Carrie Fisher
By Marianne Aleardi
WESTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Carrie Fisher arrives at the Premiere of Carrie Fisher's One Woman Show "Wishful Drinking" at the Geffin Playhouse November 15, 2006 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ryan Miller/Getty Images)

No one has lived a life like Carrie Fisher’s. She was born into fame, reached iconic status when she starred in one of the most popular science-fiction movies ever made and then spent years losing the battle against addiction. She has had a friend die in her bed – while she slept next to him. And she’s spent Christmas Eve with Michael Jackson at his home. Fisher can recount story after story that is mind-blowing. But to her, it’s just life. She’s aware it’s unusual and sometimes horrifying, but she’s willing to talk openly about it – and laugh along the way.
“I grew up in a very public family,” says Fisher. “If you can talk about something humorously then, in my book, you’re allowed to talk about it.”

Few things are off-limits in her two memoirs, “Wishful Drinking” and “Shockaholic,” and that is definitely by design. “There are certain really humiliating things I avoid. I also won’t talk about things that would involve other people in any way that would embarrass them,” says Fisher, 56.

“The other day, I saw an actor in the airport who I hadn’t realized had tried to kill himself, and he’s never spoken about it. I thought, “What must that be like?” It seemed sort of semi-dignified, until I realized no man would ever talk about that. But because he hasn’t spoken about it, there’s all this speculation, and it all sounds absurd. I always wanted my version of things to be out.”

Carrie’s most surprising revelation is her detailed accounts in “Shockaholic” of receiving electroshock therapy (EST). The star started receiving the treatments in 2010 and credits them for helping her more than any other treatment.

“EST is thought to be this horrifying thing that mainly is used by really mean mental healthcare providers when they’re mad at you and you’re schizophrenic. So if you’re not good, they give you EST. That’s how it’s literally portrayed in movies. So I avoided it like the plague.”

She eventually decided to try shock therapy when she was in a mental hospital and saw another patient have great success with it. “You have to be in the worst shape in the world to consider doing it,” she says, “because all you have in your mind are images from ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ It’s like a Frankenstein movie.

“But in fact, there are no convulsions anymore. You’re taken into a room and put to sleep for ten minutes. If there is any convulsion, it’s electrical and it happens in your head. The only thing you can see is your toe might move a little. It’s like a reset. If I had known about this years ago, I could have avoided so much pain.”

One side effect of the therapy is memory loss but, Fisher quips, “I’d have the memory loss anyway – from the LSD and age. That’s what I say: EST, LSD A-G-E.”

Helga Esteb ShutterstockFisher says the memory loss is one reason she wrote her memoirs, so she would have a written record of her life – before she forgets it. For right now, the memories she has lost are of minor things. “I don’t remember movies that I’ve seen. I’ll be in a hotel room watching a movie and my assistant will come in and say, ‘You’ve seen this three times.’ But the good thing about that is, I’m so easily entertained. I don’t see that as a negative,” she jokes. “I do hope they come up with an EST where they bring in a little menu and you can check things off and they say, ‘You can forget this relationship, and here is adolescence – I wouldn’t mind forgetting any of that.”

Jokes aside, Fisher can be quite serious when she speaks of her parents, especially her father, Eddie Fisher. The accomplished crooner left Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, for Elizabeth Taylor, who at the time was Reynold’s close friend. The split was a scandalous story in gossip papers at that time. Carrie was 2.

Fisher describes the media coverage as similar to today’s gossip of celebrities Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. “My mother was Jen, and Elizabeth was Angelina. If my father was Brad Pitt, he would be thrilled. The headlines were constant: ‘They run into each other at the market!’ ‘Are they pregnant?’ ‘Are they not pregnant?’ It was the same story over and over.

shutterstock_84448279Fisher says the relationship between her parents never improved. “I was doing a show in San Francisco and my mother was visiting. My dad lived in San Francisco. So my mother came to the show, and my dad was there. My mother hid behind my wardrobe to not see my father, who was in a wheelchair. But then he was in the elevator, and as the elevator door closed, she was there, waving. That’s how they lived,” says Fisher.

“My mother is still bitter. But really, it’s like, how long can it go on?”

