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A Dream Come True—Debbie Reynolds & Eddie Fisher

Today a girl who no longer laughed is laughing again. Today a boy for whom all music had stopped is singing from his heart again. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher are making beautiful music together once more. This in spite of the miles and misunderstandings which once divided them, in spite of the vicious rumors, the phony speculations, the many untruths of fickle members of the press who exploited their romance and then jilted them. With the courage of the young in heart, with wisdom beyond their years and with the strength of their own love, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher took their future into their own hands and began putting all the broken pieces back together again.

In late September, in a simple private marriage ceremony, Debbie and Eddie wrote their own chapter to the love story that captured the imagination of the whole world and once seemed almost destined not to be. Not, that is, until a few weeks ago when a kid from the poor side of the tracks in Philadelphia and a spunky little girl from El Paso, Texas who’d found their way to fame, stiffened their backs, examined their own hearts and sifted through the maze of hurtful rumors and half-truths and untruths and found each other again, vowing at their wedding, “never to be apart” again.

Tired of prying eyes and inquisitive headlines, Debbie and Eddie took great precaution to keep their wedding arrangements a secret. Plans for the wedding really were complete before Eddie left Hollywood in early September for New York. “It’s a secret,” he pledged, and not until September 26, the day of their marriage, did the news leak out. Even then, Debbie was cautious. She refused to comment, didn’t even lend a hint to anxious society editors about her gown.

In fact, the news broke only by clever work of the press, which put two and two together and got a wedding. If, it reasoned, Debbie’s mother was already in the East, and her dad was en route from California; and if Mrs. Kate Stuff, Eddie’s mom, was coming in from Philadelphia, and his dad, Joseph Fisher, had already checked in at Grossinger’s—well—“It seems like a merger,” anticipated excited headlines. It was.

At 8:50 p.m. (50 minutes behind schedule because Eddie’s mother was held up in traffic), in the living room of a friend of Eddie in Liberty, New York, Debbie and Eddie were married. A lovely Debbie, in a white lace ballerina-length gown trimmed with white velvet and wearing a white Juliet cap with short veil, and a handsome Eddie promised “to love, honor, keep and comfort” and exchanged simple platinum bands in a simple, three-minute ceremony.

Immediately afterward, Eddie took Debbie in his arms and gave her a long kiss with a little more than usual ceremonial gusto. Smiling, Jeanette Johnson, an old school chum and Debbie’s only attendant, handed her back the orchid-covered Bible (her grandfather’s) that she carried, then the couple turned to receive the excited congratulations of friends and relatives. Her eyes dancing with happiness, Debbie took Eddie’s hand. Theirs had been a bumpy road to marriage, their eyes said, but they both knew now, they had come to a happy ending.

Today, with the happiness of marriage and a future secure, Debbie and Eddie are willing to talk about the months in-between—the months they spent under the glow of public interest to work out their future.

Theirs had been unhappy months in-between then and the marriage. Under a cross fire of comments and criticisms, many a vintage marriage would have gone down. But they’re just crossing those months out of their lives.

“Now that it’s over—it’s just as though it never happened. That’s all I can say,” says Eddie earnestly. “You don’t talk about it. You try not to think about it. It’s over—as if it just never happened. It has to be that way.”

“We aren’t bitter and we aren’t unhappy about it. And we have no misgivings,” Debbie says now. “I’ve always believed that whatever happens in life is for the best; that’s always been my philosophy. You may be hurt at the time it happens, but you learn something and it’s good experience.

“I’m just happy that what we felt, what we had during the first weeks of love, hasn’t passed us by but has only grown into something much stronger and permanent,” Debbie goes on.

“I don’t believe anyone can forsee what’s in the future. That would take a power I don’t have. I just want to remain as happy as I am right now. We’re trying to plan our lives as best we know how. We know the time we took in learning more about one another—and about one another’s lives—was important for our present happiness together. After all, when you’re spending your whole life together, one year of getting acquainted compared with a lifetime isn’t such a long time.”

