carrie fisher, affairs, and popularity -- 3/31/23
Today's selection -- from The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. Acclaimed Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, on the verge of her affair as a nineteen-year-old with the much older and very married Harrison Ford:
"I am someone who wants very much to be popular. I don't just want you to like me, I want to be one of the most joy-inducing human beings that you've ever encountered. I want to explode on your night sky like fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve in Hong Kong.
"Having famous parents doesn't endear you to your high school classmates. I found this out one day in ninth grade when I overheard two girls walking behind me in the school hallway. One of them said to the other in an audible whisper, 'See that girl just ahead of us? With that headband?'
"'She's Debbie Reynolds's daughter.' There was a slight pause before she added, 'She thinks she's so great.'
"Wow, right? Uncanny how she so perfectly nailed me straight out of the box. I just thought I was incredible.
|Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher on their wedding day, 1955|
"Of course, most people want to be liked, I think, especially when you consider the lonely alternatives. Even the fringier members of society-gangsters, drug cartel types, garden-variety serial killers -- even they want to be liked in their own endearing ways. They might want to be admired for their own particular brand of impressive awfulness, such as managing to elude the law for longer than anyone in their questionable line of work, or for the unique and even striking manner in which they slaughtered their victims. Clearly there are numerous methods that can be employed in one's ravenous quest to be loved.
"Given this desire for popularity, playing the role of 'the other woman' -- a home wrecker (or even an apartment or lean-to wrecker) -- was not on my radar of things to accomplish in a lifetime. I can't think of a single personality trait I have that lends itself to seeking out participation in a sordid situation of that kind.
"It's difficult to imagine a childhood less likely to make one pro-adultery than mine. When I was born, my parents, the handsome singer Eddie Fisher and the beautiful actress Debbie Reynolds, were known as 'Americas Sweethearts.' The gorgeous couple with their two adorable little babies (my brother, Todd, came along sixteen months after I did) were the American Dream realized, until Eddie left Debbie for the recently widowed gorgeous actress Elizabeth Taylor, who, just to pile it on a little more, was a friend of my mother's from their early days at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio. For those too old to remember or too young to care, it was one of the great midcentury tabloid feeding frenzies, and I watched it at very close range.
"At the ripe old age of eighteen months I lost my father to an adulteress. I knew in my heart that the only rationale he could have had for leaving was because of how big a disappointment I must have been, and I wasn't going to do that to some other kid. So it stood to reason that if I could disappoint my own father -- if I couldn't get my own father to love me enough to stick around or, God forbid, visit more often than one day a year -- how was I ever going to get a man who didn't have to love me like daddies were supposed to? (Hey, Envious Classmate, see how fucking great I thought I was?)
"My first larger-than-life lesson was what it felt like to be on the clueless end of infidelity. So there was absolutely no way -- zero! -- that I'd carry on that evil tradition of hurting some lovely, unsuspecting lady.
"So when I was contemplating having an affair on this movie, I wasn't going to include married guys. (Not that I even thought about not including them.) One of the things I knew when Harrison and I met was that nothing of a romantic nature would happen. It wasn't even an issue. There were plenty of guys out there who were single whom I could date without needing to dip into the married guy pool. He was also far too old for me -- almost fifteen years older! I would be twenty in a matter of months, but Harrison was in his midthirties -- old! Well into adulthood, anyway.
"Also, he was a man. I was a girl -- a male human like him would have to be with a woman. If Harrison and I went to the prom together, no one would believe it. 'What's he doing with her? Captain of the football team and president of the cool literary club? What's he doing with Cutie-Pie Sweetcheeks, with the troll doll collection and Cary Grant obsession? Must be a glitch in the machine ... '
"On top of that, there was something intimidating about Harrison. His face in repose looked to me like it was closer to a scowl than to any other expression. It was immediately clear that he was no people pleaser; this was more of a people unsettler. He looked like he didn't care whether or not you looked at him, so you watched him not caring, hungrily. Anyone with him was irrelevant, and I was definitely an 'anyone.'
"When I'd first seen him sitting on the cantina set, I remember thinking, This guy's going to be a star. Not just a celebrity, a movie star. He looked like one of those iconic Movie Star types, like Humphrey Bogart or Spencer Tracy. Some sort of epic energy hung around him like an invisible throng."