While writing “Shockaholic,” Fisher’s father – who she says regularly smoked pot and shot heroin with her – became seriously ill.

“I became my dad’s caretaker,” she says. “You have to understand, my father had children because they were a byproduct of sex. I waited my whole life for my father to be ‘daddy.’ Once I stopped waiting for that, and I got to have a relationship with him – with who he really was – we had a great relationship. I was more like his daddy. I missed him all my life, but I didn’t know who I was missing. By the end, that’s what was tragic. I knew who I lost at the end. I think of all my dad’s kids, I like to think I was his favorite – I guess we all do. I always loved my dad.”

In addition to describing her childhood in “Shockaholic,” Fisher also writes about her two failed marriages (one to singer/songwriter Paul Simon) and her daughter Billie Lourd, whose father is Fisher’s other ex-husband talent agent Bryan Lourd. Fisher recognizes that her mental health issues and addiction have affected her daughter, but says there are some positives about that.

“My daughter is imperturbable. She apparently can’t be fazed, because unfortunately she had to see me in mental hospitals,” Fisher says. “I think it makes her so kind. It’s made her empathetic, very caring. I’m so proud of her for that. That’s what my daughter is – she’s very patient. I think it comes from being around a lot of stuff that isn’t easy to be around. She’s learned something that I learned. I had a relative who I used to say they took all the charm and romance out of self-pity. There is a way to learn from people what not to do.”

Fisher also tells stories of all the celebrities she has had encounters with, like Cary Grant, Senator Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson. Surprisingly, she was an outside factor in the molestation lawsuit brought against Jackson, although she doesn’t agree with its basis.

“It was hard for Michael to be friends with someone. That’s why he liked kids so much. There’s an element there that obviously is weird, but I don’t know about perverse,” she says. “His celebrity was so radioactive that it changed everyone he came in contact with. They could not behave like themselves around him. They got tongue-tied. Someone around Michael would say, ‘I’m such a huge fan.’ That’s not a conversation starter.

“I think of celebrity as the shine. People like to get near the shine. I grew up on borrowed shine. Michael just had this crazy amount. How can you develop socially if everyone you talk to is tongue-tied? He could talk to kids, because they didn’t realize what they were in the presence of.”

Fisher felt compatible with Jackson, because she too was in the public eye as a child and an adult. For her, the hardest part was having the public judge her appearance. Fisher always felt she could never live up to her mother’s beauty, so when she would read online comments criticizing how she looked, she took the remarks to heart.

People would write “whatever happened to Carrie Fisher? She used to be so hot, now she looks like Elton John. There’s just no end to it,” she says. “It hurts my feelings.

“I was thinking the other day: Why do I care so much about what people say? It’s not like they say I’m an idiot. I think it would bother me more if they said I looked bad than if they said I was an idiot! The emphasis on what we look like is so profound. I’m just so sorry that I’m susceptible to it. But that’s what this business is.

“You know how they say you are your own worst enemy? Well, that’s over now. People on the Internet can be meaner to you than you are to yourself. It’s extraordinary. They can be. At a certain point you think how awful it is to sit somewhere and judge people you might be envious of.”

Last year, Fisher herself was so bothered by her appearance that she signed on with Jenny Craig to be a spokeswoman and adhere to its diet program. She lost 50 pounds.

“I was so fat,” she laments. “It still devastates me to see. I can’t look at [the HBO special] ‘Wishful Drinking,’ because I look so fat in it. I am that affected by that stuff. My parents were so pretty and I would just think, ‘I don’t look like them.’”

Fisher says that even when she was featured in a popular Star Wars poster wearing a bikini she still did not feel attractive.

“I didn’t know I was a pin-up until later. I couldn’t believe it. I did not want to wear that metal bikini. When George showed me the picture of it, I thought he was kidding. He was assuming a lot. He hadn’t seen me in a bathing suit. In those days I think there was only Richard Simmons to work out with, so I got leg weights and I would do leg lifts.”

Despite the negative comments, Fisher does acknowledge she has many fans – all with complimentary things to say about her. “But I just think of them as being nice,” she adds. “They feel like they know me, and that’s not inaccurate, because I’ve made myself available to be known.”

January 2013
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