I didn’t hear about the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher until about 8 pm tonight. Needless to say I was stunned and deeply saddened. I have so many memories throughout my life of watching this remarkable woman grow from baby to adulthood, that her death took me totally by surprise and it hurt to find out that such a beloved icon had died.
I flashed back to my childhood in the 1950’s, when my parents received magazines like LIFE and PHOTOPLAY, that would show up on our doorsteps, or in the mailbox, and we’d rush out to get them so we could discover who was going to be on the cover of this month’s edition. I believe it was LIFE that had a Cover shot and an inside spread of Carrie with her parents, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Since I was 7 and a half years older than she, I remembered thinking what a sweet baby girl she was. In later photos I noticed she resembled her famous father, Eddie Fisher, a man whose records my parents played frequently. I liked him too, but I preferred to listen to her mother’s songs, and watch Debbie Reynolds perform on TV or in the movies. I must have seen “Singing in The Rain” a dozen times growing up. I wanted to be just like Debbie Reynolds when she played Tammy (In “Tammy and the Bachelor” in 1957) I even learned how to play the theme song on the piano. So, of course I was interested in the children of two of my favorite celebrities. Carrie’s family was constantly in the news and I’d hear my mother and her friends discussing the fate of poor Carrie and her brother when Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor. It was scandalous (and a bit delicious) to hear the secret whispering among the neighborhood moms. But, I too started to worry about poor little Carrie without her Dad. I kept thinking about that cover shot of the happy family and remembering that I cried thinking she would have to come home from school and not have a father around any more. I didn’t quite understand what had happened, I just knew that she was a little girl without a Daddy. And that really bothered me because my father was my ultimate hero.
And then as time passed, there was a magical day in 1977, when I took my four year son, Seth to see what I thought was going to be just a little movie about rocket ships. Needless to say he and I were star struck, and the rest is history. After that, every Star Wars film became a family event. We’d wait in lines to see the movies on opening day! It was part of the fun! Especially when we wore T shirts with our favorite Star Wars characters on them.
And as I watched my son play with his action figures, I was delighted that Princess Leia was among his set of Star Wars figures, along with the Millennium Falcon and every other creature or ship put out in the 70’s and 80’s. And now my grandchildren have their own Star Wars toys and Lego figures and naturally Princess Leia is a part of their world too. I’ve grown up with Carrie Fisher and they have grown up with Princess Leia.
I have to admit, when Carrie first showed up on screen as Leia I was thrilled. A female protagonist, who was not only beautiful, but also strong, smart, feisty and tough! She could fight and shoot in a lovely futuristic gown. NOW THAT WAS A HEROINE! An entire generation of girls and boys grew up to know and love her because she could rule the galaxy at the same time as being gorgeous, witty, adventurous and brave. What an outstanding role model for children.
And Carrie Fisher was just as ground breaking in real life. She fought her demons with courage and strength and through her writing she conquered them. The last Star Wars movie when Harrison Ford embraced her one last time, and I saw the mature version of the characters we have all grown to love, I wiped away tears watching them together again on screen. It was wonderful. And then two night’s ago I saw her in London on the Graham Norton show (a BBC TV show like our Tonight show) and she spoke about her new book. Her clever wit was ever so sharp and I really enjoyed listening to her speak. I thought she had so many more years ahead of her to create, write, act etc.
She was returning from London when she had her heart attack. It doesn’t seem possible that our Princess is now gone. Carrie/Leia wasn’t just that little girl I worried about without her Daddy in the 1950’s; she became a Princess and a General on screen, and a first class author in real life, proving girls could achieve anything!!
Her character on film and her character in real life was innovative, adventurous, and brave. She broke gender barriers in her films and won battles, and she fought like hell in real life to do the same. I feel a deep sense of loss for this extraordinarily talented woman.
But, I prefer to believe that her star will not burn out. That she will glide throughout the Universe shining brightly forever, and live on in the hearts of her fans, that range in age from children to senior citizens. “May The Force Be With You”, Princess Carrie. We will miss you. G-d Bless.