In a 2004 interview with The Advocate, actress-author Carrie Fisher recalled her teenage crushes on the gay men who danced backup for her mother, Debbie Reynolds. “They were gorgeous and kind and fun and interested in me,” she said. “That was who I started smoking dope with and who I wanted to fit in with.” As we discover in Wishful Drinking — her 2008 memoir and subsequent solo act about her family drama, bipolar disorder, and Pez dispenser–friendly past as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise — her relationship with gay men only got stronger and stranger. We caught up with the 54-year-old firecracker to discuss her gay ex-husband, her gay poltergeist, and John Travolta’s latest sex scandal.
The Advocate: It’s one thing to air out your dirty laundry in a book, and it’s quite another to tell your story to a crowd of 1,000 people a night on Broadway. But how does it feel to now have your most personal, intimate struggles captured on film for the ages in a new HBO special?
Carrie Fisher: Sometimes I don’t think of what it is I’m doing. That’s how I do things — by pretending it’s not happening.
The audiences at your Broadway show were always packed with gay fans. Were you at all surprised by that support?
Oh, no. You guys better be supportive because I’ve spent my life with you. My mother’s whole nightclub act had gay backup dancers. When I was 13 and started doing my mother’s show, I was with them all the time. I got my first kiss from a gay man. And second. And third.
At each performance, you picked someone from the audience to come join you on stage to play with a life-size Princess Leia doll. From what I hear, it was very often a gay guy. Was that just a coincidence, or has your gaydar sharpened in recent years?
Well, I think gay guys feel a little more comfortable with me. They could decide whether they wanted to come up or not, but gay people are a little more open to doing weird things.
Gay male fans must be a breath of fresh air for you. So many straight guys and lesbians worship Princess Leia as an object of young lust, but I couldn’t really care less about Star Wars. Sure, I’ll play with your doll, but I’m pretty confident that I’m not the only gay man who would much rather talk about Soapdish and your attendance at Madonna’s wedding to Sean Penn.
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s true. Star Wars isn’t a very fertile area for me and gay men to discuss. I didn’t have a good enough costume for a drag Leia. Gay men really respond to any of the goofy stuff I’ve done — even fucking Under the Rainbow. Anything that’s incredibly stupid. Wasn’t the joke in Soapdish that I had some young stud in my office? That was good.
And the younger gays now have Sorority Row, so the campy cycle continues.
Oh, I know! And that was a gay director [Stewart Hendler] too, and I got along great with him.
When The Advocate last spoke to you, we discussed your 2004 novel The Best Awful, a fictionalized account of your husband, CAA superagent Bryan Lourd, leaving you for another man. You continued to explore that particular subject in Wishful Drinking on a much more personal level. Is that something you continue to work through, or, after talking about the subject for so many years, have you finally made peace with it?
Yeah, I mean, initially I obviously wasn’t thrilled, but I’m mostly at peace with it now. From the beginning, we coparented our daughter, Billie, and took our vacations together. Fairly recently, we all went to Costa Rica together. So I’m in constant contact with Bryan. It’s been dealt with well, so we’ve gotten through most of the mess.
Considering all of the salacious stuff you talk about in Wishful Drinking — the Hollywood family gossip, the drug abuse, the mental health issues — it’s interesting that your failed marriage to a gay man seems to get so much attention.
Maybe it’s because Bryan’s in the paper sometimes now. It’s a funny anecdote, but I don’t really think people care that much about that kind of thing anymore, do you?
Well, Fran Drescher made headlines earlier this year when she revealed that her ex-husband was gay.
Oh, has Fran Drescher come out and said that? You know, sometimes, after a certain age, you marry your friend. Frequently, gay men are much better friends to women than other women.
You must’ve gotten this all the time: “How did you not know?” Is that a fair question or an ignorant one?
Both. But I didn’t know because I didn’t want to know. I wanted to believe whatever he told me, and I didn’t want to question it. I was in love with him.
When explaining that your ex-husband once blamed your codeine abuse on pushing him toward other men, you joke in Wishful Drinking that you have the power to turn men gay. These are funny quips, but they’ve also turned into headlines that some readers may take seriously. So just to clarify for those who believe that being gay is a choice, do you and Bryan know that he was always gay and that you had nothing to do with it?
Well, we don’t talk about it much, but yes, I should think that he was always gay and probably always knew it. I can only really talk about my part of it, up to a point, but he’s been a very good father — and mother — to Billie.
All joking aside, was there a time when you truly thought that his being gay was your fault?
Yes, I did. [Laughs] Yes, I did.
You must’ve had gay friends telling you that it wasn’t possible.
Of course, but I was devastated at that time. I didn’t know what to think, quite honestly. Look, smart people are not always as smart as they’d like to be. I don’t know if I blamed myself for his turning gay, but I believed I drove him away. And what’s more painful — making him gay or driving him away? It’s similar.
How does Bryan feel about the spotlight that your show puts on him? Does he like the attention?
I don’t think he probably likes it that much. I try to keep it down to a dull roar, but some of that material like the stuff about not reading that part of the warning on the label — “I thought it said heavy machinery, not homosexuality!” — it’s just too good. But I try to leave him alone as best I can, and I did offer him the choice of my taking that stuff out.
At the top of your show, you also discuss your dear friend R. Gregory Stevens, a gay Republican political operative who died of a drug overdose in your bed in 2005, and take questions from the audience about the tragedy. On the evening I attended, someone couldn’t see past the perplexing detail that he was both gay and a Republican.
Yes, I say that he was a Republican, which I believe contributed to his death. It’s a shocking story, but it depends on the audience what they ask — whether they focus on the fact that he was gay, a gay Republican, or why he was in my bed. He was more Republican in Washington; when he came out to visit me, the relief was that he didn’t have to pretend as much.
I’ve read that you’ve felt haunted by Greg’s ghost. I’d think a gay ghost would be pretty fabulous to have lurking around.
No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was amusing. Things started to go off in my house. You know those little boxes that you push the buttons and they go, “Fuck you,” “Eat shit,” “You’re an asshole”? I had one of those, and it would start to go off, on its own, in the middle of the night. So if that wasn’t Greg... I mean, I don’t think it was [past resident of my Beverly Hills home] Edith Head, do you?
In the September 2009 issue of Out, you participated in its monthly "Can I Be Blunt?" column by sharing 10 things that gay men should know about straight women. One of those things was, “We don’t really care that John Travolta is gay.” I know you and Travolta go way back, so let’s get really blunt here: Does his legal team have any business demanding Gawker remove a recent post suggesting that he’s given blow jobs?
Wow! I mean, my feeling about John has always been that we know and we don’t care. Look, I’m sorry that he’s uncomfortable with it, and that’s all I can say. It only draws more attention to it when you make that kind of legal fuss. Just leave it be.