This is Debbie’s answer, too, for those who were outspokenly critical of them for seemingly not making up their own minds. “We were criticized for setting a date in June—then supposedly postponing it to July—and so on. We never set any date but June seventeenth—the anniversary of our first evening together. When that couldn’t be, we said, ‘We’ll be married when the time is right.’ But then so much happened—so much was said. And afterward there wasn’t any right time, not till the last week in September.

“Some people even said I was marrying Eddie for his money,” Debbie goes on with a note of frank wonderment in her voice. “I don’t need his money. I have money of my own. All I need is the love and affection of a good man, and that’s what I’ve found in Eddie. I admire him so very much.

“A few people had tried to picture Eddie as an incompetent surrounded by a pack of people. This was never right. They pictured Mr. Blackstone managing Eddie’s life. There was no truth to it. Mr. Blackstone has never interfered with our lives. He’s our unspoken friend. Like our families, he remains quietly in the background. As for the kids around Eddie, all of them have a job and they do it well. They’re all needed. I work in a studio and I have the benefit of all the departments. If I were working alone, I would have to have a few people employed around me, too.”

Take Eddie Fisher’s word for this, too. “Nobody’s dictating my personal life. That is my own. The people around me have never interfered nor would they even want to.” And some of the things said about Milton Blackstone, his discoverer and friend who’s been like a father to him, Eddie will never understand.

“I never cared what they said about me, but Mr. Blackstone was just an innocent bystander and that really hurt. He wouldn’t hurt anybody or anything in this whole world. Not only me—he wouldn’t hurt anybody. He has never managed me in anything except my career, and even then he has only suggested. He’s the finest. I’m lucky he took an interest in me. He’s so far from the things they said.”

As for that shocking news story that Debbie was breaking her engagement because Eddie’s manager was trying to make her embrace his religion, “That was really below the belt,” says Eddie.

To Debbie the thought in itself is incredible. “The important thing with Eddie and me is that we both believe in God. The difference in religions doesn’t matter. For anybody to accuse Mr. Blackstone or Eddie of trying to get me to change my religion,” she breaks off and adds slowly, “that’s so false—and not a very nice thing to say.

“Rumors start a lot of trouble, and there have been so many rumors regarding our affairs. Where they came from we don’t know. Certainly not from Eddie or from me. Some of them have quoted ‘reliable sources’ and ‘close friends,’ but none of this has come from reliable sources or from friends. These stories have hurt us—and some people very dear to us have been hurt, too. They said things about my mother—none of them true.

“Eddie and I didn’t want to hurt anybody by being in love. And we hope we haven’t really hurt anybody. We’re very happy and we just want everybody to be as happy as we are,” Debbie goes on.

It’s tough pretending, forgetting those months when life was no longer set to music for Eddie Fisher. Months when he lost so much weight, became tense and trigger-nerved and lost all heart for show business and for his first love—the music that had taken him out of the tenements and into fame’s sun.

Tough pretending for those who watched Debbie Reynolds shadow away and lose all the laughter that hides the kittenheart of a very sensitive girl.

It’s hard to pretend they never happened, the days when a gallant little girl who’d fought so hard for her havpiness could fight no more. Outside a gay red Thunderbird gathered dust in the sun. But the shades of the green stucco bungalow in Burbank were carefully drawn. And inside Debbie Reynolds lay in a state of complete shock and despair, seemingly unconscious of the receiver held to her ear, or of the voice calling her from more than 3000 miles. Eddie Fisher called her name over and over again that summer afternoon, coaxing her back to the world outside where they’d once been so happy together.

Today it never happened. They’re writing it off. But the true story behind the love story of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, behind their successful struggle to straighten out their lives and forget those months after Eddie’s unpublicizied flight to Hollywood to tell Debbie they couldn’t keep their original wedding date—foretells how much the future means.

So much has been said. So much written. And so little truth.

