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Debbie Reynolds did not die of a broken heart, plus more revelations from her son's book

Todd Fisher had long thought about writing a memoir. Then came a double shock: the deaths of his sister, Carrie Fisher, and his mother, Debbie Reynolds, a day apart in December 2016. Now he’s written that book, My Girls: A Lifetime With Carrie and Debbie(William Morrow). It’s an affectionate look back, one he calls a “long love letter and thank-you note to the two most pivotal, extraordinary women I’ve ever known.”

Here are five fascinating things we learn about this famed (if at times dysfunctional) Hollywood family in My Girls:

1. Eddie Fisher was a world-class (if charming) jerk

Todd was an infant when Eddie Fisher left his mother for Elizabeth Taylor in a scandal for the ages. As a little boy, Eddie was a “virtual stranger to me,” Todd Fisher writes. But Eddie popped in and out of Carrie and Todd’s lives until his death in 2010, often for dubious reasons. When he died, “I didn’t shed a tear,” Fisher writes, because his father “deeply, deeply hurt both my girls (his mother and sister).” But in the end, Todd thanks him because “if it weren’t for Eddie Fisher, I wouldn’t exist.”

2. Unlike his sister, Todd Fisher always got along famously with his mother

“My mom was fun and funny and playful and smart and beautiful,” he writes. “It was one of the core facts of my life that she and I adored each other, that we’d had a rare connection from the moment I started growing in her belly.”

He was so crazy about his mother that he did everything he could to try to open a museum for her beloved Hollywood memorabilia collection (it finally was auctioned off for millions), and he defends her questionable taste in men, which led to financial ruin over the years.

After his mother’s third divorce, Fisher writes: “No one worked harder, tried harder, and loved harder than she did. She deserved all the happiness, joy, and security in this world; but she kept getting deceived and robbed blind by men she cared for so much, deeply trusted, and treated with nothing but kindness and respect until the truth of who they really were became unavoidable.”

3. Carrie wished she'd never admitted Harrison Ford affair

Fisher writes that his sister came to regret revealing in her 2016 book The Princess Diarist that she had an affair with older, married co-star Harrison Ford on the first Star Wars movie. Debbie (who didn’t know of the affair before the book) was opposed to making it public, and Carrie told her mother, “You’re right, I shouldn’t have told that story.”

As for his bipolar sister’s drug use, Fisher writes that he took her to the emergency room on several occasions after she overdosed. “I didn’t make a big fuss over it,” he writes of one incident in the 1970s. “Drugs and Carrie were old news to me, after all. Whatever brought it on, it was over and she was okay, so what else mattered?” (Carrie Fisher died Dec. 27, 2016, after an in-flight medical emergency; sleep apnea and drugs were factors, according to the L.A. County coroner’s report.) 

4. Debbie Reynolds confesses the love of her life

When she was 83, Reynolds suffered a stroke. She was sometimes confused, and one day she told Todd’s wife, Cat, that actor Robert Wagner was coming the next day to visit her and she wondered if she should tell him something. (She had dated Wagner before Eddie Fisher.)

“I want him to know that I’m in love with him. … I’ve held this in my whole life, and it’s high time I say something, don’t you think?”

Of course there was no visit from Wagner, but Todd Fisher thinks it’s time “RJ” knows that Debbie Reynolds always loved him.

5. Did Debbie Reynolds die of a broken heart?

Carrie and her mother were known for their symbiotic, bickering relationship, one that sometimes drove Carrie crazy. But they were extremely close at the end of their lives, so much so that the day after Carrie died, Debbie told Todd, “I want to be with Carrie.”

But Fisher writes that there is more to the story. Reynolds wanted to know where her daughter’s body was and was “completely undone” when she heard it had been taken to the coroner's office. The family did not want an autopsy done and Fisher writes that the idea of Carrie “being alone” and dissected by “some stranger was abhorrent to Mom.”

He continues: “The common theory about Mom’s passing was that, after losing Carrie, Debbie Reynolds died of a broken heart. Take it from the son who was there, who knew her better than anyone else on earth — that’s simply not true. Debbie Reynolds willed herself right off this planet to personally see to it that Carrie would never be alone. That had been her driving force all of Carrie’s life, including having me so that Carrie wouldn’t be an only child, and it continued to be her driving force when Carrie left.”



US Weekly

Todd Fisher Pays Tribute to Late Sister Carrie Fisher In New Memoir: ‘I Don’t Know What More We Could Have Done’

Todd Fisher had tried to put pen to paper. But, as the years passed, the words never came.

That is, until December 27, 2016, when his sister Carrie, Star Wars’ iconic Princess Leia, died. (The writer-actress, 60, fell unconscious on an L.A. bound flight four days earlier and never recovered.) He was hit with another crushing loss the next day when his mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed at 84.

