Webster’s Dictionary describes a hero as:

a) a mythological or legendary figure often of divine decent endowed with great strength or ability
b) an illustrious warrior
c) a person admired for achievements and noble qualities
d) one who shows great courage.

Personally I think Webster’s has missed

e) Carrie Fisher.

The beautiful, blunt, brilliant and indominable Carrie Fisher was born on this day, October 21, in 1956.

In her book, Wishful Drinking, Carrie describes growing up as the daughter of Hollywood legends Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and how it seemed normal to see your parents on television. She recalled observing her mother go from “Mom” to “Debbie Reynolds” through the process of a long bath, make up, hair and stunning clothing. Carrie and her little brother enjoyed spending time in their mothers closet, taking in the scent of her, while Debbie was away filming. Carrie remained the closest of friends with her mother throughout her life, something that many mothers and daughters dearly wish for but rarely achieve.

As with most children, things were not always smooth for Carrie. While she attended Beverly Hills High School with many other celebrity kids, Carrie always felt that she was the odd one out. She left school at age 16 due to a rigorous schedule acting on Broadway in Irene, starring her mother. Starting in 1973, Carrie attended London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, but left after 18 months. Similarly, she was accepted into Sarah Lawrence College, studying the arts and again left without graduating.

In 1975 Carrie made her film debut in Shampoo at the age of 18. But it would be her role in 1977’s Star Wars that would bring her the fame that she wasn’t prepared for. As Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher became an icon – she became our Princess.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in “Star Wars IV: A New Hope.” {image via Lucasfilm}

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in “Star Wars IV: A New Hope.” {image via Lucasfilm}

I’ll never forget the first time I watched Star Wars. It was the late 1980’s and my mother had just dropped me off several hours early for a friends birthday party. My friend was out somewhere with his father and his mother was busy making the birthday cake so I was sent to the living room to watch TV. I can picture the room clearly. That 80’s couch with the odd patterns, the hideous crocheted blanket with colors that should never go together (I believe this one was avocado green and pink) and that certainly didn’t match anything else in the room, and the giant console TV (a TV so large that it weighed roughly as much as an elephant and, if covered with a tablecloth, a family of four could be comfortably seated around it and served dinner).

I flipped channels for a bit and eventually found one that was about to start a Star Wars marathon, all three movies, back to back. I had been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I could remember and had always heard good things about Star Wars. I do vaguely recall having seen the Star Wars Holiday Special, but other than the Ewoks, I remembered nothing. I’m told it’s better that way. Since I knew that I had a couple of hours to kill before the party started I figured I could at least watch the first film.

From the moment the music started (DAH-DAHHHHH) I was hooked. I gradually moved from the couch to the floor and eventually ended up about two feet away from the screen. Party guests arrived and had to step around me. Pizza and cake were brought to me by someone (my friends mother? The Pope?), I was that weird party guest that never acknowledged any of the other guests (I’m still that weird party guest). I did not move for 6 hours and 17 minutes. The family dog (creatively named Dog) was just as engrossed as I was, although come to think of it, Dog may have been more interested in the pizza and cake than the film. I stayed well after all the other guests left and I’m sure that family was happy to see me go.

What I took away from that first viewing of Star Wars (besides that it was the most awesome and epic thing that young me had ever seen) was that Princess Leia was who I wanted to grow up to be – a girl that could stand on her own and fight, a girl that could look Darth Vader in the … mask, and still be defiant. A girl that could rule a galaxy.

Little did I know, the lady behind Princess Leia was fighting more than Storm Troopers. Carrie was very open about her mental health issues and her drug addiction. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she used prescription drugs and cocaine to level her mania and at one point overdosed. When she confronted her drug addiction and mental issues, Carrie willingly endured electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) every six weeks to “blow apart the cement” in her brain. She confirmed in 2014 that she had stopped ECT treatments.

A devout advocate and supporter of many causes, including LGBT causes, animal rights, women’s advocacy and AIDS/HIV support, Carrie Fisher stood strong. She was a shining beacon to many broken souls. She had the uncanny ability to look at herself and, with humor, bring herself down to your level. However low you were, Carrie had been there and was offering you a hand and a laugh to pull you back up.

carrie fisher in The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was Carrie Fisher’s last role.

On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher left us and the galaxy wept for its Princess. But Carrie wasn’t done making us laugh (and cry at the same time). She once said:

George Lucas came to me on the first day of filming (Star Wars) and says, ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress.’

So, I say, ‘OK, I’ll bite. Why?’

And he says, ‘Because…There’s no underwear in space. What happens is you go to space and your body is weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t — so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think this would make for a fantastic obit — so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

Happy Birthday Carrie. The galaxy misses you.


Sidney Fraser
Sidney Fraser

Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.