Ironically enough, they had even been accused of using that publicity to hypo two lagging careers and eke them by. “Someone said the studio had dropped me. The studio never drooped me. And Eddie was tops in his field. Publicity only complicated our lives,” Debbie says now.

Those with short memories forget that Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher fell in love in spite of publicity—not to further it.

When they met, they were at the peaks of their respective careers. Debbie’s saucy sparkle had zoomed her to the top of every magazine poll. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had given her a new contract with a triple raise. Eddie Fisher was television’s most popular young singing star, the romantic idol of younger America. He’d chalked up an unprecedented 19 hits and four gold discs at RCA Victor Records. And he was turning down motion-picture contracts from every studio in Hollywood.

Careerwise, it’s to their credit they’ve fought for their marriage and future when that future could hurt both careers. Into Eddie Fisher’s office have come thousands of letters from feminine fans begging him not to marry. And what marriage will do to Debbie’s career is yet to be determined. When they met, her smash performance in “Susan Slept Here” was overing new vistas as a dramatic star, but Debbie made it very plain her career came a very poor second compared with marrying the boy she loved and having a home and family. Debbie would have stepped down but fast from her throne.

“My career has never been a problem,” she says. Short memories forget that from the moment they met Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds fought a losing battle for privacy. To the public they were love’s young dream come true, and from the moment of their first date their public took over the love story of the handsome young baritone and the girl in the red lace dress sitting ringside at the Cocoanut Grove. A panting press headlined their every move.

Debbie’s mother answered the columnists who called constantly for romantic items with, “Look, Frannie’s been through this before. When she dates a boy, you start marrying her. Why don’t you give the kids a break?”

Eddie Fisher couldn’t get over it. “This is the craziest place ever!” he would laugh.

“You think it’s funny, huh? Well, I’m going to give them your number and let you talk to them.” Mrs. Reynolds would threaten laughingly.

“Oh, no!” he’d recoil in horror.

During these first weeks, a little stuffed lion and a small fluff of a white French poodle, Fanny Fisher, made animal history. Eddie had planned the pup for a farewell gift and pleaded, “Please don’t say anything, Debbie doesn’t know yet.” When they got wind of an old player piano Debbie had gotten for him, she said, “But—it’s a surprise for Eddie’s birthday—when he comes out.” A “good conduct” medal he brought her from Europe for not dating when he was away made more headlines than many given heroes on the fighting front.

When and how and where he would give her an engagement ring became a matter of almost international conjecture. A determined Debbie asked the press to “stop pushing” them. As she told Photoplay’s reporter then, “They not only want to walk you down the aisle, they want to shoot you down.” To columnists she said, “If you were going with someone you wouldn’t want to be pushed all the time. If anything happens, it’s going to have to happen naturally. We have lots of time.”

Even though they had been secretly engaged three weeks, finally they were resigned, it was just bigger than both of them. Their engagement was announced at a cocktail party for 600 in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel. From the first, they both went on record as believing in long engagements. As Debbie said, “You don’t know anybody unless you’ve known him a long time.” Their careers had them a continent apart. “That’s the thing, of course,” Eddie Fisher said then. He was going to try to arrange to do his CocaCola tv shows, from Hollywood, “at least some of them,” he said, adding “although—that might be all right, too.” That would be a test of the distance—the months—and their love. Little did they know then how much their feeling for each other would be tested later on. They went on record right from the beginning and they stayed there, but there were too many people with short memories.

Debbie and Eddie always wanted a small wedding—“just intimate friends and family.” A close circle Eddie defined on his side as consisting of friends like “Bernie and Marge Rich, Joey Forman, the Eddie Cantors and the Milton Blackstones—the kind of friends if you were in deep-down trouble—you’d go to them.” And this is the kind of wedding they finally had.

Although the press didn’t know it, actually the closest they came to getting married before September was last Christmas. They talked of it then, but Eddie couldn’t get his family out to Hollywood at that time, and they wanted both families to be present.

