When she was a contract player at MGM Studios, Debbie met a man who was the BIGGEST recording star of the 1950s. HIs name was Eddie Fisher. When they got married, they were America's Sweethearts. Eddie was Debbie's first love and her first divorce. Eddie's best friend was movie producer, Mike Todd, who was dating/engaged to Elizabeth Taylor. When Mike & Elizabeth got married, Eddie was Mike's best man and Debbie was Elizabeth's matron-of-honor. When Mike was killed in a plane crash, Debbie took care of Mike & Elizabeth's children. Eddie consoled Elizabeth. Then Eddie left Debbie and their 2 children: Carrie & Todd for Elizabeth.
Debbie's 2ND husband was a distinguished shoe tycoon. Harry Karl, who couldn't run. With Harry Debbie got, not just care, but stability for her and her children. Harry's MAJOR downfall wzs gambling. After 13 years, he had gone through ALL of his money then went through ALL of hers. When Debbie found out, everything fell apart. Debbie vowed never to be in that type of situation again. She had to work to earn back everything that was gone to rebuild her life. Even though Debbie had only known Richard Hamlett for a short time, marrying him just felt right. Debbie was glad to have a copy of a pre-nub given by Ruta Lee for Debbie to protect herself just in case. Carrie was unable to attend her mother's wedding due to having a terrible head cold. When calling Carrie to check in on her, Carrie's voice scared Debbie. Even though she had a reception party going on, Debbie just wanted to be at her daughter's side. She just posed and was present, not letting on that she was scared to death about Carrie.
After Debbie found news of Carrie's whereabouts, Carrie was facedown, asleep on the floor, FULLY dressed. The windows were open and the TV was on. A doctor was called and Carrie was given the treatment she needed. It was NOT an overdose. Someone was w/ Carrie until was out of danger. Many hours later, Debbie was in TRUE GRATITUDE to those who cared for her daughter. After Carrie was well enough to fly back to the States, instead of going to London, Todd went to Los Angeles and met his sister at home. After knowing Carrie was safe, Debbie would see her new husband in a different light. While on her honeymoon cruise, when it was check out time back in Florida, Debbie noticed a large sum of charges in the ship's casino. She just thought it was excitement & entertainment. After they arrived, Debbie & Richard were a reception by friends to meet Richard. During the second half of the party, at dinner, Richard was NOT feeling well. Debbie had taken his temperature which was VERY HIGH. After being instructed & taken to the nearest hospital and after being admitted, he was treated w/ new treatment that prevented surgery for a leaking hole-in-the-heart. He was in CRITICAL condition. Debbie stayed w/ her new husband and tended to him night & day, becoming an INCREDIBLE bonding experience. She enjoyed it because it drew them closer.
|Elizabeth & John|
Once Richard's health restored, Debbie worried about him more and was determined to help him any way she could. Helping because she loved her husband, but ignoring the behavior. Debbie's loans seemed to relieve her husband's stress. He made her feel needed & special. Not seeing the signs, they both felt safe. After 2 months of a combination Florence Nightingale & Stepford Wife, Debbie was eager to return to her career and work. Although Carrie missed her mother's wedding, they became close in the years that followed. Family life was good. Taking family vacations to many exotic locations. Rene Russo was Todd's girlfriend at the time. He would take home movies of their adventures. When they weren't traveling, Debbie split her time between Roanoke & Hollywood. By the late 1980s, Todd was busy building a ranch. When Carrie was in When Harry Met Sally, she arranged for Richard to play her father walking her down the aisle in a cameo role. Debbie was on a multi-city tour of a musical version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The show reunited Debbie w/ her co-star Harve Presnell. Touring was exhausting.
|Debbie & Shirley|
The switch from movie star pitchwoman to kitchen help came more easy than expected. The entire hotel received a FULL makeover worthy of Hollywood. EVERY penny. ALL the income earned from the dance studio went to furniture and overhead. Meanwhile, Richard was preoccupied w/ retail space. He treated the hotel like a mall. Debbie was part of a great dog/pony show as Richard made deals faster than it was to count them. Many friends pitched in to help. The transformation process was exciting, fun & exhausting. With any process, there were the unexpected problems. If someone screwed up a major job, someone else had to come in to fix up the costly mistakes. There was ALOT of questionable activity. When asked or challenged of his authority, Richard was REAL defensive. Debbie was colorblind when seeing RED flags. The Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino finally opened in the last weekend in June 1993. Not every room was ready for occupants, but they were in business.
