#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller


When the final curtain falls…

I was surprised and saddened at the news of actress/writer Carrie Fisher’s recent death, and doubly so to learn, just minutes ago, that her famous mother, the unsinkable Debbie Reynolds, had passed away just one day later.

It goes without saying that the world will not be the same without this talented duo.  

A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, I saw Ms. Fisher in person, as I was later privileged to watch Ms. Reynolds perform live.  Both experiences were entirely unforgettable, as you might imagine.  

I was attending a writer’s conference in Southern California, and we were all tremendously excited because Ms. Fisher was to be the keynote speaker.  By then, she had appeared in “Star Wars” and penned her brilliant novel, “Postcards from the Edge.”  If I remember correctly, she and author Catherine Coulter shared an agent, and Catherine somehow managed to book Ms. Fisher for the evening; the group could surely not have afforded her speaking fee, so someone was doing someone else a favor–although there were moments when things seemed dicey.  Ms. Fisher had recently given birth to her daughter, Billie, and she appeared in the author’s suite in a housecoat and slippers.  (Yes, a housecoat and slippers.)  She clearly did not want to hobnob, and she glowered at everyone who dared make eye contact.  All righty, then.  We were braced for just about anything.  And that was what we got.  :)  Ms. Fisher, still pudgy from her pregnancy, probably in need of medication, did give her speech, reading with it from typed pages, which she proceeded to drop when she’d reached the last line, so that each one drifted, snowflake style, to the floor.  It was strangely hypnotic.  

I can still see her, so small she could barely see over the podium, chain-smoking like mad (which gives you an idea just how long ago this was) and powering her way through page after page.  A few audience members were annoyed, but most of us, myself included, were fascinated.  Even in a dark mood, Carrie Fisher was absolutely brilliant–I’ve met a lot of witty people in my lifetime, but she was in a class by herself, surely the mistress of the one-liner.  I don’t regret one moment of that night, though I do feel deep sympathy for her dreadful struggles with depression, and it breaks my heart to know she went through so much over the years.  I’ve read all her books, and with each one, I marveled at her sense of humor, her formidible intelligence and, yes, her talent.

Years later, I saw Ms. Reynolds perform in a Nevada casino.  She must have been in her mid-to-late 60s at the time, but she put on a wonderful show, singing, dancing, and making very funny remarks about her ex-husbands.  She was so tiny, and still beautiful, and she was absolute dynamite on that stage!  Her energy and the power of her voice were mind-blowing, and seeing her in person is one of my favorite memories.  If you’re around my age (ahem), you surely remember the “Tammy” movies, and just about everyone with a remote interest in musicals has seen “Singin’ in the Rain”, the Gene Kelly classic.  Unless I’m mistaken (it happens), our Debbie knew little or nothing about dancing when she was signed to appear in a feature film with one of the most talented hoofers who ever lived.  Mr. Kelly, a major star as well as a perfectionist, virtually bullied her (I think she was 19) through take after take, but, being the trouper she was, that sweet, fresh-faced girl from Texas hung in there.  In fact, she proved to be Texas-tough, enduring the scandal after her first husband, Eddie Fisher, left her and their two small children for Liz Taylor, and again after her second husband spent every cent of her money.

I think it’s safe to say it, my friends.  They just don’t make ’em like those two anymore.

Godspeed, Princess Leia; may the Force be with you.  Fare-thee-well, Tammy.  You were the definition of the word ‘star’.

You will both be deeply missed, and long remembered.

50 comments to “When the final curtain falls…”

  1. Diane Sallans
    Comment
    1
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:43 pm · Link

    It’s so sad that Carrie is gone when when she seemed to be having a happier life after some very difficult years.

    I loved Debbie’s movies – Gidget, Tammy, Singing in the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown … her son said ‘she’s gone to be with Carrie’ – hopefully they are together :cry:



    • Diane Sallans
      Comment
      1.1
        · December 28th, 2016 at 10:46 pm · Link

      correction – she wasn’t in Gidget



  2. Terri Shortell
    Comment
    2
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:44 pm · Link

    It was so sad to hear these great women died so close together. They will both be greatly missed.



