NEW YORK — “Hello,” a groggy voice moans across the telephone line from the other coast. “Sorry, I’m a little bit out of it. My daughter got sick, so of course I got it. It’s just a bronchial thing, but it’s a drag. I feel like I’m under water.”
It’s not what one would expect from Carrie Fisher, ultimate gabber and Hollywood insider, famous for giving good chat, bon mots, high wit and deep dish.
The fastest — and sharpest — pen in the West, whose third novel, “Delusions of Grandma,” is getting nearly as much press as Whitewater, is feeling a little slow today. And not so witty.
“You know,” Fisher ponders huskily, “everyone thinks I’m so witty, but I don’t think I’m a real wit. Robin Williams can do that — and must do it. It has to be critical to do it. It’s not essential to me. I’ll talk — forever — that’s critical — but not being witty, that’s not essential for me. Actually, what I am is eccentric. Which is hard in Hollywood, but since I’ve always been that, people expect it. I know I scare people a little bit. They don’t know if I’m weird, or loaded. Really, it’s just that I’m so self-involved.”
Lately, Hollywood’s High Priestess of Pop Psych has become a little disillusioned with the town she’s got wired, what with all her famous friends, her acting career, and her lineage. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I want to move. I don’t love it here anymore. I like the product of it, I like to be entertained, but the phony thing has gotten unpleasant. And then you see it mixed in with pleasant things and that’s even more disturbing. People say the stereotypes of this place can’t be exactly true. But they are! I think these days everyone in this town is on medication.
“You know,” she adds, “by birthright I’m eccentric. My only role models were people who knew how to get attention. I have a really manic energy, so I talk it out. I take party hostages or evenings hostage, and one of the ways of getting the attention you need is to learn how to talk to entertain.
“This is why I don’t date — the other person doesn’t show up for ages. Talking is an area of certainty for me. I’m invited out to do, I’m expected to be a trained seal. Someone once wrote about me, ‘She’s the Dorothy Parker of L.A.’ It meant ‘trained seal.’ When David Geffen and Barry Diller picked wits, Geffen picked me and Barry picked Fran Lebowitz. I like her. We’re collected by the same people. We both know that.”
And some of these people have turned up in Fisher’s admitted romans ê clef, “Postcards From the Edge,” about the adventures in rehab of a daughter of a famous star, and “Surrender the Pink,” about a woman’s relationship with a famous man.
It wasn’t hard to spot Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, and ex-husband, Paul Simon, between the lines, not to mention some other glitterati.
“I’ve never told anyone else this,” she says, “but I do give the people I write about the choice of taking it out. I’m usually fairly flattering. If I exposed all the negatives, I’d lose my privilege, and I really do enjoy leading the life I do. I didn’t do much to Paul except expose he was occasionally selfish. Believe me, I know a lot more than what I write. I could expose a lot of people, but I probably won’t. I wouldn’t want to be Julia Phillips. She took a swipe at me in an article, said I was ‘small, witty, and eager to please — just like her books.’ All I have to say about her is she can’t write. That’s the end of her career.”
You can’t say Carrie Fisher’s career isn’t cruising steadily ahead. After two successful novels and one screenplay (of “Postcards”), she’s now the most famed script doctor in Hollywood, punching up dialog in more comedies than Robin Williams has ad-libbed in.
“I was watching ‘Lethal Weapon 3’ the other night,” she snorts, “and I suddenly remembered I’d done some of that dialog. Well — I’ve got a very expensive house to pay for and a 20-month-old daughter to bring up.”
Fisher was not expecting to be a single mom, but recent circumstances led to a split between her and daughter Billie’s father, CAA agent Bryan Lourd. Newsday columnist Liz Smith, in an item this month that electrified Hollywood, attributed the breakup to Lourd’s liaison with another man. “You know I’d love to lie about it, but I can’t,” she says. “I didn’t see it coming. I was hit by a truck.
“The separation has been a nightmare,” Fisher confesses. “My personal life has always been in public, so I don’t really care about that. But I care about it for the baby. And I didn’t want this book to be an autobiographical downward trajectory of this relationship. There is a break-up in this book, but it’s not mine. I had to throw a hundred pages away. You know, I never like being a disappointment in my relationships. I’ve only had two real ones. But that’s him, man,” she says referring to Lourd, “and I gotta say, I don’t like surprises, or feeling stupid. It’s too bad, cause he’s a good father.”
Fisher has had more than her share of the rumor mill lately.
“The rumors in this town aren’t always true, like they said in ‘The Player,”‘ she says snidely. “I sat next to Gore Vidal the other night and he politely told me my mother is really a lesbian! I don’t give a damn if she is one — but don’t you think she would have told me one drunken night? There was a story going around that she was coming out on the cover of The Advocate. Well, The Advocate once put me and Penny Marshall on the cover and said we should come out of the closet and give gay women role models! My mother is too weird a heterosexual to become gay now. I told the biggest deal about my mom — she drank too much when I was a kid. I think my father [Eddie Fisher] started the gay rumor when they broke up. She’s a powerful, tough woman, but she ain’t no dyke. We’re both freaked-out hetereosexuals — failed heterosexuals, really — but not homosexual. And I like homosexuals!” Another rumor she’d like to dispel is that the rehabilitated, new and improved, sober Carrie Fisher is indulging in drug abuse again.
“People get tired of restriction, then tired of abuse. I always wanted to be the meditation queen and move to Santa Fe, but it ain’t gonna happen unless I’m on liquid morphine!
“Then people hear me say things like that — which is a joke — and say I’m doing drugs again. And what drugs am I gonna do? Pot makes me think about death. Coke is a nightmare. Acid’s great, but who has time? I have a baby! I’m back in AA now. I don’t qualify for Prozac, unfortunately. It sounds nice, but it reminds of me of when all those people said they had Epstein-Barr. It was only people who had time to get Epstein-Barr who got it. It’s depression, that’s all it is. Well, I’ve been depressed. Now I don’t have time.”
It’s true, Fisher can hardly squeeze in another depression. She’s got a child, more scripts to doctor, more books to write and another big project she wants to undertake: “I’m committed to having another baby — I will have another one. I don’t care if it’s in a relationship or if I’m alone,” she said.
“I went out with one guy who said, ‘I read your books and I feel like we’ve already dated and broken up.’ I sent him away. I’ll have another kid. You forget about how bad you looked pregnant when they start talking. She’s starting to talk like me. And you know what? That’s pretty groovy!”