Remembering a duo, Carrie and Debbie
The year 2016 was anything but uneventful. From one of the most dramatic elections in modern American history to the most celebrity deaths since 2009 (Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and the guy who made those infomercials for Oxi-Clean, Billy Mays), 2016 ended on a depressing note. Carrie Fisher, beloved actress, passed away after suffering a cardiac incident on a transcontinental flight. Days later, Fisher’s mother Debbie Reynolds passed away from a stroke, related to the stress of her daughter’s death. The two of them were buried side by side in December at a private funeral, and a public memorial service was held in their honor in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 25th. The service focused on both of their careers as fans were given the opportunity to pay their respects. The service featured pre-taped highlight reels featuring both aspects of their careers. Other actors, such as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars”) and Dan Akroyd (former Saturday Night Live actor and ex-fiancé of Fischer) shared their memories. The most heart-wrenching moment was when R2D2 rolled on to the stage, beeping mournfully, and Fisher’s brother Todd kneeled down to comfort him.
Both Fisher and Reynolds were incredible Hollywood icons in their own right. Reynolds began her career by starring as Kathy Selden in the classic film “Singing in the Rain.” She then went on to have an incredibly successful career in other Hollywood films and television shows. Millennials remember her playing the quirky Grandma Aggie in the “Halloweentown” movies on Disney Channel. During the course of her career, Reynolds collected film memorabilia and planned on opening up her home as a film museum. She noticed that props and costumes from many of the old Hollywood movie sets were being thrown away without any recognizing their history. Reynolds also opened up a dance studio for aspiring performers in North Hollywood, California.
Most people know Carrie Fisher as her classic character Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movies. After “Star Wars,” Fisher played memorable roles in films such as “When Harry Met Sally.” Unknown to most, Fisher was a fantastic writer, as well, and was a professional “script doctor” for well-known movies such as “Hook” and “Sister Act.” Her job was to look at existing film scripts and improve them for for public viewership.
Another reason that Fisher will be remembered is for her advocacy for public awareness of mental illness. She had suffered from bipolar disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction and body dysmorphia and did not let it stop her. She was instrumental in discussing her illness and providing a glance into what people struggling with mental health suffer on a day-to-day basis. Fisher’s legacy, besides the world’s obsession with Princess Leia, is that she demystified mental illness and allowed it to be a part of day to day life conversation.
The significance in the deaths of Fisher and Reynolds, a famed mother-daughter pair, is that their relationship was tumultuous, although simultaneously filled with love and mutual adoration.
If one looks at the stories of children growing up in Hollywood, their lives are anything but glamorous. The Fisher-Reynolds pair was estranged for ten years. Fisher didn’t want to be associated with her famous mother and used her mother’s fame as a reason for self-hatred. However, as the years passed, Fisher eventually found happiness with her mother and found her mother to be a source of support. The two of them lived on adjoining properties in California up until their deaths. Because of the intense love and connection the two had for each other, it seemed only fitting that their deaths followed each other. As Fisher’s brother and Reynold’s son Todd Fisher said, “[Reynolds] really wanted to be with Carrie.”
At the funeral held in January, Fisher was cremated and her ashes placed in an urn that resembled a Prozac capsule, maintaining her sense of humor until the very end.
The story of Reynolds and Fisher came to a close as some of Fisher’s ashes were buried in her mother’s casket, a true testament to the glory and heartache that comes with being Hollywood royalty. The memorial service was a time to allow fans to say goodbye one last time.