Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher Honored at Public Memorial Service
By Desiree Murphy
Friends, family and fans have gathered together to celebrate the beautiful lives and legacies of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher with a public memorial service at the Freedom Theater at Forest Lawn Cemetery Hollywood Hills on Saturday. The late mother-daughter duo died just one day apart from each other back in December.
The memorial, which was also live-streamed on DebbieReynolds.com, was organized by Debbie's son and Carrie's brother, Todd. While speaking with ET earlier this week, the producer anticipated that there wouldn't "be a dry eye in the house" -- and he wasn't wrong.
Once all guests were seated in the theater, Todd came out onstage to welcome local members of the Coast Guard in, who helped kick off the memorial. "My mother would have liked that," Todd revealed. "This entire thing I'm calling a show, not a memorial … [because] she liked shows and parties."
"[And Carrie] was always my princess," he added. "These are my girls."
Set to a track from Star Wars, a video began, which featured Carrie's footprints, a Princess Leia birth certificate, pics and videos of Debbie and Carrie from the actress' childhood, and highlights from Carrie's most memorable scenes from the legendary franchise.
It was followed up with a special appearance by R2-D2, as Todd came back onstage to give the iconic astromech droid a hug and kiss.
The next segment of the video began with vintage footage of Carrie singing Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight," accompanied with clips of scenes from some of her other popular film roles, like When Harry Met Sally, The Blues Brothers and Shampoo.
The video then turned the focus on Debbie, re-playing clips of her best dance moments from Singin' in the Rain, with words from Todd and Carrie about her career and envious drive.
Debbie's close pal, Ruta Lee, then came onstage to deliver a moving speech about her friend's legacy, later performing a song in honor of the actress who was "like a sister."
"[Debbie and Carrie] would not want us to mourn," she told the crowd. "They brought joy to people all across the world, they certainly filled our hearts."
"Debbie was without a doubt the most generous human being," she continued. "She gave her heart to everything."
One thing Debbie was extremely passionate about was dance. The late star established the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, located on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, California, in 1979, as a "comfortable space" for aspiring dancers to rehearse. Todd welcomed Debbie's longtime friend who now runs the studio, Margie Duncan, to the stage, who introduced a clip of Debbie talking about why she originally started the dance studio.
"Happiness, that's what dance is all about," Debbie said in the clip, which was followed with performances by students from the now-iconic dance studio. "I dedicated my life to sharing this happiness with the world … teaching the world to dance for 45 years."
The standout moment was when a few dancers, dressed in yellow raincoats and holding umbrellas, took the stage to perform a dance to the title track from Singin' in the Rain.
Though he wasn't in attendance, musician James Blunt was there in spirit as he composed a special song that played over a video montage of pics of his close friend, Carrie. For fans who may not be familiar with their friendship, Todd told ET that James actually wrote his hit song, "You're Beautiful," in Carrie's home when he had just moved to Los Angeles and had no place to stay. She was also the godmother to his son.
"[His new song for Carrie] is quite special," Todd explained. "I actually think it is one of his best songs. The last lyric in the song, it's a beautiful song, is, 'I'm here to let you know. I'm here to let you go.' And it's powerful. The simplicity of his songs is pretty amazing. It's not like it's [got] complicated lyrics but something about how he strings all this together is beautiful."
ET also caught up with Todd just moments before the memorial service began, where he went into more detail about why they decided to run the celebration more like a "show."
"Today is a memorial to remember all that Carrie and Debbie were. We're playing it a little different. It's not your typical run a [few] film clips," he said. "This is home movies, personal pictures. Trying to show people as if this was you joining us in our living room for a service."
"This is not a big scale. I'm hoping to have a lot of laughs and a lot of tears," he continued. "I mean, you're gonna get what you would get if you were doing this for any loved one and we all loved them. Debbie hated funerals, hated that sort of thing, so we're having a party."
And while he hopes those who attended could all get a little laugh out of some of the clips displayed in the video montages, he revealed Carrie's daughter and Debbie's granddaughter, Billie Lourd, was still "having a very hard time."
"We have a huge vacuum, a huge loss, and if I were 24 years old, I cannot fathom what it would be like to lose my mother and my grandmother in the same day practically," he explained. "So it's tough."
Carrie, best known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, died at age 60 after going into cardiac arrest on a plane. Debbie, 84, died one day later as a result of a stroke, and was laid to rest in January at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where she was buried along with some of Carrie's ashes. The burial location is near the resting places of family friends Bette Davis and Liberace.