In years past, the annual Metrocare fundraiser luncheon has been a smallish, subdued affair. This year was different. The nonprofit — which, among other services, helps people suffering from mental illness — landed Carrie Fisher as its featured speaker. Fisher talks frequently about her own struggles with mental illness (she’s bipolar) and past substance abuse. About 500 people packed the Anatole’s Imperial Ballroom (a wonderfully apt name, given Fisher’s most famous role). It was an interesting lunch.
Fisher brought her English bulldog onstage, where it urinated. Though she had notes for her speech, she said she was having a manic day and wandered off script, rambling for about 20 minutes or so. One attendee said it felt more like 40 minutes. Then, though a Q&A wasn’t part of the agenda, Fisher asked if anyone had questions for her. As she was preparing to take off her shoes and walk out into the audience to field those questions, quick-thinking emcee Ron Corning jumped onstage to grab a portable mic so that Fisher could keep her shoes on and everyone in the ballroom could hear the Q&A. After a couple of questions, Corning was asked by organizers to wrap things up. As he returned to the stage, Fisher, oddly, called him a pervert. Corning wasn’t offended, but Fisher later apologized to him, as she was signing books for a long line of people.
“I think a lot of people there were expecting to see Carrie Fisher the movie star, talking about her family and her mental illness and Star Wars,” Corning told me. “Instead, they got Carrie Fisher having a manic day. It was fascinating to watch it happen.” Corning said that some clinicians seated as his table were not alarmed. Their general sentiment: yup, that’s what someone with bipolar disorder looks like when she’s going through a manic phase.
I had to use a photo from 2012 for this post because Fisher’s speaking contract stipulated that no recordings, audio or visual, could be made yesterday. Pretty clear why. But it sounds like everyone in attendance got an object lesson on why Metrocare’s services are needed.