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Ellen Gray: Carrie Fisher takes 'Wishful Drinking' to HBO

WISHFUL DRINKING. 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO. CARRIE FISHER has one of those voices that we don't tend to associate with clean living.


CARRIE FISHER has one of those voices that we don't tend to associate with clean living.

Deep, a little raspy, it's a voice made for storytelling.

Good thing she has stories to tell.

The actress/writer/addict daughter of Debbie Reynolds and South Philly's Eddie Fisher has been up and down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass and has made a few round trips to a galaxy far, far away.

On Sunday night, you can hear all about her travels - and even check out some the snapshots - as HBO presents "Wishful Drinking," a feature-length documentary based on Fisher's one-woman show, a biographical tour de force whose high points include a course in "Hollywood 101" couplings and de-couplings that would put genealogists to shame, a discussion of what it's like to wake up next to a friend's dead body and a sometimes terrifying examination of certain "Star Wars" memorabilia.

Filmed in June, a few months before her father died at age 82, "Wishful Drinking" names names in its caustic account of Fisher's childhood, adolescence, marriages and mental-health adventures.

That the older Fisher as well as the still-living people involved - including her own two ex-husbands - actually signed off on the project might be a tribute to the storyteller's charm or merely her veracity, but sign off they did, Fisher insisted in a meeting with TV critics in early August.

"I cleared everything I say in it about anybody with [them] because I didn't want to make people uncomfortable."

And, yes, that apparently includes her mother, whom she's been skewering in print since the semiautobiographical "Postcards from the Edge."

"Well, I'm out of the will," Fisher joked when asked how Reynolds had reacted to the show.

"But she doesn't have any money anyway. My mom is like any mother. She's actually glad that I'm doing this kind of show because she thinks it's kind of like a nightclub, so I finally can understand her. So my rebellion all my life was not doing a nightclub act. Not drugs, all that stuff was fine. But the nightclub act thing, she's happy about that."

For those who'd still like to hear Reynolds' side of the story, HBO's provided an extensive interview with Fisher's force-of-nature mother that's available through HBO On Demand, in which she insists, "I laughed myself silly" when she saw Fisher's show.

Sounding a bit like her daughter, the thrice-married actress confides, "I have very poor taste in men, so that's why you don't see any in my house."

She's also learned another lesson: "Don't tell Carrie a secret, or it'll be a book."

Though a lot of what Fisher talks about isn't likely to be much of a secret to anyone who grew up reading the National Enquirer, she's happy to provide translations for younger audience members, explaining the scandal in which her father left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor more than 50 years ago, in terms of Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.

"I did point that out to Brad once at a party. He pretended at least to know what I was talking about," she told reporters.

Unlike Pitt's career, though, Eddie Fisher's was never the same after the scandal.

"But it wasn't simply divorce that destroyed him, it just was kind of every choice after that. It was drugs, it was Connie Stevens, it was the Playmate of the Year, it was, you know, Ms. Louisiana, marrying her. My dad, he's not the sort of bastion of good judgment, but he's really fun," she said.

It probably didn't help that the singer, as one reporter suggested, had been billed as a "boy-next-door" type.

"Who could ever live up to" that? replied his daughter.

"But, you know, boy-next-door, he grew up in South Philly, you know, in the big family. His father worked in a luggage store."

Her parents were, she said, "I mean, not that riveting, but they were never really in love.

"They loved being loved, in a way. As a couple - my mother said, 'We went into Yankee Stadium one time, and 30,000 people stood up and cheered.' So literally they were a concept that was born in a publicity office practically, and they embraced being embraced."

Then, pretending to cry, she added jokingly, "It's the saddest life ever."

Good thing, then, that she's figured out what to do with it.

Photo faux pas

A photo that ran in the TV highlights Dec. 1 was, of course, of fashion photographer (and "America's Next Top Model" judge) Nigel Barker, not designer Roberto Cavalli.

Cavalli, who was a guest judge on the show that night, looks, according to one sharp-eyed (and sharp-penned) Daily News reader, "like Leonid Brezhnev, or maybe an Italian Andy Rooney with dyed black eyebrows, not suave like this fellow [Barker]."

And you thought critics were merciless. *

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