In the infamous metal bikini
Thank God for Carrie Fisher, whose WISHFUL DRINKING, which, although not exactly earth-shattering, has all the savvy, balls, fun, wit and glamour (if a tad second-hand) so sorely missing from all recent Broadway openings. Fisher has truly found her metier in this live performance which is really no different from an elaborate stand-up – or, in her case, often sitting – routine. Her dry observations and epigrams flow more trippingly off her ever wry tongue than they do on the pages of her books which can seem contrived, stilted and obnoxiously precocious.
Opening the show is a splendid big screen montage of the tabloid headlines which have stalked her from birth, detailing her life from the very beginning, when Dad Eddie Fisher dumped Mom Debbie Reynolds for Liz Taylor to her failed marriage to Paul Simon to her desertion by husband Bryan Lourd for a man, to her discovery of the dead body of her friend R. Gregory Stevens in bed beside her, not to mention a vicious John Simon review in which he called her “bovine.”
The centerpiece is her delineation of her own family tree of celebrity which, of course, began with that unholy trinity of Debbie-Eddie-Liz, (with Mike Todd and Richard Burton thrown in for good measure). If you grew up in the 1960s, their story was even more familiar to you than your own family history from the incessant, rabid media coverage, which made the Aniston-Pitt-Jolie menage (and Fisher is quick to point out the paralleling personalities) look the merest teapot tempest. This became part of everyone’s (low) cultural heritage, a fact made clear to me when I interviewed Debbie Reynolds a few years ago and within minutes achieved instant intimacy with her as, like your favorite aunt, she happily began dishing Eddie to filth and saying how she and Liz are buddies now, who just laugh at his sorry ass. Which, I suppose, is to be expected, if, as his daughter states, he brought his drug dealer to a recent performance of hers.
Fisher’s inspiration for this bit came from a question posed to her by her daughter by Lourd, Billie, who was dating Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, and asked if they were possibly related. I probably would have been content if Fisher had just talked about her extended family all night, which included her father’s subsequent wife, Connie Stevens (“Also blonde and perky – do we see a pattern here?”), and sexpot Marie McDonald (“known as ‘The Body,’ she was an actress-ish”) who married Reynold’s second ex-husband, Harry Karl, and also had affairs with Fisher and Liz’s ex-husband, Michael Wilding. Eddie Fisher also married a Chinese woman (Betty Lin), who died in 2001, and, according to Carrie, he has had so much plastic surgery, he now looks Chinese, himself.
Next to these revelations, everything else in the show – her account of her addictive, bi-polar personality, and, oh yeah, STAR WARS – however funny, paled by comparison. Suffice it to say that if you go, you’ll have a rollicking good time. Fisher has also inherited her mother’s deftness with audience interaction (although I’m glad I wasn’t in the front row and subject to her lavish baptismal glitter anointing). When I saw Debbie at Lehman College a few years ago, she was met onstage by an old woman’s crying out – in the middle of a ballad, “My husband Morris played drums for you!,” and Reynolds, completely unfazed, used this as schtick for the rest of her act (“Do you think Morris woulda liked that song?”)
And, when it comes to cleverly turning a phrase, Fisher is pretty non-pareil. I’ll give you but one example, so as not to spoil the show for you: “If religion is the opiate of the masses, I took masses of opiates religiously.” The fact that she is performing at her old stomping ground, Studio 54, ground zero for legendary intake and excess, where Margaux Hemingway passed out on opening night, Halston would puff angel dust joints with then reigning drag queen Poutassa de Lafayette, Liza would party until just a few hours before her Broadway matinees of THE ACT, I once looked long and hard into the unseeing, completely sloshed eyes of Truman Capote, and a friend swore he did coke with Liz Taylor in a stall of the infamously ambisexual powder room where she showed him how to disguise the sound by stepping on the toilet pedal flush just as she inhaled, is a kinda crazy, beautiful thing.
Carrie and Dad, Eddie
AND OTHERS WHO HAVE BECOME CHINESE THROUGH THE YEARS
Joan Rivers, the Mask of Fu Manchu
Mary Tyler Moore
Bruce Jenner, who became a Chinese LADY
Dancer Jacques D’Amboise
Noel Coward (with Elaine Stritch), who once described himself in later years as looking like a “Chinese dowager empress”