There was still work to be done. But one at a time. Rip Taylor was their first tenant. He agreed to be their first opening act. Debbie utilized her time doing whatever it took to bring in business. Word got out that the hotel was a great place to visit and everyone stopped by. Debbie wasn't taking home a salary, but she enjoyed making others happy. Debbie wanted Todd to build the showroom on the first floor of the hotel. It was to be called The Star Theater. Todd was an expert at the job. Richard HAD TO oversee the work. Todd was willing to stay in Vegas upon job completion, although his own life was in CA. Richard tried to challenge Todd's expertise. Todd KNEW what he was doing. It was agreed that Todd would just stick to his portion of the business, plunging head-on into construction. Todd envisioned a room w/ 500 seats that would resemble The Rat Pack room where his parents had also performed.
After Debbie's lawyer sent her a copy of the deed to a Bel-Air property, somehow Richard's name was added to it. After what she'd gone through w/ Harry Karl, Debbie insisted that all new properties were put in her name only. Old insecurities of insecurity washing over. After he got home, many hours later, Debbie was sure that Richard was hiding something. He wanted to talk outside. Debbie could feel her marriage hanging in the balance. She wanted to get everything out in the open. He wanted to talk while flush-faced w/ rage. Debbie wanted her property back. He finally signed the deed papers. After an incident that would've occurred if Debbie hadn't been sneaky to hide from him. She called security and instructed they remove Richard's name from ANY part of the building and NEVER let him back in. It was over. Debbie and Richard were DONE!
Eddie may have left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor. The hurt really endured when he ignored the children: Carrie & Todd. That was the most hurtful. Debbie says it best: Out of ALL 3 men: Harry & Richard both killed them financially when they left. Eddie began to look like the good husband. At least, he just left. With Richard, Debbie feared for her life as well as the security of her family. Her finances were in ruins and had 2 kids to support. Debbie did what she HAD to do: she worked at the hotel. Putting on a show through every heartbreak. After Richard left the apartment, she hasn't seen him since until she had to sit down w/ him. Richard seemed as cold as ice. While resolving what to do, he told her he was in it for the money. Thinking/saying smugly that she'll never get rid of him. After letting those words sink in, he gave her a challenge to beat him. You think so, watch me!
After Richard was gone, everyone came in from out of the woodwork claiming for their portion of ownership of the hotel. They were calling in dues owed. ALL of this fell into Debbie's lap. In March, hoping to stem the tide of lawsuits as well as the foreclosure, they merged w/ Maxim Properties from Colorado, who put up cash to help build them out of the original loan. It seemed like a CONSTANT battle. Those who came calling Richard's debts, they wanted their due. But, Debbie did as well. So, Debbie seen it as: If you find him, tell him. While you're at it, tell me when/where you find him. Debbie KNEW she needed a divorce from Richard and KNEW it was going to cost. After hearing from him again, Debbie began feeling all of the hurt/shame she'd felt. After getting off the phone from him, she turned the matter over for an attorney to handle. Now they both had lawyers. In spite of everything, Richard was still claiming ownership of the hotel. After all of what had been done already, Debbie decided after doing a 2ND show on a Sunday that she had to take matters into her own hands. When the going got tough . . . . the tough got going . . . . to Virginia.
Debbie left Vegas for Virginia to return in 2 days in time for her next show. Richard's bookkeeper was prepared to let Debbie copy whatever she needed from his office. Once they finished packing Debbie's belongings, they were taken to Richard's office, where they would get/have the granted access to the files to be copied. NOT the same ones from the house. Todd went to work copying them, as well as the hard drive from the computer. Richard was less than honest in informing Debbie about his dealings. The properties were not in Debbie's name NOR were they in Richard's. He was backdating the deeds while transferring the real estate to his girlfriend, Jane Parker. Some of them were in the names of others. Their next stop was the county treasurers office.
They found copies of paperwork that became a game of "deed roulette", with Richard having multiple names of others. SOMETHING COMPLETELY CONFUSING! Debbie wanted copies of ALL of the deeds to unravel what Richard did. Then came notices to Richard from the county for overdue taxes amounting $31,183.00. No surprise! Debbie was COMPLETELY Betrayed! He did something that is VERY HARD to do: He broke her pension by emptying it to invest in his own companies & numerous other properties. Once they were ALL packed up, they headed for the airport. Debbie was SO GRATEFUL for EVERYONE'S help to expose Richard and hopefully recover from all of this.
After Debbie's raid on Roanoke, she NEVER heard a word from Richard. The files and paperwork from Virginia were enough to keep busy. When she returned to Vegas, Debbie had to confront the end of her third marriage. A few days after getting back, Debbie had a spell of global amnesia similar to one she had a decade earlier in March 1983. Hoping to relax and maybe have fun, Debbie was invited on a cruise to the Mediterranean. It was a wonderful break away from this stress. When she returned, her life consisted of being w/ the wealthy one day; dead broke the next. There was NO money ANYWHERE while still working as hard as she did. Richard transferred properties into the names of others and backdated the deed to when it wouldn't be declared in their divorce settlement. The details of Richard's deceits became TOO MUCH.