  3. Prairie
    Comment
    3
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:45 pm · Link

    This has been a very sad month which is a reminder not to take life and loved ones for granted.



  4. Ruby Norwood
    Comment
    4
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:48 pm · Link

    Well said Linda!! They both will be greatly missed..



  5. Gloria Herring
    Comment
    5
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:48 pm · Link

    It is really a sad December with all the goody, but oldies and some not so old, passing on.

    I pray you have a good rest of the year, Linda, and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!



  6. Judy
    Comment
    6
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:51 pm · Link

    I was shocked to see Debbie Reynolds had died. I, too, remember the Tammy movies. I have the DVD for the Unsinkable Molly Brown.



  7. Deborah Nelson
    Comment
    7
      · December 28th, 2016 at 10:53 pm · Link

    I had not heard the latest news. I, too, saw Debbie Reynolds perform live onstage. What a talent!



  8. Dawn Roberts
    Comment
    8
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:05 pm · Link

    Such saddens at the loss of these two very talented ladies, I just can’t help wonder why God would take them and not the Kardeashians



    • Margaret Witt
      Comment
      8.1
        · December 29th, 2016 at 12:18 am · Link

      That’s not a very nice thing to say!



    • Hilda
      Comment
      8.2
        · December 29th, 2016 at 10:07 am · Link

      I believe God has everything under control, and we are silly to presume we MUST understand what and why. God’s capacity to love everyone He has created is far beyond our comprehension. A lot of good ones have left us, and a lot of good ones still are here. Our job is to love each other as God loves us. Quite a goal to try to reach, right? Best wishes to us all!



  9. Leanna
    Comment
    9
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:07 pm · Link

    Two great women a horrible loss.



  10. Carol
    Comment
    10
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:10 pm · Link

    Special memories and a lively tribute.



  11. Pamela Devereux
    Comment
    11
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:18 pm · Link

    Everyone is talking about her role in Singing In The Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. You were the first person to mention her playing Tammy.

    My best friend and I saw Star Wars in the movie theater so many times. She worked for Plitt Theater and we saw all the current movies.

    RIP mother and daughter.



  12. Paula L Rollins
    Comment
    12
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:18 pm · Link

    Nothing but good thoughts for both of these talented and kind ladies. They will be missed



  13. Evelyn Baldwin
    Comment
    13
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:19 pm · Link

    Saddens my heart! Hopefully they are Stars Shinning Bright in Heaven! Best Wishes, Linda! Thank you for posting! Evelyn



  14. Roz Goodenough
    Comment
    14
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:26 pm · Link

    I loved them both. I named my daughter after Debbie. I still love the movie, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. I imagine them both in heaven hugging each other. Amazing, talented women. May they both rest in peace.



  15. Lorraine Pitts
    Comment
    15
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:43 pm · Link

    Beautiful tribute.



  16. Fran F.
    Comment
    16
      · December 28th, 2016 at 11:59 pm · Link

    Debbie Reynolds was one of my all-time favorite actors. She was a beautiful woman who made a lot of people happy when she was in a movie.



  17. Margaret Witt
    Comment
    17
      · December 29th, 2016 at 12:16 am · Link

    I remember way back– when Eddie Fisher left Debbie and the kids for Elizabeth Taylor. I thought that was the most horrible, scandalous thing I had ever heard. She was a trouper and showed him what he was losing and outlived both of them. I just read that she had said she wanted to be with Carrie–now she is. R.I.P.



  18. Caryn Horn
    Comment
    18
      · December 29th, 2016 at 12:22 am · Link

    Well put. Thank you.



  19. Peggy E Casey
    Comment
    19
      · December 29th, 2016 at 12:45 am · Link

    This shows the power of a mother’s love and what a broken heart can do. Rest in peace ladies! And keep them laughing in heaven!!!



  20. Judith Cooper
    Comment
    20
      · December 29th, 2016 at 12:57 am · Link

    So well said. Thank you.



