Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher

Sparks Nugget postcard

Sparks Nugget postcard

The daughter/mother deaths of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher were felt in Nevada. Fisher made her show business debut in Sparks, and Reynolds was a familiar figure in Nevada showrooms.

Fisher, the daughter of actress Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, was in the limelight early. In a well known Hollywood scandal, her father left her mother when Carrie was 2 to marry the widowed Elizabeth Taylor. In April 1959, with the world’s press in attendance, Taylor and Eddie Fisher held a news conference at the Las Vegas Tropicana where he was performing to announce that they would marry and that he would reside in Las Vegas for the purpose of a Nevada divorce—although Reynolds had beaten him to the punch and already obtained an interlocutory divorce in California.

While Reynolds’ movie career thrived, the career of Eddie Fisher—whose powerful voice had given him a long string of hits—never recovered from the negative public reaction, most immediately in NBC’s cancellation of his television series. He died in 2010. Paradoxically, three years earlier, Carrie Fisher and Reynolds attended Taylor’s 75th birthday celebration in Henderson, Nevada.

Reynolds, who had a lengthier Nevada history than her daughter, appeared for many years in Nevada hotel showrooms, and in 1971 Carrie Fisher joined her mother’s troupe—beginning on June 23 at the Sparks Nugget. Fisher also appeared in the movie Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, which included Nevada locations. Among Nevada movies in which Reynolds appeared were Pepe, Meet Me in Las Vegas, Wedding Bell Blues, The Bodyguard, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

There are YouTube videos of Reynolds singing her hit “Tammy” in those Nevada showrooms. Most, if not all, of the companies she formed for her various entertainment enterprises were incorporated in Nevada. There was once a Debbie Reynolds Resort Club in Las Vegas. There is a street in Las Vegas named for her, and she received an honorary degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. When performing in the Truckee Meadows, she appeared at both the Nugget in Sparks and Harrah’s in Reno.

For a celebrity, Reynolds was relatively accessible. When a question arose about one of her movies during a cinema class session of her friend, UNR art professor Howard Rosenberg, she took a call from him and the class was able to hear her clarifying response on his cell phone.

In 1970, Reynolds led girl scouts in song at Reno’s Pioneer Theatre Auditorium and answered their questions while her mother, Maxene Reynolds, watched from the audience. “My mom is the best girl scout,” she told them. “She taught me to dig my first latrine.”

The poignance of the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds on successive days seems to have been summed up for fans by a photograph taken in Nevada in 1963 that spread across the internet, often pirated and posted without credit to the photographer, Lawrence Schiller. The black and white image shows little Carrie, then 6, seated in the foreground on a tall stool in the wings of the Las Vegas Rivera showroom, gazing at her mother singing on stage in the background. The photo became the subject last week of articles in the New York Times and several other publications.

The Riviera, like the two stars, passed into history this year.