|Steve Wynn and Wynn Casinos|
Debbie & Todd took everyone's advice and made Todd a CEO. It was just spectacular - a brilliant gem of a museum. Todd & Debbie took pride in it. Plans were halted that made the FIRST attempt at a museum unsuccessful. Years passed w/ no activity. Then, in 1970, Debbie had read in The Hollywood Reporter that MGM was selling off their land and MORE! Well, Debbie was still under contract w/ them, so she went to the office president to find out information. MGM was in the real estate business now. They were selling Lot 2, where Singin' In The Rain was filmed, as well as countless others. MGM was looking to liquidate their holdings to raise money. The CLASSIC studio system had come to an end. Debbie's idea was to turn Lot 2 into another Disneyland. Debbie, along w/ Harry Karl & the president of CitiBank, where the bank gave Debbie 5 million to buy the Lot. Her offer wasn't accepted and someone else bought the property for the same price. Debbie tried to privately buy them, but was told to bid at the auction like everyone else. The HISTORY of Hollywood that was housed at MGM was soon sadly disappearing. Debbie bought everything she could afford. The auction lasted for 3 weeks. She was there almost everyday. The following year 20TH Century Fox did the same thing.
In 1993, one of Debbie's best friends invested in the hotel. When they got into trouble, Debbie couldn't pay him back right away. She did what she could, but she paid EVERYONE back as soon as she could. That same month, Debbie personally guaranteed a 3RD loan from Bennett Management for $2,865,000, without KNOWING how to repay it. It was used to pay off existing debts to be due August 1999. But, Bennett, was running a Ponzi scheme. They were convicted in 2000. So, Debbie never had to pay them back. Things would come up, but outside reality soon favored Debbie & Todd. Everything else was incidental. But they'd NEVER be able to get their own license. Debbie seen she was acting w/ her heart, NOT w/ her head. A dream may be nice, but it takes you OUT of reality.
The decision to do the movie was a hard one. It was a conflict: be around to save the hotel or do the movie.? She had NO IDEA how she did it. Toward the end of filming, Debbie was in overdrive. The stress of the hotel and the making of the movie soon took its toll. She finally buckled under the pressure. But, she was very proud of the work done in the movie. At the premiere, after the film screening, Debbie received a standing ovation for her work. She was so moved. Mother was the best film of 1996. Albert's script went on to win awards.
Preparing for court was not without intrigue. "Someone" who lived in a beach community in CA contacted Debbie's accountant, saying he had "knowledge of Richard Hamlett's business dealings". One of Debbie's attorney's went to this person's home for a meeting, only to be informed that they were NOT going to show ANY documents. They were also informed of that NO copies were permitted to be made. They were able to prove that Richard had taken her money and property without Debbie's knowledge or consent. When Richard finally appeared in court, he was well prepared but ineffective. As part of the divorce decree, Debbie was awarded her hotel and her shares of the properties she'd bought in Virginia. Richard was ordered to return the monies from her pension fund and to pay Debbie's attorney fees. All totaling around 9 million. Their divorce was finalized on 5-14-1996. The minute Richard was free from the marriage, he filed an appeal to deny the money he owed. He raved on about how sorry Debbie would be if she continued to pursue him. Others within Richard's party who worked in his office took Debbie's side. They were appalled at the way he was treating Debbie.
While Richard continued on w/ this, Debbie was recommended for a role in a new film: In & Out, playing a mother to Kevin Kline's character. George Burns advised Debbie to never turn down a job, you don't know they'll stop coming along. Once again, Debbie would split her time from Vegas to New York, where the movie was shot. Splitting her time between her hotel and her career. She returned to Vegas after a day of shooting to find that the trustee of the bankruptcy court in Virginia wasn't helping matters. Debbie's lawyer got a call from the trustee, saying she allowed Richard to transfer one of his assets in his brother's name. It took the trustee the ENTIRE weekend to realize she'd permitted that one of the properties transferred that Richard owned was actually worth something. That mistake cost Debbie a few million dollars. When that happened, Debbie had to make a decision: keep struggling & fighting w/ Richard OR settle for a $300,000 payment. Reluctantly, Debbie accepted it. Meanwhile, legal woes heated up in Las Vegas.
Debbie was given a summons to appear in court. This particular lawsuit was easily settled when they proved that the plaintiff had already helped himself to money from the hotel while working for them. She admits that she made many mistakes while she owned the hotel and keeping those who sued on after Richard left may have been the worst. By 1996, their cash flow problems worsened. The only thing that would save them would be investors who could get them out of this mess. Desperate times call for desperate measures. In 1994, Debbie had done a guest spot on Wings, playing Crystal Bernard's mother. Crystal & Debbie became good friends. When Debbie was hitting bottom w/ the hotel, Crystal lent her $100,000 to be repaid when she could. It took Debbie years to get ahead enough, but she did pay her back. By 1997, they had finally cleared up ALOT of trouble - but not ALL of it.