Now, “as the family archivist by default,” he writes in his memoir My Girls, “I owe my girls a thorough, honest, unapologetic account of the life I’ve lived with them.”

The tome covers more than their decades of ups and downs. According to the 60-year-old, it’s “a love letter and thank-you note to the most pivotal, extraordinary women I’ve ever known.”

He gets candid with Us.

Us Weekly: What was it about their deaths that influenced you to release this story?

Todd Fisher: When the events first took place, I had no intention of it. But then I was getting frustrated listening to people talk about what they knew absolutely nothing about. What snapped for me was there were doctors saying Debbie died from a broken heart. That was it. I couldn’t do it anymore. Both of them were beautiful, powerful people and I wanted to make sure they didn’t leave on a false note.

Us: Has writing given you closure?

TF: I don’t think I’ll ever have it. At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Writing became a mission. But there were parts that were so difficult to get out. I have to put it up on the list of hardest things I’ve ever done.

Us: You write that, as a kid, Carrie felt she was living in your mom’s shadow. Why?

TF: Part of it had to do with the typical mother-daughter complexities and part of it had to do with my mother being incredible at everything she put her hand to. Then add in the beginning of what was bipolar disorder for Carrie. Consequently, Carrie had a distorted viewpoint. I used to say, “This isn’t a competition,” and she would say, “I know, but it is.”

Us: Was there ever a sibling rivalry? 

TF: No, it would be a futile gesture. But we walked on eggshells. My mother, in particular, was very worried that anything could set Carrie off. I had a book deal and spoke to my mom about it. It came down to this: Is it worth it? The answer was no. There were other things I could do that did not require me infringing on what Carrie perceived to be her territory.

Us: Carrie struggled with addiction. How did that affect your family? 

TF: My mother was a genius at supporting and loving Carrie through it. If we went down the “tough love” path, my mother’s opinion was that we would have lost Carrie long ago. We had her for 60 years, which is pretty good. I don’t know what more we could have done. There’s no way to know why things are the way they are. We went through a lot of rehabs. I can’t even enumerate them all. My mother friggin’ built a wing on Cedars Sinai for mental health. Carrie had some of the most amazing support. Maybe that’s why we got 60 years.

Us: When did it hit you that you had to say goodbye to her? 

TF: The morning I walked in and the game was up. At no time did we lose hope. In my mind I thought, she’s overcome this so many times that I’m not going to worry. She’s Princess Leia. She’s Carrie. She’s going to power through whatever it is.

Us: In the end, do you think there was no saving Carrie from herself?

TF: Carrie was a powerful force. I don’t have to tell anybody that. But at the same time, she was fragile. She had a sensitive side very few people saw. She could break.

Us: Debbie died the next day, but you write it was not from a broken heart. Why do you think she left? 

TF: Because she always needed to be with Carrie. My mother spent her whole life looking after Carrie. We tag-teamed. But in that moment, Carrie had gone where only my mother could. I was sitting next to her in bed. She said, “I’m leaving now.” Honestly, it was so peaceful. She couldn’t stand the idea of Carrie being alone.

Us: Do you feel them still with you? 

TF: I’m very cognizant that they are around me. I built my mom a house next to mine in Las Vegas. Inside, it’s a time capsule. As you walk in, you feel her presence. It’s magical. And the other night, I had a dream of Carrie. It’s nice when they come visit.

Us: What would you say are their greatest achievements?

TF: My mother would flat out tell you her children. And Carrie would have said her daughter Billie [with ex Bryan Lourd]. When they looked at everything they did in life, that’s what they saw.

Us: How is Billie doing?

TF: I’m very proud of Billie. Her dad has done an amazing job. At times, Carrie was amazing but there were also very difficult times for Carrie to be a mother, so he picked up the slack. It’s unconscionable that someone who was 24 at the time should have to deal with that type of loss. I can’t think of anybody who could have handled it more beautifully.

Us: And, of course, Gary the dog?

TF: Gary is doing good. Carrie was the worst pet owner until Gary. I’ve seen her go through probably 50 pets. They had a magical little relationship.

Us: How did your sister transform Princess Leia into this iconic, feminist role?

TF: The reality was that Carrie really was a princess. She was raised by Debbie, the queen. Carrie was fearless because Debbie made her that way. By growing up around my mother, you become powerful. It was inevitable that she would be the princess.

Us: Was it difficult for you to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

TF: It was heartbreaking. I found myself sitting there and then that scene comes up where she’s laying there. Literally, it’s like does art imitate life or does life imitate art? How in the world did that get written into a script and then it happens exactly like that? It’s too hard to even fathom.

Us: What’s next for their legacy? 

TF: When Carrie was alive, I wrote a coming-of-age screenplay about growing up in Hollywood and what our life was like. A producer friend and I tried to look at it as a movie. Then we realized there’s not enough time. Now we’ve got 30 episodes for a TV show.