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Video: Carrie Fisher on ‘Wishful Drinking’

  1. Closed captioning of: Carrie Fisher on ‘Wishful Drinking’

    >>> looking at? on nbc.

    >>> for the first time in 26 years, carrie fisher is returning to broadway . she, of course, is best known for her role as princess leia in the " star wars " films, and she recounts that experience in her one-woman show called "wishful drinking," based on her life as the daughter of singer fisher and actress debbie reynolds . a paperback by that title has just been released as well. carrie, you're one of our favorite people. welcome back.

    >> oh, thank you so much.

    >> how does it feel to be back on broadway ?

    >> well, back on broadway -- i was here in the chorus of my mother's show "irene" when i was 15 or 16 years old, so, in high school that's what i did.

    >> so this seems like all new again to you.

    >> sure. and then i played in "agnus," so it's going to be different from that, too.

    >> you talk about the fact that you try in this show to take situations that most people in their lives will say aren't funny, there's nothing funny about this, and you try to mine a little comic gold in it. do most people understand that right off the bat or does it make them uncomfortable?

    >> i don't know if most people do, but my feeling is, if you can claim something, you have more power over it, you know? the more -- you're only as sick as your secrets, i've heard someone say once, but i say my weak things in a strong voice.

    >> yeah. i just want to say before we go any further, last time you were here, you sat like you're sitting right now --

    >> and i looked like i had no legs.

    >> we had all kinds of people write and say did she have her legs amputated --

    >> but it's bad enough that i'm overweight --

    >> no, you start the show with a little primmer about your parents.

    >> right.

    >> you call it hollywood inbreeding 101. let's take a look at the clip.

    >> oh, don't make me.

    >> all right, welcome, class, to hollywood 101. thank you so much for enrolling. all right, so, over here we have debbie and eddie. in the '50s, they were known as america's sweethearts. for those of you that are younger, all three of you, and you know, you can't relate to any of this, try to think of it this way. think of eddie as brad pitt , debbie as jennifer aniston and elizabeth as angelina jolie . does that help?

    >> what was up with the fact you couldn't even look at yourself on the monitor? that's strange. it's your show.

    >> here's my thing. i invite people to my show not to look at my house, but to listen to my furniture, because i'm a little on the mansion side right now and struggling with it.

    >> are you insecure about that? i mean --

    >> but you know, that's a minor thing in a way. if that's my biggest problem, it's a nose bleed high-class problem, but it makes you vulnerable.

    >> you talk about everything in this show and in the book, obviously. and i mean, marriages and paul simon and brian, and who the latter, obviously, famously left you for another man. it's something that you do that's very funny about that subject. you talk about how he blamed your drug use for him --

    >> told me i turned him gay by taking codeine again, and i said i never read that warning on the label. i thought it said heavy machinery, not homosexuality. i could have been driving those tractors.

    >> you talk about your parents, and there's great warmth and great sarcasm at the same time. were you always amused by them or were you horrified by them for much of your life?

    >> i was a teenager. when you're a teenager, you're horrified by everyone, i mean, everyone seems ridiculous but you. no, i -- my parents -- look, everything that's in the show, i went to everyone i talk about and said here's what i'm going to say. if you don't like it, take it out, but i really --

    >> did you really give people that editing license?

    >> of course. i don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. it's a show about me, but as it happens, i interact with people in my life, so some of the stories --

    >> your parents have seen it.

    >> oh, yeah.

    >> and they like the show? they're comfortable with it?

    >> absolutely. i don't know that anyone in our family's comfortable --

    >> that's just not a state of being ?

    >> i wouldn't claim that, yeah.

    >> you talk about mental illness and you talk about dealing with bipolar disorder . and i think one of the things you say there, and it's very empowering, actually, is you shouldn't be criticized for having a mental illness . it's hard. it's a tough act. it makes you pretty tough.

    >> well, yes, and actually, i think you can only show real courage or strength once it's tested, and boy, do you get tested being bipolar. so, you know, we have to develop character to combat it.

    >> and i'm also reading where you talk about the fact that there was a stage in your life where you just wanted to win an award. you wanted to get an award for anything.

    >> no --

    >> for acting, and it turns out --

    >> i now get awards for being mentally ill . i think it's because there's no swimsuit portion of the competition. well, it's better than being bad at being mentally ill , right?