In June, Debbie was out of money. Her apartment in Vegas and her house in LA that she shared w/ her brother were both mortgaged to the hilt. To protect herself, it was neccessary for Debbie to declare bankruptcy for herself and for the hotel. Todd worked for more than a year to find backers who might be able to bail them out. That same year, Todd found a very successful timeshare developer who offered to buy 92.5% of the hotel's stock for $15.6 million. That would have paid off the creditors and stockholders and enough for the hotel to stay afloat.
It was a deal of the century that turned out to be too good to be true! It was 8-9-1998 - Black Wednesday. Everything hinged on this auction. Debbie arrived at the casino to find the room crowded w/ bidders, onlookers & press. As she waited for her cue to make the announcement, Debbie heard that her ex-husband was in the room. She looked around at the people. Some were crying for her. Tears welled in her own eyes. She could hear her voice cracking as she spoke. The WWF - World Wrestling Federation bought the hotel for $11 million. Those who wanted the hotel who thought they could do better would never be paid. This was one time when Debbie didn't feel unsinkable. The bankruptcy court upheld the sale to the hotel's new owners: the WWF.
Shortly before Debbie's role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, she began to transition to the nightclub acts when she put together her FIRST act for Vegas. As work in films decreased, her work in Vegas increased. She was happy to do it and grateful to have Roger Edens help stage her act. He'd also helped work in live shows. In July 1974, Debbie was booked to play the London Palladium. She packed up her parents and her kids and they all left for England. Todd & Carrie were both in their teens. After hearing their mother was invited to a party, Carrie & Todd were keen on going. Sometime during the night, Todd met a woman in her late 20s/early 30s named Elizabeth. (A referenced popular name in the Fisher family.) Todd was only 16, but eager to learn the facts of life. As the evening wore on, they began to see the effects as the upstairs harder partying crowd stumbling through the first floor to exit the party. One was carried out on a stretcher. Mama Cass left in the wee hours and tragically died that night at a friend's apartment where she was staying. Todd's "friend" Elizabeth moved in w/ them for the duration of their stay in London. Maxine was outraged when this was going on. Somehow between Todd's happiness and Maxine's disapproval, they managed to have a good time.
While in crisis mode, Debbie works. She delves herself into her work. Having to cut corners after the past and times were changing for a new show in 1999, Debbie's agents booked her gigs in Atlantic City on cruises and the nightclub circuit. She was GRATEFUL for any job. At the beginning of the year, Debbie received an offer to play Debra Messing's domineering mother, Bobbie, on Will & Grace. What turned into a second season guest spot became an 8-yr-run. Tailoring a part just for Debbie. The part was so much fun! Everyone was great. Megan Mullally & Carrie became good friends. Debbie went on to do 9 episodes total before the show ended in 2006. It was a terrific experience. Even though she was emotionally devastated by recent events, Debbie powered on and worked through it. Just as she did on Mother. The footprint left by Will & Grace left Debbie grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
In early 1999, Carrie called her mother to tell her that the house next door to the gate of her property was for sale. Since Debbie was done w/ Vegas for a moment, Carrie thought it would be good for her mom to be closer to Carrie & Billie. Debbie welcomed the idea! Before that, Debbie had heard news from her brother, Bill, that their mother, Maxine, was ill w/ heart disease and colon cancer. When Debbie arrived at the hospital, Maxine was in a coma. Sometime later, a nurse came in to take vitals, but Debbie KNEW her mother had passed. It had been the same for Debbie's father, Ray, 15 years prior. She had gotten to the hospital just in time. They kept the funeral for Maxine very simple. Carrie & Todd both read spiritual passages for their grandmother. When Ray passed, Carrie wrote a passage that perfectly fit her grandfather.
Even though Carrie & Todd were raised without a father, they still had their grandparents & uncle who were there for them. In spite of her harsh punishments, Maxine was wonderful at taking care of her children. She would make dinner for her children and their friends, even though they lived on little. Maxine allowed her daughter to join Girl Scouts at an early age. Mary learned leadership and many qualities that earned her 47/100 badges. Qualities that stay w/ her today. Deep down, Mary will ALWAYS be a Girl Scout at heart. Ray had definite ideas about everyone's role in the family. After she began making movies, one of Debbie's greatest joys was doing for her family. Soon, she had enough money saved to pay off their mortgage which thrilled Debbie. You do for family. Conflicts w/ Maxine continued for most of Debbie's life. Although they loved each other, they clashed over their differences. Maxine traveled on the road w/ her daughter all the time. When her siblings were younger, Maxine came along to care for them. When they grew, she came along to be part of the entourage.
