When I was growing up there were two women who I had a great admiration for. The first was Judy Garland. I loved her singing, her MGM musicals and was fascinated by her life story. I found the Wizard of Oz a magical film which set off my obsession of everything Judy. The other was Carrie Fisher.
It was the summer of 1977. I was 6 years old and, as a special treat, my father took me and my younger sister and brother to London to see Star Wars: A New Hope whilst my mum went shopping. The first ‘good’ main character to appear in the film was Princess Leia and, from that moment on, I was star-struck. Not only was she beautiful but she could kick arse too! She was strong and self-assured and and charismatic. Every thing I wanted to be as I got older.
Many of my school friends saw the film that summer and, when we returned to school in the September, Star Wars was the playground game of choice. Me and my ‘boyfriend’ Richard played this game every break time with me as Leia and him as Luke coming to rescue me – of course, we didn’t know their relationship at that stage!
My favourite Star Wars film
In 1980, when I was 9, I really wanted to see The Empire Strikes Back at the cinema but, for one reason or another, we never got round to going. Instead, I read the book and got so engrossed in it that I can remember being on holiday on the Isle of Wight and reading it as we walked along the sea front! The love story between Han and Leia really struck a chord and it was the first piece of romance that I adored. I read the piece where they first kissed over and over again and did the same when Han got encased in carbon. The end of that film I felt so sad and so full of hope that Chewie and Lando would find Solo especially for Leia. I can still remember seeing the film and it remains my favourite of the Star Wars films to this day.
Then, the summer of 1983 when I was 12 years old, we went to see Return of the Jedi. Leia rescues Han and throughout the film their relationship continued to develop – with Han’s jealousy of Luke and then the realisation as he discovered that Luke was Leia’s twin brother. I wanted them to live happily ever after. And, for a time they did.
Carrie’s other memorable roles
As you can see from this, Princess Leia was a part of my life for 6 years. My most formative ones. To me, Carrie Fisher was Leia in real life too. Her honesty, her battles with addiction and advocacy for mental health together with her humour and personality made for a colourful character which not only reminded me of my other female icon, Judy Garland, but also completely endeared me towards her. I found her a wonderful role model and would relish any film she appeared in. This included the Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally, Hannah and her Sisters and, probably my most second favourite role of hers, Janie in Drop Dead Fred. I even relished the fact that she voiced the character of Angela, Peter Griffin’s boss, in Family Guy.
A return to the big screen
When Carrie Fisher returned to the big screen last December in The Force Awakens, I couldn’t wait. A piece of my childhood had returned – albeit with the fact that both she and I were 32 years older! I can remember feeling disheartened that Leia and Han were not together. But it wasn’t a break up that had gone bad, more of one that had gone sad. Han had done his usual thing of running away from trouble. The first exchange Leia and Han had in the film was a real moment for me. It felt like my life had gone full circle.
There is another recollection in all of this. Debbie Reynolds appeared in one of my most favourite films of all time, Singin’ in the Rain. Debbie Reynolds is, of course, Carrie’s mother and the MGM musical was to me, something that connected both of my female icons.
In the same way I feel that Go West and their music has had a big role to play, Carrie Fisher has formed a part of the tapestry of my life. Out of all the well known people that have passed away this year, it was no wonder that I shed many tears yesterday when I heard of her loss. In fact, as I write this, more fall. I am so grateful to this strong, incredible woman for being such an inspiration to me. As she requested once for her obituary ‘May she be drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra’. Thank you Carrie for being a part of my history.