Paul Rudnick Remembers Debbie

Writer Paul Rudnick — who’s been posting brilliant political commentary on Facebook since the election — has a few memories of his time working with Debbie Reynolds: ‘I worked with Debbie Reynolds on the movie “In & Out” and she was a total delight onscreen and off. She managed the neat trick of being every inch a movie star while also remaining irresistibly warm and down-to-earth. Debbie played Kevin Kline‘s wedding-obsessed Mom and I met her at the movie’s read-through, where the cast sat around cafeteria-style tables on a soundstage. Debbie had already memorized her role and most likely the entire script. She was wonderfully disciplined. We were seated next to each other and she turned to me and said, “Paul, you’re funny, and do you know why? It’s because you’re a Jew. Jews are funny. I should know, because I was married to a Jew.”

Throughout the shoot, during the long waiting periods between takes, I’d always find Debbie off in a corner, effortlessly contorted into some impossible yoga position. When we were shooting larger-scale scenes, Debbie would entertain the crowds of extras with excerpts from her Vegas club act, including hilarious impressions of stars from Dietrich to Streisand.
Debbie could be salty. We were shooting a scene outside a picturesque church on Long Island where Debbie, in her wedding gown, hurled her bouquet into a crowd of female guests. We did take after take, with Debbie acting as a tireless cheerleader. Finally she told the women, “All right, ladies! This time let’s really feel it! Let’s feel it in our vaginas!”
Debbie was great with everyone and she had a stockpile of her favorite wine which, if I recall correctly, was Gallo’s Peach Chablis. I only met Carrie Fisher, Debbie’s beloved daughter, once. I’d loved Postcards From The Edge, Carrie’s novel about her riotous relationship with her Mom. I saw Carrie in a restaurant so I ran up to her and gushed like an idiot and Carrie couldn’t have been more gracious. There was a story that, back when people had answering machines, when Debbie called Carrie she’d always leave the message, “This is your mother, Debbie Reynolds.”
Debbie and Carrie were both extraordinary women who somehow made sense of Hollywood’s lunacy. They will be missed.

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