Now, Debbie was moving into a house that allowed her to be close to Carrie & Billie. They were all thrilled when Carrie got pregnant. When it was time for Billie to be born, Debbie went w/ Carrie to Cedar's Sinai. The first time Debbie seen her granddaughter, she was reminded of the Stevie Wonder song: You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. No matter how grown they are or how old they get. . . .they will always be your baby. Whenever difficult times came, Debbie's family & faith have sustained her.
Carrie was busy writing. She wrote a campy & fun "Movie-Of-The-Week" that aired in February 2001, featuring LEGENDARY ICONIC GREATS Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins & Debbie as aging film actresses. Naturally, Carrie called it These Old Broads. Elizabeth was in very poor health. Her doctors didn't want Liz to do the role. She had arthritis in her spine, which caused her CONSTANT pain, making it VERY DIFFICULT to walk. But Elizabeth agreed to do it for Carrie. Debbie felt it was an attempt to make amends to both Debbie & Carrie for her part in her divorce from Eddie decades earlier. Carrie & Elizabeth had become good friends over the years. Elizabeth's trailer was near Debbie's, and they would visit each other during breaks. Being on the lot together took them back to their MGM days. They never worked together at the studio, but they did go to the same MGM high school. Elizabeth would ALWAYS find a way out of her lessons. She had been a star at the studio since she was young. Debbie was only 17 and still planned to be a gym teacher when she finished college. So, Debbie took her lessons SERIOUSLY!
|Elizabeth's wedding day to Mike Todd|
Elizabeth went to visit a friend and her lover, Mike Todd. Mike left the friend immediately for Elizabeth. Mike & Elizabeth were a great match. Eddie Fisher was Mike Todd's best friend, so they spent ALOT of time together. When Mike & Elizabeth got married on 3-8-1957, Eddie was Mike's best man. Debbie was Elizabeth's matron of honor. The night before the ceremony, Debbie washed Elizabeth's hair for her. Elizabeth had gotten pregnant by Mike while still married to another. Carrie was only an infant when things strained between America's Sweethearts. Debbie was DETERMINED to get pregnant again, so Carrie would have a sibling bond, just as she did w/ her own brother. In February 1958, Debbie had Todd Emanuel Fisher. Eddie was thrilled! Mike & Elizabeth's daughter, Liza, was born in August. Debbie had gotten up before 7AM and Eddie was out of town working. That was when she heard the news that Mike Todd had been killed in a plane crash. Debbie's heart sank. She immediately left to be at Elizabeth's side. Debbie sat quietly downstairs as her best friend heard the sad news upstairs. It broke Debbie's heart. Elizabeth was hysterical.
Several years later, Debbie was packed and was w/ Harry Karl about to set sail on a trip to Europe for a vacation. She had seen countless baggage come aboard. After Debbie asked of the owner of these belongings, she found out it was The Burtons. Debbie & Harry were booked on the same cruise ship as Elizabeth & Richard. Debbie & Elizabeth had both decided to contact the other at the same time, each sending a note to the other.One couple joined the other for cocktails. After Debbie & Liz seen each other, they picked up what they used to have! A genuine friendship! It was a wonderful reunion that led to many fun nights together. In 1967, Elizabeth & Richard were Debbie's guests at an annual ball that was founded in 1955. After the ceremony, everyone came back to the Karl house to finish off the evening. Elizabeth & Richard got into a fight. Debbie KNEW what it meant.
It was good to work on Carrie's movie together. One day Elizabeth asked to see Debbie. There was a scene in the film where Liz's character stole Debbie's husband while in an alcoholic blackout. Elizabeth expressed an apology to Debbie for hurting her w/ Eddie. She was very emotional in her apology. Taking time expressing words in what to say. Debbie assured Elizabeth that was happened was a lifetime ago. They had made up years ago. Elizabeth just felt bad for hurting someone who was close to her at one point. As time passed, Debbie & Liz spoke and often spent time together. The last time Debbie spoke to Elizabeth was close to her passing. When Elizabeth passed, she was finally at peace and out of pain. There was NO ONE like Elizabeth Taylor and there NEVER will AGAIN. She was an ICON in EVERY SENSE of the word. When she died, Elizabeth remembered her very dear friend in her will. She left Debbie a beautiful set of sapphire earrings w/ a matching bracelet and necklace. Debbie was very touched! Many years ago, one of Richard's costumes from Cleopatra went up for auction. Debbie didn't have the money to bid on it. She called Elizabeth for help. Without hesitating, Elizabeth told Debbie to buy it. It cost $16,000. After Debbie informed her of the total, Elizabeth sent her a check for the amount. Never knowing what was bought. The costume.
After that, Carrie went to London for 18 months to study at The Central School Of Speech & Drama. Carrie wanted NO CONTACT w/ her mother while she was there. Debbie felt hurt & rejected.When Carrie returned to Los Angeles, Warren Beatty cast her in his film, Shampoo, which STARTED her career. She was then cast as her ICONIC role of Princess Leia in Star Wars that made her an international star in 1973. Debbie was the same age, 22, when Singin' In The Rain made her a celebrity. The similarities ended there!