Then one day last March there began a chain of unfortunate things which almost broke them up. Eddie and Debbie had thought it would be pretty dreamy to be married on the anniversary of their first date, since Eddie was sure he would be doing his show from the West Coast the next season anyway, they began thinking in that direction. Eager to make the announcement, Eddie Fisher asked one of the show’s production heads if they couldn’t Kinescope two of the shows in June so he and Debbie could be married June 17. Without giving it any thought, the fellow said, “Sure.” Eddie called Debbie the good news, and they made the:r announcement from both coasts. But a few days later the production staff said they couldn’t reschedule the shows for that period. Sorry. Just couldn’t be done.

Eddie Fisher was so upset and so concerned what Debbie’s reaction might be, he made an unscheduled flight to Hollywood that weekend to tell her in person. He called the Reynolds’ home from the airport. “What are youdoing in town?” Debbie’s mother asked and started to call Debbie to the phone.

“No, don’t say anything. I have something to tell Debbie, but I want to tell her in person. I don’t want to go into it on the phone. I’ll catch a cab and be right out,” he said. Naturally there was disappointment, but as Eddie said, “As soon as I can find out what I can do we’ll set another date.”

Meanwhile rumor leaked out, statements were made and speculation flew. Between Eddie and Debbie, too, tension and indecision and frustration took their toll. One night Eddie called Debbie and suggested they elope, but neither felt that to be pressured into this in an atmosphere of discord and confusion was any solution.

It was at Eddie Fisher’s insistence that Debbie finally accompanied him to London when he played the Palladium. Some snide stories were even remarked about Debbie and her family “hanging around Eddie’s neck” and accompanying him wherever he went. As Debbie told him, “Mama doesn’t want to go.” Eddie Fisher was in touch immediately with Debbie’s mother saying, “Please, won’t you go? I want her with me.” Every measure was taken for their comfort and enjoyment and they had a wonderful time. It was Eddie’s idea for Debbie to take a bow on the stage with him. “I will the first night—and that’s all,” she said. But the cute bit they’d worked up went over so well he announced, “Hey, you’ve had it. You’ve got to go on stage with me now.” And it was Eddie who told the Queen, “I’m going to marry this girl.”

But before they could set another date, the hue and cry began.

When they returned from England, Eddie’s sponsors called a meeting to discuss their new plans for next season’s TV show. They were bringing out a new giant economy-size bottle, they said, and wanted his television show to headquarter in New York and travel around the country hypoing the sales. A syndicated television columnist happened to be at the meeting and overheard Eddie Fisher say, “Oh my, this really presents a problem with Debbie.” Eddie knew she was positively committed for two pictures at M-G-M, “The Tender Trap” and another. With their combined commitments, there was a business problem of working out a. wedding date. But the columnist made a personal issue out of it, He speculated since Eddie couldn’t move his show to Hollywood, all wedding plans were off.

Caught in the cross fire between New York and Hollywood columnists, neither Debbie nor Eddie could pin the sources for any of it. And the rumors and untruths and words scissored out of context and misquoted began to draw blood. Eddie Fisher was increasingly convinced they must be coming from Debbie’s studio, and he was furious because Debbie wasn’t stopping them. Debbie thought they were coming from Eddie’s camp and was hurt because he didn’t shut them down. It was pretty hopeless trying to disentangle them 3000 miles and many gossip columnists apart.

Unknown to the columnists, during the height of the discord Debbie Reynolds offered to send back Eddie’s engagement ring. “If this is your doing, if this is what you want, just say so.” Eddie said it wasn’t its doing and he didn’t want her to send back the ring. “Let’s not be hasty,” he pleaded. “We’ll work it out.”

Debbie told him she wanted to go to Korea and entertain the GI’s, reasoning this would put her an ocean away from reporters and give them both time to think things out. She thought maybe it would be wise not to wear her engagement ring on the flight. “You’d better wear it,” Eddie said, half-jokingly. “But something might happen to it, Eddie,” said Debbie, explaining the ring was a little large for her and she didn’t know if the insurance covered overseas junkets like that. “Wear it, it’s insured for everything,” he assured her.

