This book is (more or less) the written version of Carrie Fisher's stage production "Wishful Drinking."
Carrie is probably best known for her role as the beautiful, intrepid "Princess Leia" in the Star Wars movies. Carrie was 19 when the first movie filmed and - perhaps coincidentally - this was when the actress transitioned from habitually smoking pot to using hallucinogens and opiates. In time Carrie became a drug-addicted alcoholic with manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disorder 2). In this humorous mini-biography - written when Carrie was 52 - the actress relates her story.
Carrie was born a celebrity, being the child of actress/singer Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher. Debbie starred in iconic films like 'Singin' in the Rain' and Eddie has a long list of oldies, but is 'better known for his scandals than his singing.' In a bombshell incident reminiscent of Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds for the gorgeous widow, Elizabeth Taylor.
As it happens Eddie also largely abandoned Carrie and her younger brother Todd. According to Carrie, Debbie raised the kids in Los Angeles and Eddie 'checked in from time to time' while flitting from one woman to another. Eventually, Eddie married a Chinese woman - Betty Lin - and after she died 'he started to date all of Chinatown.' Carrie notes that 'this was fitting because Eddie had gotten so many facelifts that he looked Asian himself.' LOL
Carrie sang in her mother's nightclub act from the ages of 13 to 17 and - as it happens - also started doing drugs at 13. Carrie got hold of a bag of pot and 'experimented her brains out' with a friend. Carrie started seeing shrinks at the age of 15.....but was not diagnosed as manic-depressive until years later. By that time Carrie was in her mid-20s, and heavily into alcohol and drugs. She used these 'to turn down the sound [in her head] and smooth her sharp corners.'
Carrie's second shrink diagnosed her with bipolar disorder 1 and gave her prescription medication - but Carrie didn't want to take it. Instead, the actress jumped on a plane, went to New York and married her boyfriend, singer/songwriter Paul Simon. Carrie notes that her first marriage mirrored her mother's first union - both Paul Simon and Eddie Fisher were 'short, Jewish singers.'
Carrie was in her late 20s when she overdosed and had her stomach pumped. Realizing that her life had become unmanageable, Carrie started attending 12-step programs....thinking alcohol was her big problem. Over the years Carrie had four relapses or 'explosions.' During these she would become sexually promiscuous, spend excessively, and abuse substances.
Finally, Carrie's third and best psychiatrist correctly diagnosed her with bipolar disorder 2, and medicated her. Unfortunately, two of the pharmaceuticals interacted badly and Carrie was taken off her meds. She ended up psychotic. This eventually led to eletroconvulsive therapy which helped Carrie get better - but robbed her of many memories. Luckily, Carrie had enough remembrances left to write this book.
Carrie notes: 'After all the rehabs and all the mental hospitals, I thought to myself, if what doesn't kill you makes you stronger I should be able to lift Cedars Sinai Hospital and glow in the dark.'
Interspersed with the tale of Carrie's addiction and mental illness are interesting snippets about her life. Here are a few examples:
Carrie's stepfather Harry Karl (Debbie's second husband) was not a handsome man, but was wealthy and well-groomed, said to be distinguished looking. Carrie notes, 'That's ugly with money.' To Carrie's amusement, the very handsome Alec Baldwin played Harry in a movie. LOL
Harry had a 'barber' (pimp) who showed up every day with a 'manicurist' (wink wink). When Debbie caught on to Harry's shenanigans she high-tailed it to New York with the children - to do a musical. The couple soon divorced.....but not before Harry squandered all of Debbie's money.
When Todd (Carrie's brother) accidently shot himself in the leg with a gun, Debbie called Carrie from the hospital with the following instructions: 'Rush home and hide all the guns and bullets and flush Todd's marijuana down the toilet. Carrie notes, 'More like a mafia family than a show business one.'
Carrie adored her mother. She describes Debbie as 'the prettiest, funniest, kindest mother; quick and witty; a consummate performer; and an insanely strong life force.....but a little bit eccentric.' Debbie thought Carrie should have a baby with her (Debbie's) third husband, Richard Hamlett, because he had 'nice eyes.' Carrie declined.
Carrie had a beautiful daughter, Billie, with her second husband Brian Lourd. When Billie was one, Brian left Carrie for a man named Scott. This devastated the actress.....and perhaps exacerbated her mental illness.
After Star Wars became a megahit, Carrie was 'merchandised' into a little doll, a shampoo bottle, a soap, a watch, a Mrs. Potato Head, a Lego figure, a stamp, and a Pez dispenser. Much to Carrie's dismay, she's even a sex doll. Carrie notes, 'If someone tells me to go fuck myself, I can give it a whirl.' Ha ha ha.
Towards the end of the book Carrie acknowledges, 'The place I've arrived at in my life isn't everyone's idea of heavenly....but I'm in a good place.' Both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died in December, 2016 and they're missed. Fortunately, we'll always have their stories and films.
The book is entertaining and amusing - and provides an instructive and uplifting story about coping with addiction and mental illness. If you're interested in the subject, it's well worth reading.
Rating: 3.5 stars