Death of Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher was 60 when she died a few days after suffering a cardiac arrest on a transatlantic flight. That’s a lot less living than I’ve gotten to do.

Of course I saw the first Star Wars, where she played Princess Leia. I haven’t followed her career very closely, so didn’t know she had other film roles — none as iconic as  Princess Leia — or that she rewrote scripts like Sister Act or that she wrote books and did one-woman shows where she talked candidly about her years of drug addiction and her ongoing battle with bipolar disorder. She was only two when Elizabeth Taylor lured her father, Eddie Fisher, away from her mother, Debbie Reynolds — Eddie was early in Liz Taylor’s long string of husbands. I wonder if little Carrie went for weekends to be with Daddy and Liz. Probably not. Carrie was once married to Paul Simon; that came after her affair with Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford. Debbie Reynolds once asked Cary Grant to intervene in teenage Carrie’s over-the-top drug abuse. You can be nobody and an addict, or famous and an addict, and even turn your drug use into a theme for your walk-on stage appearances. That didn’t happen for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died on his bathroom floor with a needle sticking out of his arm. Carrie fared better than that.

Archie is a super Star Wars fan, and he knows about Princess Leia, although probably not the name of Carrie Fisher. I’ll bet you don’t know the names of the actors that played Chewbacca the Wookie or R2-D2, even though they probably had more screen time than did Carrie.

We all live life with the material we are given, and Carrie certainly had a lot of glitz and glamour in hers. She did some good for others, it seems, by talking so openly about her struggles with drugs and mental illness. She scored that one, really big acting role — everybody knows Princess Leia, just as everybody knows Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. Meryl Streep had an early iconic role — playing Karen Silkwood in Silkwood — but went on to have a much more substantive film career, a long-time marriage and four children, and she jets off the Africa with Michelle Obama to encourage young African girls to get an education. Carrie Fisher didn’t get those things. But she will always be Princess Leia. She had a following, and she is being eulogized sympathetically. Her once-famous mother died one day after, struck down by a stroke. Now both women will be laid to rest, surrounded by family and by mourners who remember their glory days.

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