Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dick Remembering Mary

She was 23 years old, gorgeous of course, and had a kind of mid-Atlantic accent. She sounded a little bit like Katharine Hepburn. My first question was, “Can this girl do comedy?” After that I said, “She’s a little young for me.” I got to be on hand and watch her grow into the talent she became. She was just the best.  

I don’t know what made her comic timing so great. On Dick Van Dyke, we had Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, both of whom were old hams and had razor-sharp timing, and mine wasn’t bad either. But Mary just picked it up so fast. She had us all laughing after a couple of episodes. She just grabbed onto the character and literally turned us into an improv group, it was so well-oiled. That show was the best five years of my life.

I remember when we all won Emmys. We were nominated — or at least I was — for the first years and there was no comedy category. We lost to The Defenders. It wasn’t until 1966 that they added a comedy category, and that year we all won. My God, we were excited. We had also been cancelled!

The funny thing was, after the show went off the air, Mary had the reputation of being the wife, the woman who brings the coffee. So we cooked up this special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman where we showed off everything she could do, and that somehow changed CBS’ mind and that’s how she got The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It fell into the hands of great writers. It was a milestone, that show. It kicked off an awful lot of enthusiasm in a lot of women. She got it moving! Thank God she ended up with Carl Reiner and those writers, who just understood her and what she did. The episode when Chuckles the Clown died? She was at the funeral and she was crying and suddenly, as she recalled him, she began to laugh. It was a performance that had me on the floor! It was just masterful comedy.

In 2012, I got to present her with her SAG Life Achievement award. She had moved to upstate New York and was already beginning to succumb to the diabetes, so outside of talking to her and her husband Robert, I didn’t see her unless it was an occasion like the SAG Awards. That night, she had trouble seeing, so they had to bring her onstage in the dark. For me, it was a payoff moment. A culmination. Outside of her family, I don’t think there was anyone more proud of her than I was. Just to watch her grow was such a thrill for me. She left an imprint on television comedy.
-Dick Van Dyke

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Daughter & Mother Eternal Bond

Carrie Fisher
 When news first broke that Carrie Fisher had a heart attack while on the plane and was in stable but critical condition, I prayed for her. I was hoping that she would survive- there are heart attack survivors. 2016 had been a doozy of a year, probably more celebrity deaths than usual. It was s doozy for me personally too (at this time, I am keeping that to myself. I don't want everything about me broadcast on the Internet!). Carrie still had a lot to live for. More books to be released. Another 2 Star Wars movies (one she managed to complete; the other will have to find a way to go on without Princess Leia). More acting jobs. Carrie lived through Christmas. Her last Christmas. Still in a coma. She never woke up. Spent with her brother, sisters, daughter, and mother around her bedside. She had so many people pulling for her, wanting to survive. But... a few short days later, Carrie succumbed. She joined her father, Eddie Fisher, in Heaven.
Debbie Reynolds
   About 24 hours later, news came in that her mother, Debbie Reynolds, was rushed to the hospital on a possible stroke. In the evening, her death was announced. As it turned out, Debbie's brain hemorrhage and she had no chance. Many, including me, believe she died of a broken heart. Carrie was Debbie's first born- no question that she loved her son, Todd, just the same- but there's something about firstborns that make the bond even more special. Debbie wanted more time for Carrie during those four lingering days. The next day, she told Todd that she missed Carrie and wanted to be with her. I don't think Debbie actually wanted to die- she still had her son and her granddaughter, Carrie's daughter, Billie Lourd, to be there for. She was a grieving mother- I am sure all mothers who lost a child have felt this way. Debbie was no different. She raised Carrie and Todd on her own, literally. Their father, Eddie, drifted in and out- depending who you believe of why. Not long after she said those words, Debbie went unconscious, soon died in the hospital with her son by her side. Poor Todd and Billie, they had to plan two funerals. Yet, they were comforted by the thought that Carrie and Debbie are together again. Carrie's (half) sisters, Joely and Trisha Fisher, felt that Debbie didn't have long to live after Carrie died. Debbie probably also wanted to piss off Eddie by coming too.
I was out on errands when I received a text from a friend with news of Carrie's death. I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. I wouldn't say I am a huge fan, but I like Carrie. She had a great sense of humor and a talented actress and writer. I had to take more than one moments to pull myself together to breathe while I was barely breathing. It didn't help that I also had Aunt Flo visiting me that week. It was a sad day. The next day, it was in the evening, when I again got a text from the same friend with news of Debbie's death. I didn't gasp for breath as I did with Carrie, but my heart sank. I felt so bad for Todd and Billie, Joely and Trisha.
Rest in Peace Mary Frances Reynolds & Carrie Frances Fisher