I had two “connections” to Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, which I hadn’t thought about for years, until this very, very sad week.
The first, interviewing a very young Carrie and her co-stars back in my Chicago Sun Times days, is one I’ve already related here at Medium. She had just filmed the first Star Wars movie, and wasn’t sure anything would come of it.
I don’t think Roger Ebert was sure, either. Hence his generous offer to let me interview the three then “unknowns” and preview the film while he was off handling another assignment.
The second more indirect but beloved connection — with Debbie Reynolds — I’ve written about elsewhere but bears repeating here, too.
My dear friend, the late Kim Milford (Rocky Horror, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar) who co-starred with Mark Hamill in Corvette Summer, (yet another connection) had somehow also become well acquainted with Debbie Reynolds. And as part of a day full of memorable and singularly “Hollywood” experiences he meticulously planned for one of my visits to LA, he drove me out to a movie studio — I wish I remembered which — long after dark.
And as we drove up to a huge, hangar-like building, I gaped at what appeared to be huge props from the sets of movies I recognized very well sitting outside the door to the building. I seem to recall a sphinx from Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra, but it’s been so long that I’m not totally sure anymore. I know I was stunned, though. And that I realized I was in for something spectacular as he unlocked that huge door and beckoned me inside.
I was absolutely right about that. He had gotten permission from Reynolds to allow me to rummage through her astounding collection of Hollywood movie props, costumes and other memorabilia to my heart’s content. But I was almost afraid to touch anything at all as I walked the aisles and realized I was seeing costumes from some of my favorite films and some of the most famous films of all time.
I finally put on a few familiar hats and headdresses. And then, at Kim’s insistence, I caressed and finally, reluctantly, tried to squeeze into tiny dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and a few others. The waistlines were so inhumanely small I couldn’t suck mine in nearly far enough. I was stick figure thin at the time, so that was quite a shock.
I’m not quite sure why that made me sad. Perhaps because I realized the sacrifices they had made to fit into those itty bitty dresses. Or perhaps it was just nostalgia for things long gone. Or both.
Those melancholy moments were brief, however, offset by the glittery grandeur of it all. In fact, it was quite a day from start to finish, as the article I’ve linked to above explains. But the hours I spent wandering through artifacts from films that had touched and even changed my life were among the most wondrous I’ve ever experienced.
So, thanks for the memories, Debbie. And give Kim a big old smack on the cheek for me, too.
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