One time, I flew to Brisbane to stalk Debbie Reynolds.
Yep. Some people might have crushes on the Hollywood hunks like Chris Hemsworth or Brad Pitt, but not me – I was chasing a 74-year-old 5-foot-2 grandma. Debbie Reynolds. My number one hero.
I hung around the stage door of the QPAC theatre like an absolute creep. I was 19 – the same age Debbie was when she starred in Singin’ In The Rain. I had a picture of her that I had printed on photo paper from our dodgy home printer, so there were green horizontal lines across her face and an ink blot on her eye – but it was made with love.
I had hopes that she would come out between her matinee and evening performance, and I would ask her to sign my picture, then we would get chatting about her films and her comedy career and crack witty jokes about the weather and then she would eagerly adopt me as her new best friend, despite the 55-year age gap between us.
A girl can dream.
Anyway, she didn't come out the stage door, and I didn't get to meet her that day. The security guard told me it was because she had a nap between shows. If ever there was an excuse I could respect, it's naps. It just further cemented my Debbie love.
Fortunately, I got to meet her a week later, for a shining two seconds after her Adelaide show. She said "hellooooo" and signed my program. I almost fainted. At 74, she was so beautifully elegant standing by the stage door, a black shawl around her shoulders, her hair pinned up in a classy coiff. She was surrounded by little grey-haired fans pushing for her autograph, most of them gushing about her work in Tammy or The Unsinkable Molly Brown, practically kissing her feet. She just smiled warmly and patiently at each and every person, even though she must have been delirious with exhaustion from her two-hour show of energetic singing and dancing (at 74!). (Post continues after gallery.)
When it was my turn, I stepped forward. I looked into her warm green eyes... and I didn't say a word. She was too fabulous.
Instead, I tried to communicate all of my love for her through my eyeballs. "I LOVE YOU DEBBIEEEE" I screamed in my head.
I like to think that she knew. Or at the very least, I take relief in the fact she didn't run away.
Why did I love her so much? Because she was everything I had wanted to be since I was a little girl. Everything I thought a woman should be (although I'm sure she'd hate that description – she would've just told me to by myself). Debbie was funny, elegant, talented, resilient, and sweet.
RIP Debbie Reynolds. So sad. Here are some lovely photos of her and daughter Carrie Fisher over the years. pic.twitter.com/90SIMr89XY
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) 29 December 2016
She'd been plucked from obscurity, destined for fame. She was the epitome of a sweetheart starlet, born into a blue collar family. She was just so damn cute.
Debbie was only 19 when Singin' In The Rain was filmed. Gene Kelly was a notoriously hard worker – borderline crazy, according to Debbie. When they were filming the incredibly hard dance number Good Morning, she was made to do so many takes that her dance shoes filled with blood. And yet, she smiled, she tapped, and she shone.
To me, and so many young dancers, she was the epitome of hard work paying off.
In her show Debbie Reynolds Live (which toured Australia in 2006, where I creeped around stage doors) she made jokes about her sweet face, and her awful luck with men. Boy, was she bad at choosing men. Then she put on a fake nose and did a Barbara Streisand impersonation. She told dirty jokes with a classy wink. She wore a gold-sequinned dress with a thigh-high split. She sang her heart out, and also did the jitterbug.
Debbie Reynolds had more energy and humour at 74 than most people find in their whole lives.
I knew the time would come for my hero to pass away in my lifetime – that 55 year age gap was a teller. But I hoped for Debbie's sake, it would've been halfway through a high-kick, belting out a top C, surrounded by bright lights and family and friends.
"I want to sing and dance through the rest of my life. I want to be able to enjoy the last years that I have and be happy."
The news reports say she had a stroke while discussing funeral plans for her daughter.
I'm so sorry Debbie. I'm sad for the end of your story. I'm sad for your family, and I'm sad you lost Carrie, and I'm sad you didn't end on a great big high note before the final curtain.
Because Debbie Reynolds, you were an absolute star.
Thanks for being my hero. Love always,
Your creepy young fan.