In 1981, Debbie was working at Warner Bros. on the TV show, Aloha, Paradise, when she received a call informing her that Carrie was in the hospital, not knowing how serious things were. As a mother, your world stops! Carrie had been working on a movie called Under The Rainbow. Debbie HAD to get to her daughter. After arriving, Debbie found her daughter being taken away on a gurney. Carrie was still in her Under The Rainbow costume, curled up on the table. Somehow Debbie didn't fall apart. After awhile, she was informed that Carrie was stable. Several years later, Carrie was admitted to a rehab. She didn't want her mother there, due to Carrie wanting anonymity. Todd was there instead as his sister's companion. Other people were there to comfort Carrie while her mom respected her daughter's wishes. Debbie did whatever she could to make Carrie more comfortable. Whatever she wanted! The point of Carrie's experience/episode was what triggered her writing Postcards From The Edge.
Carrie's bipolar disorder wasn't properly identified for a long time after Debbie first noticed a change in her. Mood swings that Debbie felt were normal in a young girl later became known as symptoms of a SERIOUS condition. Carrie wrote about her experiences in her latest book: Shockaholic. As a mother, Debbie finds it the HARDEST to love her daughter and NOT intervene in her life. Do EVERYTHING to keep her daughter out of pain, but be there for her. Many celebrity friends of Debbie's had children in similar situations and did what the doctor instructed. Carroll O' Connor & George C. Scott both lost their sons to drugs. You're NOT supposed to outlive your children. Carrie is blessed to have Billie. Billie's love anchor's her mother. Carrie & Billie work through everything.
After the hotel was sold and her 3RD divorce was FINAL, Debbie's life became more settled - temporarily. Debbie's dream of a museum for her collection had been put on hold by the sale of the Vegas property. Now, creating a permanent home to preserve all of these magnificent pieces became Debbie's property. When Todd built the museum at the hotel, he began a database to keep track of all of the costumes & props in the collection and other information. It took Todd years to complete the database. Now that the museum in Vegas was closed, Debbie was approached about putting in a new museum in the theater & shopping complex built at the corner of Hollywood & Hyland.
Although the opening of the complex was postponed until November 2001, even then the space wasn't completed! That projected that the museum would be completed in February 2002. February came and went. In the meantime, it was one thing after another. ALL of it out of Debbie's control. The City Of Los Angeles had money troubles after 9-11-2001 that changed things for EVERYONE at Hollywood & Hyland, taking Debbie along with them. With a heavy heart, Debbie relinquished her lease at the property. In February 2003, The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce honored Debbie w/ a Lifetime Achievement Award. By March 2003, it was clear that there was no way Debbie could quickly recoup all of the money lost on this project. She realized she would have to auction part of her collection to keep going. She decided to sell 300 pieces of her memorabilia - with GREAT reluctance - in hope that the money would pay to preserve the rest. The auction was scheduled for 12-6-2003. Debbie made enough money to keep her and the family afloat. Even through the sellings, Debbie was still in debt.
Debbie & Todd decided to make one more effort to save the collection. In June 2008, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum to buy them some time until they found backers. Carrie called a friend of hers who has a good background in this field and asked if he might be interested in helping establish this. They passed on the proposal. In April 2006, Debbie performed in Nebraska. Warren Buffett came backstage to meet her w/ a group of his friends. He loved her show. After trading photo autographs, he sang for her. On the hope that he was interested, Todd & Debbie flew to Nebraska and Warren took time out of his busy schedule to hear their proposal for a museum. After hearing, it he gave her some advice: "Don't sell the farm." Debbie's dream was clouding judgment and could cost her everything. She didn't want to give up until after exhausting the possibilities. There were 4 meetings w/ the Motion Picture Academy. They weren't interested in helping to save ANY of the costumes, but they were willing to let posters be donated to the Academy. Todd was made several attempts to negotiate a repayment. They were far apart on what they thought would be fair. They were being asked to pay back triple than the original loan. (9 million asked from a 1.5 loan) A court date was set. Meanwhile, Debbie continued to work on the road, taking EVERY job she could. LITERALLY touring and press AROUND THE WORLD! As much as she loves performing, it was exhausting w/ the schedule.
Debbie had a tough decision to make. They had exhausted every possible avenue they could think of to find backers. Debbie couldn't ask for financial help from friends after what happened w/ the hotel. Todd & Carrie encouraged their mom to sell her collection, which was out of her hands - resting w/ a Santa Barbara judge. She was fair and right down the middle, denying the $9 million, but awarded him $5.3 to be paid over a few months. As the news came in, Debbie came to tears as it devastated her. The end of a vision that was worked for since the 1960s. Unable to build a museum will always be a regret, but she did everything she could to make it happen. Letting go of the collection was one of the HARDEST things to do. It became TOO MUCH TO BEAR losing her collection, but there was still so much to do. Debbie & Todd were in contact w/ Christie's in New York. They held difficult requirements. They settled on a relatively new auction company, Profiles In History. The auction was to be on 6-18-2011. The next 6 months until then were a whirlwind of activity. Debbie was an emotional wreck.