  21. Rita Crofoot
    Comment
    21
      · December 29th, 2016 at 2:53 am · Link

    Nice tribute to them both



  22. Jane
    Comment
    22
      · December 29th, 2016 at 4:50 am · Link

    My husband’s Uncle Charlie was a big Debbie Reynolds fan. She showed up to promote Harry Karl’s shoe stores and Charlie and Nellie went to see her. Charlie was too bashful to go up and see her and therefore only Aunt Nellie went up. Nellie mentioned to Debbie that her husband was a big fan and Debbie made a point of calling him up and meeting him personally, saying that she couldn’t pass up meeting him. Such a classy lady. It made his day.
    They will both be missed.



  23. Mary Jane
    Comment
    23
      · December 29th, 2016 at 7:38 am · Link

    A wonderfully written tribute!
    I too remember Ms. Reynolds in her Tammy movies as well as others. My favorite being, I’m sorry I don’t remember the title, a movie where she bought a country house to recover from exhaustion and ended up taking on a family of homeless children who had been living there.
    I admired her daughter for overcoming her additions and depression and her talent in the Star Wars movies. These two very talented women will be greatly missed.



    • Hilda
      Comment
      23.1
        · December 29th, 2016 at 10:17 am · Link

      I remember that movie, too, and also, I can’t remember the name of it, but I know it’s a good one! Have to look it up; would like to see it again.



  24. gwyn beams
    Comment
    24
      · December 29th, 2016 at 8:12 am · Link

    beautiful tribute,it is nice when someone remembers the good and not the bad when people pass. :( :(



  25. Ann Bartholomew
    Comment
    25
      · December 29th, 2016 at 8:17 am · Link

    Unsinkable would be a true adjective to describe the life of Debbie Reynolds.



  26. Margy Manear
    Comment
    26
      · December 29th, 2016 at 8:20 am · Link

    Great eulogy!! I do remember Tammy. I guess I am of an “age”. Lol



  27. Rose Marie Moran
    Comment
    27
      · December 29th, 2016 at 8:44 am · Link

    Beautiful sentiments.



  28. Virginia Horton
    Comment
    28
      · December 29th, 2016 at 9:15 am · Link

    Well said Linda, this was beautiful.



  29. Hilda
    Comment
    29
      · December 29th, 2016 at 10:01 am · Link

    HI, Linda. Thank you for sharing those memories of DR and CF. I’m still in shock that they passed so suddenly and so close together. I’m around your age and remember the Tammy movies, not to mention Singin’ in the Rain, which I own on DVD, thank the Lord. My niece had just taken her family to see the play in the Issaquah theater on Friday night. She loved watching Singin’ in the Rain with me, when she was a child visiting me. Anyway, I also love DR in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, what a fabulous actress was. What I remember from her heartaches with Mr. Karl was her pronouncing she would rebound (like Molly Brown) and her children would not suffer because of others’ actions. She loved her children fiercely. I also recall CF’s brief appearance in a Big Bang Theory, where James Earl Jones and Jim Parsons (“Sheldon”) went to CF’s house and knocked on her door at night, and ran away. She ran outside, furious, holding a baseball bat, knowing it was JEJ that had knocked, and yelling how she was going to get him the next time! What a hoot!

    And what a sad week for poor Todd Fisher. I pray he finds comfort and peace, and enjoys good memories of his family.

    Again, thank you for your words and memories. I’m still in shock, but you have been a comfort!
    Take care,
    Hilda



  30. Susan Lee
    Comment
    30
      · December 29th, 2016 at 10:52 am · Link

    this has been quite a year for celebrity passings. It is shocking that the daughter should have predeceased the mother and then only by a day. My condolences to the family



  31. Marilyn Fish
    Comment
    31
      · December 29th, 2016 at 10:56 am · Link

    I enjoyed reading your tribute to these two ladies. I have always been fascinated by Carrie and admired the strength of Debbie. I have read Debbie’s book. I do believe you can die of a broken heart. We have experienced it in our family.



  32. Hope
    Comment
    32
      · December 29th, 2016 at 11:24 am · Link

    Debbie Reynolds always made me smile. Her smile lit up the world, and so did her movies.

