Friday, December 17, 2010

Princess Leia

When the first Star Wars movie came out, I already was a bit too long in the tooth to fully embrace the Force. But for a time my son, 6 or 7 back then, fell deeply into a land of long ago and far away. He'd spend hours with his action figures - Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and the rest - oblivious to the grown-up world.

But I wasn't completely immune. After all, there was Princess Leia. In her white dress. (Carrie Fisher recalls that when she first modeled the outfit for director George Lucas, he told her to lose the bra. "They don't wear underwear in space," Lucas said.

I took an interest in her career, and when HBO recently aired a feature-length movie of her one-woman production - "Wishful Drinking" - I made it a point to tune in. It's an excellent show, filled with powerful and gleeful wit along with some serious dish on her skirt-chasing father, Eddie Fisher, and her off-kilter mother, Debbie Reynolds.

It would be easy to joke about the poor little rich girl, but Fisher has had to cope with some big problems - not only her parents and her addictions to drugs and alcohol, but the bipolar disorder first diagnosed when she was a teenager. (At one point, she says, she was "invited" to a mental hospital. "You don't want to be rude. Right? So you go."

That kind of humor pervades the show. For instance, she described the end of her parents' marriage after the the death of their friend, Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor's husband: "Naturally my father flew to Elizabeth's side, gradually making his way, slowly, to her front." On her mother's fame: "She is literally an icon - a gay icon, but you take your iconic stature where you can find it."

Now in her mid-fifties, she says she recently Googled herself and found this posting: "WTF happened to Carrie Fisher? She used to be so hot. Now she looks like Elton John."

"Wishful Drinking" is a fun refusal by Fisher to take herself or her family too seriously, and it is welcome evidence that damaged people - even Princess Leia - can pull things together.

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