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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Carrie Fisher: Memories of a Birthday Cake and a Dear Friend

I wasn’t the only guest from Southwestern Indiana at Carrie Fisher’s 50th birthday party in September 2006. Carrie’s friend, the actor, and director Michael Rosenbaum from Newburgh, Indiana, invited me, magazine staff photographer Jesse Southerland, and my pal Jill Wilderman — a Hollywood producer at the time, from Poseyville, Indiana, now working in Nashville. Like millions of fans around the globe, I am sad over the way-too-early death of Carrie. Her death on Dec. 27 after suffering a massive heart attack on a Dec. 23 return flight from London to Los Angeles prompts me to recall the incredible evening I spent at her Coldwater Canyon estate, a home that once belonged to Bette Davis. The reason for my visit was to profile Rosenbaum for the January/February 2007 issue of Evansville Living.

From the moment we walked up the enchanting drive to Carrie Fisher’s famed Hollywood compound … we knew we were in for a special evening. It was an intimate party for about 90 of her closest friends. We were amazed to be sipping champagne amid celebrities like Ms. Fisher and her lovely mother Debbie Reynolds, and others, including Sharon Stone, Matthew Perry, Robert Downey Jr., Courtney Love, Beverly D’Angelo, Greg Kinnear, and Megan Mullally.

The most amazing aspect of the evening, though, was Michael. It was Michael, the kid from Newburgh, who absconded the Princess Leia-styled cap, hand-knitted by guest Tracy Ullman
for Ms. Fisher’s birthday present, and wore it through the buffet line. It was Michael who encouraged me to meet the famous architect Frank Gehry. And, when it was time to honor the birthday hostess, against a backdrop of slick Hollywood videos projected on a giant screen nestled in the trees, it was Michael Rosenbaum and George Lucas who sang the loudest and presented Ms. Fisher with the cake.

I reached out to Michael yesterday to offer my condolences; I knew he adored Carrie and she adored him. He shared his sentiments:

“Carrie was unlike anyone I have ever met. Although she will always be remembered as the Princess to many people across the world, she was much more than that to me. She inspired me to write and when I first started Smallville I was staying at a fancy Hollywood hotel where I was partying a little too much and she told me to get my shit together. She offered me to stay at her house in a bungalow all her friends stayed at. Meryl Streep, Richard Dreyfus, and others. I ended up staying for three months. That was who she was. Her doors were always open. I think I was the most creative during that time. I watched her work ethic and got to really understand the business. She was not only a great friend but a mentor and someone I always will remember fondly. Once while I was filming Smallville, she flew up to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with her daughter Billie and her assistant Kim and told me we were taking a road trip to see the Northern lights near Whistler. We piled into my van, drove up to Whistler and had an epic few days. She was daring, adventurous, and brilliant. I’m heartbroken by her loss, but I’m extremely thankful I was able to share so many great times with her.”

[As we prepared to make this post, we learned of the death of Carrie’s mother Debbie Reynolds just one day after her daughter’s death. I will remember her as sweet and pretty — I would have immediately recognized her — and the welcoming hug she gave me at her daughter’s party. Debbie and her granddaughter Billie Lourd both made sure I helped myself to the fried chicken buffet and asked if I was having a good time.]

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