Remembering Carrie Fisher’s Epic Wishful Drinking Rehearsal
By Diedre Johnson
Among Carrie Fisher’s many talents was the ability to laugh at herself. According to reports, she had plans to do a sequel to her 2009 Broadway one-woman show, Wishful Drinking before her death. Had this happened, no doubt it would have been just as funny as the first one, and think about all those new Star Wars anecdotes she most likely would have added.
This writer was among the audience of Wishful Drinking’s final dress rehearsal before its opening at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in 2006. After some interesting lighting arrangements, Fisher popped out onstage with a few props behind her; these included a stool, sofa and later a chalkboard. For the next hour, she would explain her eponymous launch into the world by her famous Hollywood parents; singer Eddie Fisher and actress/dancer Debbie Reynolds, as well as her witty opinions on drugs and drinking, Princess Leia and then there was Jennifer/Brad/Angelina.
The whole thing was still new enough not to be an overdone topic. Jennifer and Brad had split in 2005 and Brad was having kids with Angie by then but … while people old enough (or interested enough to read vintage Hollywood gossip) knew this, Fisher reminded them of another triangle. While her famous parents were married, the very famous Elizabeth Taylor had lost her husband and subsequently leaned in on Eddie Fisher resulting in a divorce from Debbie and a marriage to Elizabeth.
Fisher carefully and theatrically lined up the comparisons on the chalkboard along with all of Taylor’s other husbands, Debbie Reynolds’s other husbands, Fisher’s own husband and relationships. By this time, Debbie Reynolds had quietly taken a seat the audience, having arrived just a tad late. Audience members could be seen sneaking a glance without completely glancing. No doubt she’d seen many rehearsals and had probably given her blessings, even when Fisher didn’t hold back.
And she didn’t, making sure the audience would laugh at what she called the original Angie/Brad (Eddie and “Liz”), her addictions, bipolar diagnosis and having her daughter, Billie among so many other turning points in her life.
Reynolds, driving a station wagon, left just a little early, not staying around to be part of the congratulatory crowd or maybe just to beat traffic. But the staged memoir that could toured, then made it to Broadway, then became a filmed HBO special.
Fisher made an appearance at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour in 2010 to promote the special. After being introduced by HBO executives, there was a bit of a pause before she finally appeared with a children’s sand pail full of confetti. She was throwing it all over the stage but saying nothing, just parading around, wearing dark glasses and seemingly in a very festive mood. She also seemed a little unsteady on her feet. The audience of steely critics laughed.
With Carrie Fisher, one could never be sure it if wasn’t just all a part of the act. However, in those few minutes onstage she did more to make sure that audience of critics were engaged and interested in Wishful Drinking than any executive could have.
Diedre Johnson is a Los Angeles-based writer who has reported and written for Variety, Theatermania.com, The Los Angeles Weekly, The New York Daily News, TV Guide online, Las Vegas Magazine, TV Soap/Australia, Vogue/Japan, and Harper’s Bazaar/Japan She has also spent many years covering the red carpet for various entertainment outlets. She currently writes about fashion, beauty, TV and celebrity for Vogue Italy Online (Vogue.it).