Carrie Fisher is unrecognizable, if you're looking for a slim girl with huge braids stuck to each side of her head. That shouldn't be surprising. Princess Leia has been out of action for 27 years, since Return of the Jedi came out.
"As you age, it's about dignity," Fisher, 54 and a good 75 pounds heavier than the princess, says in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking, as she throws dignity aside and slaps on a Leia wig to riff about being a Pez dispenser and a shampoo ("Lather up with Leia and you'll feel like a princess yourself!").
Humor provides the dignity in the one-woman show, which gets its TV premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Fisher chooses to deal with her crazy life as a real-life American princess by laughing at it, and viewers get the chance for plenty of laughs, too.
She has been addicted to pills and cocaine, spent time in a mental institution, and undergone electroshock therapy. Her picture - as Princess Leia, natch - appears at the top of the chapter on bipolar disorder in an abnormal-psychology textbook. Her daughter's father is gay, and a few years ago she woke to find a dead man in her bed. (It was R. Gregory Stevens, a gay Republican political operative, dead from an overdose of OxyContin compounded by obstructive sleep apnea.)
Fisher staged the delightfully disjointed and frenetic one-woman show on Broadway - at Studio 54, fittingly - last fall. Last summer HBO filmed a special performance at the South Orange (N.J.) Performing Arts Center.
The daughter of the (onetime) king and queen of Hollywood, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Fisher spends about a third of the 75-minute show with a board tracing the marital antics of her relatives in a segment called "Hollywood Inbreeding 101."
When Carrie was 2, Eddie famously dumped the darling Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor, who was devastated when her third husband, and Eddie's good friend, Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. Her dad, Carrie says, "flew to Elizabeth's side, gradually making his way to her front."
They were married almost five years before Liz left him for Richard Burton, whom she married twice. Eddie had four wives; Liz has had seven husbands; Debbie has had three. But all fall short of the record of Debbie's second husband's second (and third) wife, Marie "The Body" McDonald, who, Carrie Fisher says, was married nine times.
Fisher says she has herself been married twice, for a year to Paul Simon after a six-year relationship and then to Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd, who shaved his head and left her for a man.
"I make them bald. I turn them gay. My work is done."
There's some question whether Lourd and Fisher were ever actually married, but no question that they had a daughter, Billie, who apparently started the whole Hollywood genealogical investigation when she asked if it would be OK for her to date Quinn Tivey, who is the son of Liza Todd, and Elizabeth Taylor's grandson.
It's clear Carrie Fisher still loves her parents, both of whom qualify to be called at least eccentric, even if she does label the family "white trash" because Debbie's from El Paso and Eddie's from South Philly.
Reading that, South Philly residents (and those from El Paso, too) will probably take offense, but Fisher's observations about herself ("I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. I am apparently very, very good at it, and I get honored for it regularly") take a lot of the sting out of any offhand criticism she throws at others.
Eddie Fisher died Sept. 22, after this show was recorded, and it's dedicated to him. Carrie says that he's "adorable" and "unbelievably charming" and that she and her brother, Todd, called him "Puff Daddy" because he smoked five joints a day.
Carrie's pretty charming herself, if not quite so adorable. And very smart. She acknowledges that the show is self-centered and solipsistic (which means self-centered), and, from time to time, you do start to wonder, "Am I really that interested in this crazy lady?"
But then she'll say, "I like to think of celebrity as just obscurity biding its time," and it's back to laughing and marveling that a person could not only survive such an insane life, but emerge with a sense of humor cooking on all eight cylinders.