
None. [Laughs] That can’t be a topic anymore. Bryan has a partner, and we all get along very well now, and I don’t want to mess with that.
Totally understandable. So let’s see—have you ever had a woman put the make on you?
I had a friend…actually, I have a couple best friends who are gay women…“best friends”—that sounds like we’re in high school. I made out with one of them at one point. She liked me, but I’m not gay.
But you’re not a zero on the Kinsey Scale.
Oh no, I’m not at all a zero. It’s something that doesn’t seem in any way like a bad idea to me. You either are or you’re not. But I kind of think you can go on a person-to-person basis. I kind of wish I’d been, because I really liked this girl. I used to hang around with her all the time. You know, I didn’t want it to be awkward for her. I don’t know.
Did you know there’s a marijuana called “Princess Leia”?
Yes, I did. Someone told my daughter, of course. So she told me.
It’s always great to hear something like that from your daughter.
Yes. Well, it was great for her to hear, too. That was nice. It’s already embarrassing to have Princess Leia for a mother. But now I’m Princess Leia, the marijuana.
She was proud that I was a joke on Shameless [April 1 on Showtime]. She texted me and said she just thought it was awesome.
That might be the best thing about having played Princess Leia.
You know, the best thing about being a mom is that I have this daughter that has a really good sense of humor. And she gets all this as funny, I would say, most of the time. Every so often it’s not, but I feel the same way.
I read the “marijuana” reference on Wikipedia. I also read that you turned down the role in The Blue Lagoon.
No! Can someone undo that now? I know for the longest time they had a picture of me that was so horrible, and I changed it, and literally the next day someone changed it back. So someone is involved in my account. So I don’t look. There’s a lot of it that’s not accurate. But I can’t deal with it. What am I going to do, spend…
That’s all you’d do all day long.
I can’t. You change it, and it goes right back. So I don’t know who puts that shit together.
It’s ridiculous. I never even went up for [that part in The Blue Lagoon]. I’m not the right age!
This is not from Wikipedia: are you sticking to your story about John Travolta?
What is my story?
That he’s gay.
That was never my… here’s what I say: John Travolta can’t be gay because he’s a Scientologist and they are not gay.
Honestly, somebody asked me some question about John. I don’t even know what it was. It was one of those questions where, no matter how I answered it, I was f–ked. And I was f–ked. I mean, more, John was, because it ends up looking like… I don’t do that! Why would I do that? I was horrified by that.
So then, I have Joy Behar going on four nights in a row [on The Joy Behar Show], saying, “What do you think about Carrie Fisher outing John Travolta?” So if anyone hadn’t noticed it…
I mean, why would I do that? It’s none of my business. I think I said in the neutral, “I feel bad for anyone that was uncomfortable with being…” I don’t know. But I certainly never said that John was gay. I feel horrible about that. But then if I came out, so to speak, and commented on it again, it would have given it even more attention. I just feel really bad about that. And it’s like in my whatever forever.
Well then, is there something you can tell me about Mitt Romney that can stay in your whatever forever?
Oh God, would there be! Mitt Romney? All of them are like—Jesus! If there was only Mitt Romney. My favorite thing is, I’m always so… What’s his name? San…
Santorum! My favorite thing is looking him up and finding what his name means. [Laughs] So if someone could do that with Mitt Romney, that would, like, make my whole day work.
He flops on everything. You imagine him as a Ken doll—no genitals, no body parts, it’s just that sort of plastic… But you know, we can’t vote for people without jaw lines. So he will be the candidate. Because we have to look at them all the time. So I think the main thing he has going for him is that he has a jaw line. And he’s very pleasant.
And look at Newt Blahblah. He doesn’t have a jaw line. He hasn’t got a chance. Santorum flip-flops on the jaw line front.
It’s possible Romney could win.
Well, we would find out what he stands for if he became president. What’s scary is, it seems like he’d do whatever he could to become president, but we don’t know who the f–k he is. I know who he is. I know exactly who he is.
Who is he?
He’s not Obama.
And that cannot be enough. But for a lot of people, it is. And I ask those people, “Look into your hearts.” [Laughs] You know, I think it’s amazing that we even have Obama. We don’t deserve him. He’s too brilliant. He could have been anything.
I thought, in my lifetime, that I would never see a black president.
Well, I love the thing that Bill Maher says: “‘We’re not ready for a black president.’ What does that mean? When are we going to get ready? ‘Okay, I’m ready now. Bring one.’”
I was just thinking, it was funny: “We called it the White House so that it would stay with a white president, you know.” [Both laugh] I’m so glad it’s not the white White House.
Last question: When I interviewed your mother, I said something like, “You’re stranded on a desert island and you can have only one person with you, and it can’t be a friend or a relative or a lover. Who would it be?” And she said, “A talking myna bird or a talking parrot. You know, my daughter has a green parrot. Her name is Joan, and she talks and she sings opera. She’s fabulous. I’d probably like that. You could teach them words and you could sing together, and they don’t get fresh. They would be outside and you wouldn’t have to clean up their mess. They’re very good company.”
Jesus! They’re awful company! Joan has turned into a real bitch and lives with my brother.
[Laughs] That’s hilarious. So she’s still living?
Yeah. She’s a yellow nape. They live forever.
She bit Billie when she was a baby, so I gave her to Todd.
And he’s still got her?
Mmm hmm. Everyone’s scared to death of her.
So that’s not one you’d want on a desert island.
I’d want Obama.
Well, let’s hope that he’s in the White House…
…and he’s not available. [Both laugh]
And if he’s not available, then who?
Hmm. Michele Obama. You can tell, she’s fantastic.
And so are you. I hope to see you when you’re here.
Well, come back when you come there. Use the code name “Obama.”
Carrie Fisher brings Wishful Drinking to Houston’s Hobby Center, May 15–20. Tickets ($20–$66) can be purchased by calling 800/982-ARTS or by logging on to broadwayacrossamerica.com/houston or thehobbycenter.org.