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2016 took a lot of things from us: non-chipped credit cards, my dignity, and general acceptance of the operational benefits of oil pipelines. One of the worst blows of all was the loss of everyone’s favorite Space Princess, the beloved Carrie Fisher.
Carrie was a lot of things to her fans and audience. Even one my close friends who frequently goes on Facebook to make fun of people for mourning celebrities they never knew took a moment of pause and posted a long, personal tribute. Which is why it’s no surprise that the outrage over “offensive tweets” has been stronger than usual, affecting such a wide range of public figures from Steve Martin to Cinnabon. People just dealing with grief, I guess.
When I woke up to the news, I was pretty sad, too. But it immediately made me think of this story I heard a couple months ago from an old guy in first class on a flight to DC, and haven’t figured out how to tell until now. If you’re wondering what Carrie Fisher was like in person, apparently she was pretty bad ass, and tons of fun to drink with.
So everybody wants a good “plane story.” We are all bound by the same laws of physics, and even the rich and famous have to fly places. You ever see that picture of Bernie Sanders asleep in coach? What I wouldn’t give to have the middle seat next to that asshat. We would have had a hell of a conversation.
But I digress. For short distances, most of the rich and famous besides Bernie will fly private, so you’re never going to see them. But for long haul flights, a first class ticket at exactly the right time could put a regular schlub like you or me right next to one of our idols.
That’s what happened to me. In 1996, I was a broker in my mid-thirties, and flying from New York to LA. They let me fly in first on the company account, because it was sort of an early flight and they wanted me to be comfortable. Anyway, I get sat next to a slightly older lady in dark glasses. I’ve never been good at recognizing celebrities, but when one of the flight attendants called her “Miss Fisher” I sort of guessed who it was.
Not that I needed to. She struck up a conversation pretty quickly and told me herself. She was probably a couple drinks in and in a very good mood by the time we got in the air. She wasted no time in trying to be friendly.
I remember her making me do these vodka shots with her out of those little bottles, and she drained them like a college kid. She called me a “little bitch” when I grimaced after the pull, because it’s been a long time since I’ve done that kind of thing.
We talked a lot about drugs, too. She asked me, since I worked in finance in the ’80s, if I ever snorted, shot anything, or got involved in that stereotypical stuff with Asian prostitutes and that kind of thing. When I said no, she kept making all these jokes about orgies and drug retreats she went on after Star Wars. I honestly wished I’d asked more questions, but I guess I was sort of star-struck and didn’t want to pry.
The best part of the flight was after Carrie had ordered like four more of those little bottles and the flight crew got mad because you were supposed to be drinking them in a drink or with a mixer or something.
She said, “It’s like a martini without all the bullshit.”
The flight crew still wouldn’t bring her what she wanted, so she started screaming.
“Do you know who I am? I’M PRINCESS FUCKING LEIA!”
I laughed so hard I almost threw up.
It’s common knowledge now that she was struggling with a lot of issues, and Carrie was forthcoming about them, but I had a blast flying with her. She must have been in what you’d call her “manic” phase, because she was the most fun person on that early morning flight.
Have you read that Wishful Drinking book she published a few years ago? It’s full of good stuff. She’s pretty famous for being in your face.
I wish I could go to a proper party with her. I’m sure it would be off the charts.
There you have it. Despite the sadness of her addiction issues, at her best, Princess Leia could drink any of you under the table.
RIP Carrie Fisher..
Image via Shutterstock