It was never off her finger. But little did either of them dream the news her ring would be making within a few short days from then.

Back home the gossipmongers weren’t letting up. Wire stories coming out of New York coffined the wedding indefinitely. They pictured Eddie Fisher renting a swank apartment with terraces, preparing to settle down in New York and really live it up.

Chatting with Debbie’s mother long-distance, Eddie was surprised when she mentioned his new apartment. “How did you get that? I don’t have a new apartment. I told the reporter this one wouldn’t do. I said I needed a larger one and that Debbie and I both liked terraces.”

After playing her heart out to entertain some 100,000 GI’s and doing twenty-two shows in nine days, a weary but happier Debbie flew into Honolulu from the Far East to spend two days doing shows for the boys stationed at Hickam Field—and then home! She was bringing back gifts for her friends and Eddie’s from Tokyo. She’d written him constantly. He was flying to the Coast to see her as soon as he could, and she couldn’t wait to get home and talk to him. Then the phone rang.

In Hollywood a television gossip columnist had broken a front-page story which had a Debbie calling Eddie a “puppet” in the hands of his manager, saying she was mailing Eddie’s ring back to him because his manager was trying to get her to renounce her faith and embrace Eddie’s, and calling off the engagement for good! The story quoted Debbie’s brother, Bill, a sound technician at NBC, and a quiet and shy kid who barely says more than “Hello” even to an old friend. Supposedly he had talked to Debbie in Honolulu and gotten this news.

Bill Reynolds was working the columnist’s TV show that day and she and her staff cornered him. Asked for his side of the story, Debbie’s brother was indignant. He’d only had a wish-you-were-here postcard from his sister, hadn’t talked to her at all, he explained. They asked him whether his sister took her ring to Korea with her. “I didn’t know,” he answered. “It’s a very valuable ring and it doesn’t fit her—and flying around all those islands—I didn’t know.” Later, looking at the quotes given him, he was shocked. “Why, those are the things they said.” The only explanation those knowing Bill could give was that his silence must have been taken for assent.

The story was bannered in New York papers. Eddie Fisher’s manager, who hadn’t been well anyway, was confined to bed. An incensed Eddie denied the rumors and called the Reynolds’ home. “You mean it isn’t true?” he said, of their part of the story.

“Of course it isn’t true,” Debbie’s mother said, sick over the incident. “What about Mr. Blackstone?” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this end,” Eddie assured her. But the story had hit—hard and deep.

Unknown to the press, Debbie Reynolds was a sick girl. Eddie talked to her doctor about canceling his commitments and flying out, but her physician advised him not to. What she needed from him was his assurance that Eddie didn’t believe the things that had been written. Across the miles Eddie talked two hours, helping pull her out of a severe state of shock.

Without fanfare, he flew out to see her the following weekend. They were two different people from those who’d last met. Eddie Fisher had lost fourteen pounds and Debbie was down to 96. They’d lost weight and hope and heart. They were so weary, the whole thing seemed too much for them. Too much had happened to be dissolved in one meeting, certainly. Those who predicted they’d set a date to marry were far afield. They were dangerously close to giving up.

During the summer, Eddie and Debbie tried hard to put the pieces back together again. To become acquainted again, to erase the months from March through June. In the eyes of those watching, they were making a valiant effort to recapture the glow, but the gulf seemed almost too wide and the scars too deep. To see this happen to two kids like these was a pretty heartbreaking thing.

Then gradually they could laugh again. The tension eased and they began to be themselves again. Eddie gained back eleven pounds and Debbie began to bloom again.

Out of experience—painful experience—they were closemouthed with the press. And their friends of the press, along with the gossips and detractors, began speculating again—either setting a date or dissolving them for good. Some were openly impatient for them to “make up your minds.” The “reliable sources” were active again. And as Debbie asked Eddie, “Where did we get so many close friends?”

