Look, I’m not wearing black. I also haven’t been taking to the streets, wailing, sobbing snot bubbles or shaking my fist at the sky.
What I have been doing ever since twitter told me Carrie Fisher had died at the age of 60 is reading a lot about her and feeling sad. Carrie Fisher, my Princess Leia. This isn’t an obituary, you need a writer to do it justice, this is just fan mail that didn’t make it. I met her once, I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty amazing.
I grew up in a largely female dominated family under the watchful eye of a wonderful matriarch in the shape of my Gran, so my life didn’t need another positive, wilful or strong woman character but Princess Leia managed it. I was too young to fancy her, that came later. I didn’t need her for lusting after, I needed her to lead the rebellion, end the Empire and kill a slug shaped space gangster.
A lot of men and quite a few women have told me that they get all ‘loinsy’ when they see Leia, skimpily clad-out as a slave girl for Jabba the Hutt’s (and their) pleasure. When I saw her in the gold bikini whilst sitting in Fishguard Cinema in 1986, all I was thinking was ‘I hope Han Solo is ok after all that time being frozen in carbonite’. She did creep in there though when thoughts turned to ‘if there is an escape how is she going to fight her way out dressed like that?’ she did though, of course she did, I should never have doubted her.
It was that saucy fox Madonna who, as a teenager made me leave the sitting room or failing that put a cushion on my lap whenever she came on the telly. When I looked at Carrie Fisher as Leia, I saw strength and beauty. I loved her like a brother but not a brother who would fancy her and kiss her on the mouth like Luke Skywalker did, the dirty sod.
As I have already stated, I am an unashamed Star Wars fan and her lead role in the initial trilogy meant that I’ve been interested in her life and her career. I don’t really understand why but those films deeply impacted on a young boy from a few miles outside Fishguard (St Davids Road to Panteg and then its three big fields…yes fields as a measure of distance, across). It was Star Wars comics that started me on the road to love reading and it was Han Solo, the utterly cool scoundrel that helped me realise I didn’t have to be good all the time but only when it mattered. So when I saw Carrie Fisher on an old episode of Sex in the City or read one of her irregular and usually bonkers tweets, I was happy to see an old friend and catch up with how she was doing.
I’ve read a couple of her books, Wishful Drinking, which really is a bound copy of a script she put together for her tour of the same name in 2008 and Shockaholic from 2011 in which she sheds light on other chapters of her life, like her friendship with Michael Jackson and the relationship with her dad.
She was honest, bluntly so and I love the way she wrote with a confidence and a laissez-faire manner. Her talent for comedy and her self-depreciation is laid bare to the reader but throughout you get the feeling of vulnerability. She laughed off issues and times of her life which obviously hurt and damaged her, in many cases you join in but sometimes with a sense of…..well…pity I suppose and I think she’d accept that and hate it in equal measure.
In 2014 she was due to appear at the Hay festival and Mrs Mathias, organised as ever, booked tickets faster than I could say ‘Governor Tarkin’s foul stench’. She booked them, not because Carrie Fisher was someone who had shaped her husband’s life and who he adored, she got them because Carrie had shaped HER life and was someone SHE adored.
I don’t share my wife’s love of a beautifully written, but altogether dark and miserable southern novel nor does she see the point in waiting around in the cold while 30 men run around a field with an oval ball with rules more complex than the creation of the Hadron collider or putting up a desk from IKEA. Star Wars we loved, Princess Leia we loved, Carrie we loved.
She didn’t let us down – it was an hour of brutality, by which I mean brutal insight, brutal honesty and brutal laugh out loud comedy.
She talked about dropping out of drama college to play Leia, she talked about her addiction, being bi-polar, appearing on stage in Vegas at 13 years old, doing drugs with her dad, Elizabeth Taylor throwing her in a swimming pool, waking up next to her dead friend, all of it in a dry, blasé way. The audience loved it and I even managed to ask a question. Afterwards we met her, the organisers told everybody that there would be no time for chatting or for photos so Carrie, along with her dog Gary (Gary Fisher, geddit?) spent the entire time chatting and having photos with every single one of us in that queue. The line was huge, she didn’t care and she was obviously knackered.
I’ve listened to the event again since she died. She laid herself bare and she told the audience she would say the awful things that had happened to her so others couldn’t; a way of finding some control in a life of little.
The title of this? Drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra? Look it up, it’s what she would’ve wanted.
I think the saying goes that you should never meet your heroes. Bollocks, you just need better heroes. I met one of mine and she was everything I hoped for.
Night night Princess, we love you.
I think you know.