A session with the actress/author yields frank talk, wit and insight Carrie On

April 17, 1994|By Alice Steinbach | Alice Steinbach,Sun Staff Writer

New York -- Maybe it has to do with Carrie Fisher's not-so-repressed wish to have a session with her psychoanalyst, or maybe it's because after four days of talking to reporters she's just plain tired. Whatever the reason, Carrie Fisher is conducting an interview from a semi-reclining position in her suite at the posh St. Regis Hotel.

"The other day I got on the elevator here and I pushed 16 because that's the floor my shrink is on," says Ms. Fisher, visibly amused at the sly way her unconscious expressed itself. "I was ready to go to the shrink . . . where you can just say anything awful, stupid and random."

It's hard to imagine this witty, sharp and very smart 38-year-old woman -- who's invaded Manhattan to promote her third novel, "Delusions of Grandma" -- ever saying anything stupid. As for awful, well, awful is in the eye of the beholder. True, Ms. Fisher takes no prisoners when she talks, but one senses it's the truth she's after, not the shock value.

Which brings us to random.

It would be wrong to say Carrie Fisher speaks in a random fashion. Let's face it: Carrie Fisher is way beyond random. Indeed, her entire approach to conversation appears to be based on the James Joyce-Sigmund Freud Stream of Consciousness Method. There are few points-of-reference in her conversations. And no transitions. You either catch the wave and ride it, or you don't.

She writes that way, too, says Simon & Schuster editor Becky Saletan, who worked with her on "Delusions." "Carrie is not a linear person. But that's true of any good fiction writer," she says.

Not only is Ms. Fisher not linear, she also keeps forgetting to promote the book -- which, like her other two novels, "Postcards from the Edge" and "Surrender the Pink" -- is based largely on her own life. Instead, she keeps returning to the past -- moving back and forth between The Scandal, as she calls it, of her childhood and The Scandal that is dogging her now. Listening to Ms. Fisher, one supposes, is like being an analyst listening to a patient.

Take, for instance, the following soliloquy concerning an important passage in her childhood:

I remember being a baby in the first house we grew up in, and I remember standing in the doorway of my bedroom, and I remember looking at my mother and she was alone in a really big bed. And I remember clocking that. And I remember my father took me to meet Elizabeth Taylor. I couldn't have been more than 3. I remember her opening the door at the Beverly Hills Hotel and she was in a nightgown. And she was beautiful. And I remember I had to notice who that was. Because something bad had happened. Something that people didn't talk about . . .

What people didn't talk about back then, when Ms. Fisher was barely 2, was The Scandal. She assumes you know what she means. But there are those who might think Ms. Fisher's celebrity began with the Princess Leia role in "Star Wars" or her marriage and divorce to and from singer Paul Simon or her dark battle with drugs that eventually landed her in a rehab center. So a brief history of her life up to the age of 2 might help:

When she was about 18 months old, Daddy (teen idol Eddie Fisher) left Mommy (America's sweetheart Debbie Reynolds) for The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Elizabeth Taylor). Mommy was left with the task of trying to shield Carrie and her 6-month-old brother, Todd, from the fallout of one of Hollywood's hottest scandals.

"It was a big, long thing," Ms. Fisher says now. "I remember the photographers. They used to almost knock my brother and me down to get, like, some tragic photo of my mom after the 'thing.' They paid attention for a long, bad time to my mom. I was only 2 but I was not unconscious." She attributes her "hatred" of being photographed to that experience. "But I will still do it." Pause. "The thing I will always do is what I'm afraid of."

Elegant and unstyled

Ms. Fisher, dressed in an elegant black Ungaro suit, is leaning back against the headboard of a twin bed, one hand fiddling with her unstyled auburn hair, the other lighting up a cigarette. She is barefoot, a small, knockout of a woman who resembles her mother when she smiles and her father when she doesn't. Her voice is an instrument: throaty, warm, deep, dark and musical. But it's beginning to take on signs of too many Marlboros smoked for too many years.

"You know, I asked my mom later, 'What did you ever say to me?' about that time. You have to say something to your kid, I think, on the off-chance they need you to. But she didn't say anything to me. Nobody told me. She said I used to walk around looking for my father. Just opening doors and looking for my father."

She stops, laughs, then in a voice edged with sarcasm, says: "Well, that's like a tragic story, isn't it?"

She's traveling with her 21-month-old daughter, Billie Catherine; her daughter's nanny; and a woman friend who also acts as co-producer on some of Ms. Fisher's successful script-writing projects. In the works is a TV sitcom pilot. "It'll be something

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