    >> to be runner-up?

    >> i'm great at it. i am fant stick at being mentally ill .

    >> want to be runner-up in the competition?

    >> i don't want to be that. wouldn't that be sad?

    >> you bring an audience member up on stage during your show. i hope i'm not giving anything away.

    >> no, no, no.

    >> that's okay.

    >> you seem, from what i've heard, and i haven't seen the show, but people have told me, you're very comfortable with the people. there's a real connection between you and the people who come to see your show.

    >> well, they're my scene partners. you know, i mean, if i don't connect with them -- you do it to sort of establish a kind of comradery. it's one of the thousands of reasons you might do it. and i love the audiences. they're very vocal. i ask them questions, you know, we interact a lot. otherwise, i'm all alone.

    >> you know, actually, i mentioned the subject of mental illness , and you think there are some people who come to see your show who are struggling with many of the same issues --

    >> well, i ask people. i say, it's an exclusive -- you know, i say i was invited to a mental hospital , you know, and you don't want to be rude, right? so you go. and then you say, it's -- well, you know, it's a very exclusive invitation, obviously.

    >> right.

    >> i say, how many of you have been invited to a mental hospital ? well, one night we had nine. that was awesome. most of the time you'll see this happen and then it will go away.

    >> you've hit your target audience ?

    >> that's my target audience , gay, mentally ill , sci-fi alcoholics, if -- you know, that's a big crew.

    >> how long can a show survive with that target audience ?

    >> a long time.

    >> changing subjects, did you --

    >> spilled that --

    >> -- spill that in your cleavage?

    >> there's so much cleavage. i'd like to get something off my chest. go ahead.

    >> i want to ask you about -- i guess it's kind of a serious subject in addition to what we've been talking about, michael jackson . you were close friends with michael jackson .

    >> i wasn't that close, but to not be close friends with michael in his sort of context or world is to be close, you know, with michael . michael mostly, i think, was close with children. i mean, because you could trust them. he could trust me in a way because i was not -- celebrity really affects the people around you, especially his kind. it's radioactive. and so, really, he couldn't -- everybody looked at him with like an extra, you know, brightness in their eyes, and it wasn't, you know --

    >> so you never sat down, not like we're doing in front of millions of people --

    >> oh, yeah, on the phone --

    >> did you sit down and have heart-to-heart talks with him and learn about him?

    >> mostly on the phone. and i don't have to learn a lot. you know, i come from a show business family. i was famous, not as young as he was, but young. so i'm imperterbible about celebrity, so he could relax with that. but he was most comfortable with children because they don't understand the distraction of celebrity. they don't get pulled up in it. they just want to play.

    >> did you identify with him and what he was going through, being a star at such a young age?

    >> well, being a star at any age. but i also grew up around it, so i knew celebrity was just obscurity biding its time.

    >> right.

    >> i mean, you know, it's all going to run into a wall. so, i never had any illusions about it.

    >> were you shocked by his death or did you think --

    >> yes, i was.

    >> you were?

    >> yeah. i mean, but he's not even -- a proper drug addict , not that i would know, takes drugs to feel altered. he was just wanted out of the game. that's not a drug addict in my, you know, definition, my encyclopedia of terms.

    >> carrie fisher , always fun to have you here. always interesting.

    >> nice to be here.

    >> "wishful drinking" officially opens on broadway sunday night. and you can read an excerpt from carrie's book on todayshow.com. come back and see us soon.

    >> i will. i'll be right

TODAY books
updated 9/29/2009 9:49:04 AM ET 2009-09-29T13:49:04

From real-life Hollywood princess to Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher has lived a life beyond colorful. Daughter of a tabloid-rocked show business marriage, co-star of one of the world’s most beloved blockbuster films at age 19, married and divorced from a pop music icon, and in and out of rehab numerous times, Fisher has survived with odds-defying resilience and no small measure of sharp wit. In her new memoir, “Wishful Drinking,” Fisher gets candid about her family drama and roller coaster of life experiences. In this excerpt, she maps out the “Hollywood inbreeding” of her family.

From chapter two
My father was best friends with a very charismatic producer named Mike Todd, who produced a movie called Around the World in Eighty Days, which won an Oscar for Best Picture.

