LOS ANGELES—Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher graced the stage together one more time during a joyous memorial service Saturday at Forest Lawn cemetery in front of family, fans, friends, a dog, a parrot and even Star Wars droid R2-D2.
Todd Fisher, Reynolds’ son and Fisher’s brother, organized and hosted the two-hour event, making sure to put plenty of show business and laughs into the festivities to honour the mother and daughter who died within 24 hours of each other in December. Fisher, who was 60, and Reynolds, who was 84, are buried side by side in Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
“I am calling it a show because my mother didn’t like memorials, she liked shows,” Todd Fisher said from the stage. “This show was designed to be like in our living room, as if we were all a big family having a memorial for two amazing people.”
Reynolds’ dog Dwight was front and centre, along with Fisher’s parrot, a gift from music mogul David Geffen. Dan Aykroyd, who was once engaged to Fisher, gave a moving speech, along with Fisher’s childhood friends, security expert Gavin de Becker and producer Griffin Dunne.
The cemetery’s 1,200-seat theatre was filled with well-wishers. Overflow seats were needed for the event, which was streamed live on Reynolds’ website.
Fisher’s daughter, Scream Queens actress Billie Lourd, was scheduled to attend, but didn’t. However, Lourd was featured in a moving clip that showed Reynolds’ final show in Las Vegas in 2014. The clip featured Lourd singing with her mother Fisher.
After the service concluded, Fisher told USA TODAY he hadn’t heard from Lourd directly but understood her decision.
“This is emotional. It can tear your heart out,” he acknowledged. “We’re all feeling it. And try being 24 and feeling it.
“Everyone is having a hard time. Don’t think any of this is easy just because we’re up there (on stage),” said Fisher. “This is tough time on all of us. Billie is feeling the loss, we all are. Some of us are better at faking it and getting through the show. I don’t think it’s important to come here and break down in front of a bunch of people.”
Fisher said he had not spoken to Lourd on Saturday, but said he spoke to her father, talent agent Bryan Lourd, on Friday night.
Gary, Carrie’s beloved French bulldog, was also absent. Fisher said Gary is being well looked after by Carrie’s longtime assistant.
In an emotional moment, R2-D2 rolled onto the stage and gave plaintive droid whistles near an empty spotlit director’s chair bearing the name of the Star Wars actress, who was known and beloved around the world as Princess Leia. Fisher’s brother knelt down and gave the droid a hug.
Aykroyd talked lovingly about the “electric and enchanting” Fisher, even though he found she was having long conversations with singer Paul Simon, her ex, “with whom she was trying to reconcile during our relationship.” He had no hard feelings, calling Simon “a much better choice.”
The actor/comedian, who starred with Fisher in 1980’s The Blues Brothers, said he and Fisher took blood tests in anticipation of having children.
“Christmas and babies were great joys for Carrie,” said Aykroyd, who pondered, “How would the offspring of Princess Leia and Elwood Blues have turned out?” (He surmised that baby “would be Todd Fisher.”)
Dunne remembered his conversations with Fisher as she was filming 1977’s Star Wars. She thought it was going to be a major flop.
“She’d go, ‘Oh, my God! This movie is so stupid. There’s no set, it’s this green screen and this big ape chases me around,’” Dunne recalled. “She said, ‘It’s called Star Wars. It’s stupid, terrible.’ “
But after seeing the film’s world premiere, he said Fisher was blown away.
“She knew that movies were never going to be the same, and we just knew Carrie’s life was never going to be the same,” Dunne said.
Co-stars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill weren’t present, except in clips shown from the movies. But Hamill made it clear he was there in spirit, revealing on Twitter that she once threatened to “heckle his funeral” if he died before her and said he knew “she would also want us all to laugh today.”
Fisher’s close friend James Blunt also wasn’t present. But his hit song “You’re Beautiful” was played on a video screen alongside images of Fisher. The song was written on a piano located in Fisher’s bathroom.
Blunt also unveiled a new song written for Fisher with the lyrics, “When you left without saying goodbye, I’m here to let you know, I’m here to let you go.”