Biographers shouldn’t have regrets, because once your book is published there’s little you can do to alter its narrative in subsequent editions. Hopefully, the biographer has chosen wisely, angering as few of the subject’s survivors as possible.
When I landed MR. MIKE, I felt elation and dread. Suddenly, the life and work of a seminal American humorist was solely in my hands, making me hyper-conscious about not pissing off numerous celebrities and powerful showbiz figures. I wanted to be taken seriously, and this narrowed my creative approach.
Michael O’Donoghue’s widow, Cheryl Hardwick, granted me full access to Michael’s voluminous files. I was allowed to use anything that Cheryl had not previously removed. Still, I was cautious, for I knew that Michael had … let’s say singular, private experiences with notable individuals who might not be in a sharing mood. My focus narrowed even more.
One Sunday afternoon I discovered a file titled “Puppy Flesh” which contained various items connected to Michael’s affair with Carrie Fisher. Puppy Flesh was his pet name for Carrie who was nearly twenty years Michael’s junior. This was emphasized by a glossy photo of Carrie, dressed as a little girl, sitting on Michael’s lap — Lolita to his Humbert. There was no real time frame for their affair (it looked to be between the first two STAR WARS films), but it was clear that they had a rather intense one.
There were love letters and poems, mostly written by Carrie. Some were sexually explicit, others sweet and tender. One letter devolved into scribbled gibberish, which made sense as Carrie confessed that she was tripping on LSD. Regardless of catalyst, it was obvious that Carrie adored Michael, and poured her emotions into these missives.
I sat on the floor with the file and pondered. Should I use any of this? How would Carrie Fisher react if I did? She certainly wasn’t shy about sharing her drug and booze history, but this was pretty private. Did she even know that the file existed? I spent the rest of that day running various scenarios through my mind. In the end, I made fleeting mention of their relationship and left it at that.
I interviewed a number of people who knew Carrie, but never Carrie herself. I don’t recall why; our paths simply didn’t cross. I’m sorry for that, because I suspect we would have had a revealing conversation, not just about Michael, but also the original SNL world she inhabited.
Of course, now that conversation will never take place. Dying at 60 is relatively young, though given Carrie’s tempestuous life, it’s probably as old as she was destined to live. Her books and live show, WISHFUL DRINKING, affirmed Carrie’s quick, self-deprecating wit. You saw why she could hang with heavyweight talents, how she was much more than an ageless fantasy for STAR WARS fanboys.
I don’t know what happened to the Puppy Flesh file. I may have made copies of her letters, but if I did, they’re packed in an unmarked box in my attic. The only public evidence of her relationship with Michael is her brief appearance in MR. MIKE’S MONDO VIDEO. In a piece called “American Gals Love Creeps,” where various female celebs confess their sexual attraction to society’s losers, Carrie sits on Michael’s green couch in his Chelsea apartment, confiding that she wouldn’t kick Ralph Nader out of bed.
Nader should’ve been so lucky. So long, Carrie. However flawed you were, you remained inimitable. RIP.