So my father and mother and Mike Todd and his fiancée, who happened to be Elizabeth Taylor, went everywhere together — they went to nightclubs, on cruises — well, they literally traveled the world! So when Mike and Elizabeth got married, my father was Mike Todd's best man and my mother was Elizabeth's matron of honor! She even washed her hair on her wedding day. Now later I heard my mother mumble that she wished she washed it with Nair. But she's not a bitter woman.

Anyway, I was about two when my brother was born, and my father so adored Mike Todd that my brother, Todd, was named for him.

Now, perhaps my father didn't realize that in the Jewish faith, it is considered bad luck to name a child after someone who is still living — a silly superstition — or so they thought!

Because about a year later, Mike Todd took off in a private plane in a rainstorm, and the following morning Elizabeth was a widow. Well, naturally, my father flew to Elizabeth's side, gradually making his way slowly to her front. He first dried her eyes with his handkerchief, then he consoled her with flowers, and he ultimately consoled her with his penis. Now this made marriage to my mother awkward, so he was gone within the week. And as far as I know he has not returned. Up to this very day. But you know what? I have high hopes because I think one night they are both going to come see my show on the same night, run into each other, get that old feeling, get back together, and raise me right!

You might be thinking, well, that explains it! She's the product of Hollywood inbreeding. That's why my skull isn't entirely grown together at the back.

Recently, my daughter, Billie, who is sixteen now, had a flirtation with Mike Todd and Elizabeth's grandson Rhys. When they first met, they were trying to work out how it all fit together and if they were related in some way. So I thought about it. And when I think, I need an enormous chalkboard with a chart to hold my thoughts ... because I have so many zooming this way and that and then it's helpful if I can have some pictures and a pen so I can organize the insanity that is my thought process.

Welcome, class, to Hollywood 101. Thank you so much for enrolling.

All right, so up at the top left of the chart, we have Eddie and Debbie. In the '50s they were known as "America's Sweethearts." Now if you are too young to relate to any of this, try and think of it this way: think of Eddie as Brad Pitt and Debbie as Jennifer Aniston and Elizabeth as Angelina Jolie. Does that help?

All right, so Eddie consoles Elizabeth with his penis, Elizabeth takes a movie in Rome — a big budget film called Cleopatra — and she meets her costar Richard Burton, so goodbye, Eddie, hello, Richard.

These two hit it off like gangbusters (whatever that means) and they met and married and had a wild, passionate relationship with violet eyes and Welsh accents and acting and diamonds and drinking, dancing and sex and joy and love. But ultimately, you know, with passionate relationships, they can become stormy, and then what do you think happens? That's right ... they get divorced ... but they have good memories of one another, so what do they do then? They remarry, that's right. Now, keep that in mind, because it might come up again.

All right, now let's go to Debbie. Now Debbie does not want to marry another man who will run off, so she marries someone very, very old who can't run — nope, Harry Karl can't run at all. All he does is sit in a chair and smoke and drink and read the paper, and after about thirteen years, he loses all his money, and then he takes all of hers. Fun! And so that marriage ends. And she was alone for a while, but then fate intervened and brought her this sociopath — Richard Hamlett. He has some money issues, too. Her money.

But let's not get too far past Harry Karl though. My first stepfather. Harry was a shoe tycoon. It doesn't sound like those words should fit together, does it? But in this case they do. So, prior to being married to my mother, Harry was married to Marie McDonald. Marie "the Body" McDonald. Now Marie was an actress(ish) and she and Harry met and they married and they had a wild, passionate relationship with bodies and shoes and drinking and dancing and lust and joy and fun. But here come the storm clouds. So what do you think they do then?

That's right, they do divorce.

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But, they have good memories of each other, so now what do they do?

That's right, they do remarry and now they have that great American institution — they have make-up sex, which, as everyone knows, is the best sex of all, and they celebrate the great sex by having a child. And that goes so well that they adopt two more. But then the storm clouds come, so they ... ?

Divorce.

Now, Marie MacDonald was a real romantic, an optimistic woman — and I say that because she married a grand total of nine times, which is a record for the board. And that's saying something, because this is a marrying board.

Now, that many marriages could give you a headache, no? Well, I think it gave Marie one because she became addicted to pain killers. Recently I learned this amazing thing. If you become addicted to pain killers, it can go very, very wrong for you. Who knew? Anyway, it did with Marie because she overdosed and passed away. And that last husband, not to be outdone, shot himself.

