May 24, 2001 - Chatting withDebbie Reynoldsand Carrie Fisher
Where: Hyatt Regency downtown
When: May 24, 2001
Beneficiary: Volunteers of America's Brandon Center and Theodora House
EMCEE: Ed Greene
Gala Chairperson(s): Irene Zarlengo and Diana Murdy
Honorary Chairperson(s): Mary Rossick Kern
Corporate Chairperson(s): Dianne Eddolls, Minoo Asgary, Susan Barnhill, LaFawn Biddle, Sherri Huseby, Joyce Hurst, Betty Kuhl
Committee Members: Toni Butler, Grace Jordan, Kathy Klugman, Carol James, Betty Blecker, Alberte Spencer, Maryann Yuthas, Sharon Smith, Herminia Vigil
Catering: Hyatt Regency
Debbie Reynolds, 69, grew up poor but happy in El Paso, Texas. Her mother made her gown for her first Academy Awards appearance. She has had three husbands, two children, and a busy career.
They covered Debbie's three marriages, ("I guess I married idiots,") stepchildren, single parenting, career, maternal guilt, coming back from bankruptcy and battling a devastating disease that daughter Carrie Fisher has had since her teens -- manic depression.
Debbie, a lifelong entertainer who said her favorite role was Molly Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," became weepy at times at the event, which raised $130,000 for the Volunteers of America Guild.
Referring to Carrie, she said, "I lost a child to mental illness, and I only hope that one day the world will recognize that mental illness is just as devastating as physical illness."
But the mom-daughter team kept the crowd laughing, talking candidly about Debbie's three husbands. "I am just not good about men," she said. Her first husband, Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor. "She and I are friends now," Debbie said. "I'm starting to understand (why he left me) now. But at the time I was PISSED OFF!" Debbie joked. "No, we can't fix him, but at least he had good sperm," Debbie said, referring to daughter Carrie's talent and good looks.
Carrie, who played Princess Leia in the 80s mega-hit movie "Star Wars," shared interesting insights into manic depression. "I named my two moods Roy and Pam. Roy for the rollicking me. Pam for the sentimental side," Carrie said.
"I would call my friends and say, 'Roy's in town,'and it was time to party." Carrie became addicted to drugs and alcohol, while her brother Todd was a born-again Christian.
"One mood was the meal, the next mood was the check," Carrie said. "As a manic-depressive, you cannot control your moods. That's the problem. It's not that you're indulging yourself, you just get swept away."
"I remember when I was in Austrailia once. I decided to go to China because I looked at a map and saw it was near," she said, shaking her head as she recalled her impulsiveness.
Carrie described her "psychotic break," similar to a nervous breakdown. For two weeks, she thought she was being stalked and had hallucinations. She was hospitalized and now takes five medications daily to control the disease.
But surviving the breakdown "made me fearless," she said. "It taught me I can survive anything." Her mother talked about how proud she is of her daughter. "Many kids are lost when they go on these psychotic breaks. But Carrie survived, and if someone who's suffering here today hears her story, maybe they'll see that they can make it, too." The two sang "Edelweiss" together and Debbie finished with "Tammy," to a standing ovation.