    Carrie had the courage to share her personal struggles with the world, and not to be the second Debbie.

    They will be missed.



  33. Sharon Sovereign
    Comment
    33
      · December 29th, 2016 at 11:44 am · Link

    My daughter and I were saddened to hear about the deaths of these two ladies also. I remember Debbie in the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Also Star Wars would not have been the same without Carrie. They will be missed.



  34. Tammy Carter
    Comment
    34
      · December 29th, 2016 at 1:25 pm · Link

    Very well shared. Both mother and daughter’s talents will be enjoyed for many years to come. They will be truly e missed.



  35. Kathleen O
    Comment
    35
      · December 29th, 2016 at 2:44 pm · Link

    This has been quite a year for celebrities who have passed away, but I think this one hit a lot of people because it was a mother and daughter. I remember meeting Debbie Reynolds back in 1994 in Las Vegas and I felt for her when she lost Carrie and then her… It is just so sad.



  36. Debra Wright
    Comment
    36
      · December 29th, 2016 at 3:21 pm · Link

    I can only imagine the pain of losing a child! Debbie’s heart could not bear the loss. They are together in Gods arms!



  37. Peg North
    Comment
    37
      · December 29th, 2016 at 3:36 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.



  38. Diana E.
    Comment
    38
      · December 29th, 2016 at 6:31 pm · Link

    How true, Linda and how sad. They will be missed.



  39. Brenda I
    Comment
    39
      · December 30th, 2016 at 9:54 am · Link

    It was sad to hear of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds deaths. Carrie was the star female in the Princess Leia role in the Star Wars trilogy. Some teens are discovering the Star Wars trilogy and the new ones like Rogue One and the one last year and will get to see her contribution to this series. I always did love to see Debbie Reynolds in the Tammy films. I liked the original Tammy film best that also starred Walter Brennan and Leslie Nielsen.



  40. Melaine
    Comment
    40
      · December 30th, 2016 at 10:49 am · Link

    A very tragic ending for both; hoping they are now together again for eternity.



  41. Eriko
    Comment
    41
      · December 30th, 2016 at 10:58 am · Link

    Beautiful tribute from a personal point of view. Yes, this week is truly a sad one.



  42. Janet Hurt
    Comment
    42
      · December 30th, 2016 at 12:12 pm · Link

    The world will sadly miss that famous duo!



  43. Elaine Key
    Comment
    43
      · December 30th, 2016 at 12:43 pm · Link

    I was also saddened by the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. I loved all of Debbie’s movies. I heard that Gene Kelley screamed at her when she made a mistake in the movie, Singing In The Rain. It was so bad, she was in tears by the end of the day. Yet, she didn’t quit. We can all learn a lesson through her tenacity.

    I only remember seeing Carrie in the Star Wars saga. I thought she was great.

    Yes, those two ladies will be greatly missed.



  44. Elaine Key
    Comment
    44
      · December 30th, 2016 at 12:48 pm · Link

    I was also saddened by the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. I loved all of Debbie’s movies. I heard that Gene Kelley screamed at her when she made a mistake in the movie, Singing In The Rain. It was so bad, she was in tears by the end of the day. Yet, she didn’t quit. We can all learn a lesson through her tenacity.

    I only remember seeing Carrie in the Star Wars saga. I thought she was great.

    Yes, those two ladies will be greatly missed.



  45. Lorelei Sawtelle
    Comment
    45
      · January 2nd, 2017 at 4:24 pm · Link

    Rest in peace, ladies.



  46. Patricia McLeman
    Comment
    46
      · January 4th, 2017 at 7:48 am · Link

    What a lovely tribute to Debbie Reynolds. I never saw or knew much about Carrie Fisher but her mother was always a favourite of mine from the days when I shed a tear or two in Tammy and
    I can still hear her singing it.
    Her dancing in Singin’ in the Rain’ was something to remember with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. What stamina. And I well remember her dignity during the Eddie Fisher/Elizabeth Taylor drama. They don’t make them like that any more. God rest them both.



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