You might say they loved each other to death.

So now there are three children left. What should we do with them? I know! Let's send them to Harry and Debbie. Now, Debbie is told that one of the children should be institutionalized. But my mother is a good person, much like Sarah Palin (only smarter), and she says, "Absolutely not. We will put her in Carrie's room!"

(Sure, it's funny now.)

Now, Eddie. Poor Eddie. How is he going to follow an act like Elizabeth Taylor? Well, he manages somehow. He meets a blond, cute, perky, fun, little actress. Sound familiar?

No, it's not Debbie again. It's a tribute to Debbie. It's Connie Stevens! They meet and have Joely Fisher, from sitcoms, and Tricia Fisher, from New York.

Oh, wait a minute — did Eddie forget to marry Connie?

He did! He forgot to marry her. But eventually they remember. So they get married. But as many people know, legal sex is just shite compared to that premarital stuff that so many couples have in cars, so they divorce. But don't worry, Eddie's not alone for long because now he meets and marries Miss Louisiana! She's three years older than me and she calls me "Dear," which I love. I love it! Now I thought this relationship would go on and on and on because Louisiana is in her early twenties and Eddie is in his late fifties, so she had so many years to devote to him. But what do you think happens?

Yup, they divorce. I was stunned. But don't worry, he isn't alone for long. 'Cause now he meets and marries this really lovely woman named Betty Lin. She's from China and she takes excellent care of Eddie, and believe me, he needs it. And she's the same age as Eddie, which hasn't happened since the Debbie and Liz stuff. And the other good thing is Betty has a lot of money, which is handy because Eddie's gone bankrupt about four times by now. So they're happy together for ten or fifteen glorious years. But then what do you think happens?

That's actually a trick question because they don't divorce.

Betty passes away. But don't worry, he's not alone for long because now he dates all of Chinatown! He does this partly as a tribute to Betty and partly because my father has had so many face-lifts that he looks Asian himself. So that way they look like a matched set.

Video: Carrie Fisher on battling depression All right, so let's recap: Eddie and Debbie have me and my brother, Todd. I grow up, sort of, and I marry Paul Simon. Now Paul is a short, Jewish singer. Eddie Fisher is a short, Jewish singer. Short. Jewish. Singer.

Any questions?

My mother makes a blueprint, and I follow it to the letter. So Paul and I have a passionate relationship with a lot of words, big words, clever words, uh-oh, the words get mean so we get divorced. But don't worry, I'm not alone for long 'cause now I meet Bryan Lourd. Bryan is a talent agent, so fewer words, great sex. We celebrate and we have a child together. Billie Lourd.

Elizabeth and Mike Todd have Liza Todd.

Liza's a wonderful sculptress, and she meets and marries her art professor. Professor Hap Tivey. Hap is short for Happy — so he's not Jewish. Anyway, they have Quinn and Rhys. So, Rhys Tivey and Billie Lourd — are they related? (You can peek back at the chart if you haven't already.)

I told them: "You're related by scandal."

I just hope the two of them get married so this will all be worthwhile.

And that is Hollywood inbreeding!

Hollywood inbreeding is sort of like royal inbreeding. And after all, celebrity is sort of like American royalty. So my brother and I are like those sad, sad cases like King Charles the Second of Spain. The last of the Habsburgs.

Charles was so horribly inbred that his aunt was also his grandmother. And his tongue was so large that he couldn't chew or be understood, and he drooled. Another little challenge was that his organs were dying inside his body (the one on the outside didn't work that well either because he died childless). But because his organs were dying, he actually smelled. So the people around him would put this perfume on him when he met prospective wives. (And by the way, we sell that perfume out in the lobby at my show.) Another issue for Charles was that he had these little seizures all the time and he would fall over, so the perfume people put weights in his shoes. Anyway, it worked because Charlie actually managed to marry twice (probably someone with nursing ambitions), which just goes to show that there's a lid for every pot. Sometimes there are as many as nine lids for the same pot. Also when I was a teenager I could buy pot in lids. But I don't think you can anymore ... can you?

Excerpted from “Wishful Drinking” by Carrie Fisher. Copyright (c) 2008 by Deliquesce, reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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