But they aren’t thrown by any of them. When a New York columnist gossiped, “Does Debbie Reynolds know Eddie Fisher is seeing Terry Moore?” they read the item together and laughed together. “Hmmmm—I’ve been with you every evening. When did this happen?” Debbie mused. “That must have been the other night at Ciro’s when I walked Terry back to her table when I met her coming out of the Powder Room.”

On his birthday, Debbie surprised Eddie with a party at Axel Stordahl’s that Eddie’s still talking about. “It was the first birthday party I’ve ever had,” he says moved, adding, “and I sure was surprised! I thought I was out of my mind when I got there and saw everybody. I just stood there gaping. The funny thing about it is that it was my own idea to have a little celebration there for Axel, whose birthday is the day before mine, and Harry Akst’s the next week. I told Debbie I thought we should have a few friends in and have a little family party. When we got there, I thought it was funny that nobody was out in front. They were all inside—in Hawaii. Debbie had moved the whole M-G-M studio into Axel’s back yard.”

Indeed Debbie had. She’d moved in two truckloads of props from the studio. Palm trees, banana trees, tons of tropical flowers, a combo band and a whole Hawaiian luau.

All day long Eddie thought everybody had deserted him. He couldn’t find any of his gang anywhere. Naturally. They were all out at Axel’s getting ready for the party. Knowing he would wonder when she didn’t answer the phone at home, Mrs. Reynolds gave him her gift the night before, explaining, “I’m working the blood bank at Lockheed tomorrow and I won’t see you. Open it after midnight.”

But the next afternoon it was Debbie’s mother Eddie finally got at home. “Where is everybody? I’ve been calling all day,” he said.

“I told you I was working the blood bank.”

“Oh, that’s right. Where’s Debbie? I can’t find her anywhere.”

“I don’t know, I just got home.”

“Where’s Willard? I can’t find Willard any place,” Eddie said, of his trusty valet and man Friday. Mrs. Reynolds said she had no idea were Willard was. Nor could he get in touch with his manager, Milton Blackstone, in New York. He didn’t expect orchids, but he was a little hurt. They didn’t have to be this hanged casual.

He kept calling and finally he found Debbie back home. He just couldn’t understand where she’d been all day long. And Willard, “Where’s Willard?” he said. “I can’t find any of my clothes.”

“You’re twenty-seven years old now; it’s about time you’re finding your own clothes,” Debbie laughed.

That night before they left for the Stordahls’ for their little “family party,” Debbie gave him her gift. Diamond and jade cuff links and studs. “Just the most fabulous!” he says. He hadn’t recovered from them when they got to the party and he walked into a whole Hawaiian luau and sixty happy faces, including those of the Milton Blackstones, who’d flown out from New York for his birthday on Debbie’s invite. Stopped for something to say, Eddie spotted Willard among the palm trees and covered huskily with, “Am I glad to see you. I’ve been looking for you all day.

The fun was still there. The pink cloud was still there. As Debbie said, “We’re completely in love—and we always have been.” And as she said, too, they hadn’t lost what they once had; they’d just replenished it with something stronger and surer.

As Eddie Fisher says, they’re a “little older” now, and wiser and strengthened by that which they’ve weathered together—and won. And the future is brighter because of it.

Eddie isn’t going to have to tour his show around the country. As he told us, “Technically it was just too rough. We’re not going to do that. But we’re going to be in Miami, Florida, in November for a big convention they’re having there.” They do have a new apartment now. “I moved into Milton Berle’s apartment just down the hall from mine in the same apartment hotel. Mine had one bedroom and Milton’s has two.”

Eddie’s very proud of Debbie’s career. “I saw a few scenes from “The Tender Trap,” he said. “It’s the best thing she’s ever done! She’s very good with Frank Sinatra.” Reminded she’s very good with Eddie Fisher, too, he agreed, “I’m with you!”

Today they’re really, really living again. Laughing again. Singing again. And this time making the future a happy one side by side. For beside the engagement ring that made headlines, there is a thin, narrow wedding band—a band that made Debbie Reynolds Mrs. Eddie Fisher.





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