Carrie, Todd, Billie, his girlfriend, and Carrie's friend, Beverly D'Angelo were already inside the auditorium. There were crowds of fans, press & fans everywhere! Debbie felt she was in a dream - or nightmare - sleepwalking through her own life as if it were about to unfold. She DID NOT want to be there! Participating in something she prayed wouldn't happen. In giving a speech, Debbie's voice cracked and her eyes filled w/ tears. After the hotel being sold, at least she had her collection. Now, she doesn't even have that. The sale was something SERIOUS! Items were expected to sell in the thousands, sold in millions. Buyers came from around the world to bid. Debbie was sincerely & heartfelt-fully happy and relieved that someone valued these jewels of HOLLYWOOD HISTORY as much as she did. Debbie felt distracted and still in a bit of a daze. So many memories & experiences were wrapped up in it. The pieces in it weren't only HISTORICAL artifacts, they had personal associations to Debbie. If she wasn't numb, her heart was breaking.
By the end of the auction, Debbie had enough to settle the judgment, pay the taxes and have money to live on! But she was still in a fog hadn't really let it all sink in yet. As things were being sold at HIGH amounts, after the ICONIC Marilyn Monroe dress was sold, tears filled Debbie's eyes as Carrie leaned over in her seat and took her mother in her arms. It was somber as they watched HISTORY being made. Debbie's eyes were tear-filled. The rest of the auction was a blur. After she made enough money, Debbie began to bid on things for herself, to keep from losing them. She kept Harpo Marx' hat. She stayed for another hour. After she got home, she called Carrie. She & Beverly rushed over to join in watching the rest of the auction from the living room. After Audrey Hepburn's dress from My Fair Lady sold, Debbie was DONE in. She was right about the value of the collection. She saved her collection for many years; now the collection saved Debbie.
On 4-1-2012, it was Debbie's 80TH birthday. For her, the hardest part of getting older is that she thinks she's younger. During her MGM days, Debbie felt like she had an "other" mother. Someone who raised her during these days and remained a friend to her/Debbie until the end of her life. When she died in 1998, she left Debbie in charge of her estate. Debbie states that when one gets to be her age, it's easy to have regrets.
Debbie doesn't & can't regret Eddie Fisher. When they got married, she TRULY loved him. They had 2 beautiful children that are the joys of her life. Even though Harry Karl took the family to the depths of despair w/ his gambling and cheating. But he was the best husband he knew how to be. Her third marriage was a HUGE REGRET! Debbie's BIGGEST disappointment was not being able to create a museum for a collection that took over 50 years to accumulate. Debbie finds it troubling to watch old movies TODAY because it pains her to see the valuable costumes on-screen. There are some mementos that Debbie has stored throughout her house that were used by friends & other ICONIC figures. Everything around her has a story of someone she loves that makes her feel their presence. She feels surrounded by their love and happy w/ their shared friendships.
It was around Debbie's 16TH birthday when she heard about a contest for the Miss Burbank Contest. You had to be 16 to enter. Every contest received a free blouse and a scarf. It was a big deal. Debbie signed up, intending NOT to compete. She just wanted the blouse & scarf. She figured that she couldn't win due to her short size. Maxine told her that if her daughter intended to win/have these items, she had to EARN them. Ray agreed. Obviously when Debbie entered, her brother and his friends sat in the back and laughed - sure that Mary wouldn't win. When she did, she sure fooled them. In those days, studios were looking EVERYWHERE for talent. The talent scout for Warner Bros. & MGM were in the audience. They both were interested in Debbie. After they flipped a coin, Warner Bros. won. The contest was in May. The following July, the L.A. Times ran an article on the story. After someone seen her screen test from Warner Bros., Debbie was signed for 7 years at $60.00/week, with a raise of $75.00 after 6 months. That was more than what her father made. The article talked about a young Debbie's plans to continue high school and receive dramatic training at Warner Bros. Due to being a minor, the Los Angeles Courts ordered that 20% of Debbie's earnings HAD to be invested in government savings bonds. The road to Warner Bros. was NOT an easy one!
Coming from a family w/ members that were VERY religious, their minister didn't approve of the movies or those who watched/worked in them. Ray & Maxine took a trip to the studio to decide for themselves if it was right/suitable for their daughter to work there! After seeing how it was actually ran; studios, production, etc.; they were satisfied w/ more than what they thought was being done at the studio. Mary would ride her bike the few blocks from their house to the studio and then, after work, take the bus between Warner Bros. to her high school. The studio was ALWAYS buzzing w/ activity. Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Bette Davis & Olivia De Havilland were the BIG stars on the lot. Humphrey Bogart & Errol Flynn made CLASSIC films there.
