Friday, December 30, 2016

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher: a tribute to two blazing talents

Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in
the film, "Singin' in the Rain."
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
will be featured Friday, Jan. 7, in
a lauded HBO special which was
moved up for airing after their deaths. 


Good morning, good morning,
We've gabbed the whole night through.....
Good morning, good morning to you.
Good morning, good morning, Sun beams will soon smile through
                        Good morning, good morning, to
                        you and you and you... (from
                        "Singin' in the Rain") 

others courtesy AP, Girl Scouts & Hollywood studios

I GREW UP with those wonderful, innocent, 1950s musicals. "Singin' in the Rain" was a family favorite. Debbie Reynolds was only 18 when the picture was made, but held her own with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. Debbie's snappy time steps and my mother's tap dancing skills encouraged my lifelong love of tap dancing.
A young Debbie Reynolds proudly
displays her Girl Scout badges
IN 1969,  I WAS not much older than Reynolds was when she made that film.
That was the year Lee Newspapers chose me to interview Reynolds. I was sent to Wyoming in a snow storm as a cub reporter to cover her keynote speech at a Girl Scout jamboree. Long a Scout herself, Reynolds charmed the overflow house with witty show biz tales. Wyoming's movers and shakers gave her a standing ovation.
 A fellow Girl Scout on my first of hundreds of "star" interviews, I was thrilled to get 15 minutes with her. When I dropped my pen, she graciously returned it to my shaking hand.
Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher and youngsters Todd and Carrie.
"Now be calm and confident and promise to write a good story," she said, "Scouts honor?" I still have her handwritten thank-you note.
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.

DEBBIE SAID during the interview that she wanted to be the world's oldest Girl Scout when she died.  I don't know if she was -- at 84 -- but the Girl Scout blog is paying tribute to her for a life of artistic achievement, philanthropy and Girl Scout devotion.
Debbie's beloved daughter, Carrie, had just turned 13 when I interviewed her 37-year old mother. Years later, in an interview with Fisher in Phoenix, Az., I asked her what she might have been doing when I was interviewing her mother. (Her father was famed crooner Eddie Fisher, who left the family to marry Elizabeth Taylor when Carrie was a toddler.)
 Read about Cookie and her mother Ellen
Cookie (Christene Meyers) and her late mother,
Ellen Cosgriffe, also tap danced, sang and wrote.
Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
photographed five years ago.
"Oh, I was probably misbehaving, or having lunch at Cary Grant's," she joked. Her self-deprecating charm delighted the audience at her one-woman show later that day. ("When I was a teen, my mother was concerned that I was experimenting with drugs.  So she did what any other mother would do:  she called Cary for advice.")
I loved her entrance in the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center. She came down through the house in a well worn house coat and bedroom slippers, which she kicked off. For 100 minutes on a cleverly chaotic set, she was mesmerizing. We laughed and cried at her touchingly told tales. The line between comic and tragic is a thin one as she proved in her prolific career as writer and producer.
Carrie Fisher performing her hit autobiographical stage show,
"Wishful Drinking" in 2009. She died at age 60 this week.

WE REMEMBER her brief marriage to musician Paul Simon and her role as Princess Leia in "Star Wars." Her most lasting contribution, though, which combined fine acting and writing, was her ability to enlighten us, giving us insight and compassion on the complex subjects of mental health and addiction.
My family has had its own share of both of the above, so I was moved to see Fisher's honesty and humor on the subjects of alcohol and drug use, bi-polar disorders, mothers and daughters and the relationship between mental turmoil and brilliance. What a mind she had, using her own knowledge of depression, alcoholism and creativity to share the vivid emotional landscape she inhabited.
Debbie Reynolds passed at 84. Here she is at her Las Vegas hotel-museum,
which failed to make it.  Some of  the star's costumes have gone to museums.
I'D HAVE LOVED to have interviewed the two of them together with my mother, Ellen, a huge fan of both women. We'd have spent an afternoon together, just the four of us. Even though I grew up away from Hollywood in landlocked Montana, I identified with Fisher's one-woman show. Her tumultuous adolescence and the challenges of growing up with privilege, in the shadow of two famous parents, had universal truth.   It couldn't have been easy, yet she described the pain, elation, loneliness and fear with elegance and self-effacing charm.
I drew understanding from her thoughts, which echoed my mother's descriptions of her challenges.
Debbie Reynolds in the lead of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
PHOTOS OF of Fisher and Reynolds together in recent years show Reynolds' pride and their mutual love and respect. The pictures also reveal a spirit of optimism.
I admire that, and their chutzpah. Both had it in spades. Both had multiple relationships yet persevered despite disappointment. While Fisher was signing books and touring her one-woman show, Reynolds was selling out her show at Bemelman's in New York's famed Carlyle Hotel. She continued her humanitarian interests and even tried her hand at the hotel business in Las Vegas.
When her husbands squandered her fortune, she kept her cool, appearing on TV and in productions of "Mame" and "Hello Dolly." There's a wonderful lyric from "I Ain't Down Yet," a great tune in another family favorite, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." The film earned the unsinkable Reynolds an Academy Award nomination in 1964. The lyric goes:
Respect, admiration, optimism, courage: Debbie Reynolds
and daughter Carrie Fisher worked things out. Happy trails.

I'm goin' to learn to read and write,
I'm goin' to see what there is to see,
So if you go from nowhere
on the road to somewhere
And you meet anyone, you'll know it's me.

Thanks for sharing the road with us for a short time. Happy travels, you two stars. And keep an eye out for my mum. You three would like one another!

Keller and Cookie pause on a recent trip to Rome in front of the newly
renovated Trevi Fountain. Yes,they threw their coins with  their right hands
over their left shoulders. Imagine yourself where you want to be for 2017!

UP NEXT: Usher in the new year and salute it with all the style and energy you can muster. It's time to book that trip, master a new language, take tango lessons, learn to play the saxophone, plan the Alaska adventure you've talked about for decades. Head to Rome -- or another city you've longed to visit. Carpe diem and tempis fugit yourself into the new year, making your dreams into plans then reality. It can be done. We'll share some secrets that keep us traveling. Remember to explore, learn and live with
where we deliver a fresh look at travel and the arts around the world.


  1. I loved this -- what sweet stories. Did not know that Debbie Reynolds was a Girl Scout! Thanks for sharing the treasured memories.

  2. Happy stories. Thanks for these wonderful remembrances.

  3. We hope Cookie writes her own memoir....

  4. I hope this was as much fun to write as it was to read.

  5. Awesome to have met and learned from these two national treasures. Would love a series of Cookie's interviews in what sounds like a remarkable career.

  6. Lovely tribute, so heartfelt and heartbreaking. Will watch for the ABC special. Thanks,Cookie