Originally published in Issue #20, February 2017
I went to Carrie Fisher’s house in L.A. about 15 years ago, when one of the bad Star Wars prequels was about to come out, to talk about a piece she was writing for Newsweek where I worked as an editor in New York. She was amazing, as was her house. She took meetings in her bedroom. When I went in, she was sitting criss-cross applesauce on the bed. There was an armchair for me. She was giddy and welcoming. She did a somersault on the bed.
We talked about the piece she was doing. She read me some great stuff she’d written on a yellow legal pad about how her daughter loved the old Princess Leia shampoo bottle where you could unscrew her head and pour shampoo out of her neck. Then she mentioned that she’d recently found the diaries she’d written while making the first Star Wars. I said, “Um, could I see them, please?” Sure, she said. The diaries were SO funny and sardonic and world-weary, even though she wasn’t even 20 when she’d written them. A lot of them were about her affair with Harrison Ford. She’d obviously been obsessed with him, but not so much that she couldn’t skewer him as sexy-butalmost-comically-taciturn-and-borderline-dull. I read a bunch of pages, muttering holy shit over and over. I said, “Um, could we print these, please?”
She said no way, not while people who’d be hurt were still alive. I bet her that I could excerpt them without mentioning Mr. Ford. She let me take the only copy of the original handwritten diaries back to my hotel and I spent a few hours typing up a possible excerpt. When I returned to her house and buzzed at the gate, she said, through the intercom, “Thank god you came back! I was just thinking, ‘Did I let a journalist LEAVE with my Star Wars diaries?'”
I showed her the excerpt, and begged her to let us print it. She seemed shocked that I’d gotten something coherent out of all the weird little insights and vignettes. (She’d compared Harrison Ford to a chair, for instance.) Toward the end, the journals became rambling and only semi-coherent. I told her, “I stopped typing when it turned into ‘Finnegan’s Wake.’” This made her laugh (making someone hilarious laugh is always a proud moment), and she said, “’Finnegan’s Wake’!!”
I gave her a big pitch about how much people would LOVE to read her diaries in Newsweek, and how the headline could be, “Postcards from the Edge of the Galaxy.” She said she’d have to think about it—and bounce the idea off a friend. It turned out that the friend was Meryl Streep. Carrie read the excerpt to her over the phone. Meryl apparently loved it and roared with laughter, then said something along the lines of, “You CANNOT f–king publish that.”
Carrie wrote a great, funny piece for Newsweek, as originally planned. I convinced her to include a passage I loved from her diaries about her long-ago “crush” on Ford: “I’ve got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”
I sent back my only copy of the excerpt so she’d know that I’d never leak it or use it against her. I saw her in New York City a few weeks later. She was getting ready to go out on the town with a cool/ famous journalist friend, of whom she said, out-of-earshot, “She went on ONE date with Paul Simon. Now she thinks SHE’S his ex-wife.”
Just by weird coincidence, I interviewed Dan Ackroyd for something later that day. He told me that he’d almost married Carrie Fisher once (did you know that? I don’t think I’d known that) and obviously really loved/cherished her as a friend. I told him she was staying at the Parker Meridien, and he went over to surprise her, and later she thanked me because she hadn’t seen him in a long time and considered him one of the world’s great people.
Carrie published her new book, “The Princess Diarist,” just recently, and it has a lot of great stuff from the diaries I read. I’m really glad it’s out there in the world—and, like all of you, I’m just devastated to find out today that she herself is not.