Mary's classroom at Warner Bros. was right next to the gym where Kirk Douglas was training to play a prizefighter in The Champion. Debbie would sneak in to watch the REAL, retired champion that taught Kirk to box. It was very exciting. Jack Warner was the HEAD of the studio. Debbie would be there to greet him as he came in as he came in every morning. When she OFFICIALLY met him, she stated her REAL FULL name: Mary Francis Reynolds. They thought it was too plain and Francis was a talking mule. One of the studios' executives and his son-in-law take credit for renaming her: Debbie. A writer/producer at the studio had a new baby named Debbie. They ALL thought it was a name that suited Mary Francis. For years afterward, she only answered to "Frannie" or "Mary Francis" due to being unable to adjust to her new name. Mr. Warner usually referred to Debbie as "the kid". Debbie was insistent on keeping her own last name: Reynolds. Reynolds was the FAMILY name. Staying TRUE to who you ORIGINALLY are! Debbie wrote an essay-like as an assignment for school at John Burroughs High School in Burbank on what it's like to be a movie star in detail. While it may seem easy to be an ACTUAL Hollywood star, you don't think of the work that goes into how the result came to be!
Debbie's debut film was a bit part in a romantic comedy starring Bette Davis & Robert Montgomery called June Bride. Debbie played the girlfriend of one of the characters in attendance at the wedding at the end of the film. The most thrilling experience of making the film was meeting Bette Davis in doing the scene w/ her. Months had passed since the film and Warner's didn't know what to do w/ a young Debbie. After putting her on hiatus, things were still fine w/ her. She still planned on becoming a gym teacher.
Debbie got a job at J.C. Penney selling girls' blouses during the Christmas season. One day, Warner's called Debbie to say she was wanted for a luncheon for their starlets. Maxine told them she was working. They scoured the studio and called her back when they couldn't find her. Maxine told the studio about Debbie's job and they were furious! They sent a car to pick her up at the store. Not long after that, one of the studio's acting coaches told Debbie that a part was written for her into their musical The Daughter Of Rosie O' Grady. The movie was already scheduled and Debbie was under contract. She played the little sister to June Haver's character. Debbie tells stories of what went on behind-the-scenes. The director treated Debbie well. He wrote her into scenes and spent time teaching her film techniques. She was taught how to be as natural as possible on screen. She was taught ALOT of techniques that became very helpful throughout her ENTIRE career. The Daughter Of Rosie O' Grady was shot in the beginning of 1949. After 2 films at Warner Bros., it was obvious that the studio was cutting back on the production of musicals.
|Miss Burbank 1949|
Debbie's FIRST time walking onto the MGM lot was as a teenager in 1949. The studio was a magical place/world that created movies almost EVERYONE in America seen. Before television, movies were the only game in town. To this very day, Debbie feels privileged to have been there! MGM had a very different feel to it than Warner Bros. It had ALOT of younger people under contract. Mickey Rooney was on the prowl, flirting w/ everyone. Spencer Tracey & Judy Garland were known around the lot. It was like your life itself was part of one big creative family. Different genres & writers for their fields' had their own sections for their groups. The studio created entertainment for every class & style of people in the USA. MGM at its time was BUSY! EVERYONE was busy w/ a project/subject at hand. Very energetic & very exciting.
Life at the studio was an education. In addition to the time spent at John Burroughs High School after the studio was required to provide 3 hrs. of academic lessons in order to graduate. As part of her professional training, Debbie was taught the basics of the film trade. In her free time, Debbie spent it wondering around the lot looking at each department. She adored the antique furniture in the props department. It made her think of her father, Ray, who was a carpenter. MGM graciously allowed Maxine to come to the wardrobe dept. and learn from the craftspeople there! She became a kind of unofficial apprentice. She looked on the 2ND floor w/ the seamstresses who made MGM costumes. It was a big thrill for both mother & daughter. In the early 1950s, the studios ran Hollywood.
After finishing the movie, Debbie REALIZED that she was that little girl who was thrown into the middle of the entertainment business. She was HONORED to be part of great work that has stood the test of time. Gene Kelly gave Debbie her FIRST REAL kiss during that film. Years later, Gene confessed to Debbie that he was real proud of her and her career.
As this book finishes, Debbie recounts a multitude of stories from the ICONIC works and films that she's done from what you didn't know. A collection of films that tells a behind-the-scenes story for EACH one! In many ways, Debbie's life has been like a fairy tale. She kissed ALOT of frogs, but she got a prince and a Princess Leia. After thrilling triumphs & terrible setbacks, Debbie is still here!