The Beverly Hills estate that Carrie Fisher called home has a rich history — it was built for King Kong actor Robert Armstrong, inhabited by the one and only Bette Davis, and given an extreme makeover by Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head. The Star Wars actress moved into the Spanish-style home in 1992 (the year her only child, her daughter Billie Lourd, was born) and, despite its pedigree, rolled out the red carpet to friends and soon-to-be friends in need of a place to stay, write, record, eat, or heal.
In an Architectural Digest spread in 2004, the actress and writer, who purchased the 4,200-square-foot home for $13.75 million, showed off a giant oak dining table, which she bought because it was “the biggest in the city,” to accommodate her many visitors. The guesthouse on the 2.58-acre property, she told the mag, had been the quarters of “the famous and near famous: the well and those in need of healing, addicts, depressives, those being treated for cancer and HIV, those just passing through. There’s been anything and everything holed up in this Hollywood-style hacienda.”
Fisher’s bio in 2011 for her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, spelled out who some of those guests were: “She resides in Los Angeles with her daughter, Billie, and other occasional houseguests (like you care): Sean Lennon, Craig Bierko, Michael Rosenbaum, Garret Edington, Mary French, Marianne Faithfull, François Ravard, Charlie Wessler, Griffin Dunne, Edgar and Rachael Phillips, James Blunt … and Greg Stevens. Oh, and her mother lives next door to her, as well.” (Of course, her mother is Debbie Reynolds; her dad was the late Eddie Fisher.)
The British singer James Blunt was in the “near-famous” category when Fisher invited him to stay at her house. They were at a dinner party in London, and Blunt, who was a soldier just out of combat and dealing with anxiety, mentioned that he had made a deal with a record label to record an album in L.A. Fisher, who was public about suffering from bipolar disorder, took him in for five months, fed him, and acted as his therapist.
“He’d never been to therapy, and I’ve had enough for both of us, so we started talking quite deeply about his time in the army and the kind of impact that had had,” she told the Independent in 2006. “And so on. So I was kind of his shrink/landlady.”
A recent photo of them together at a holiday party:
Me blunting around at an Xmas party–by night-By day, fℹ️????♏️ℹ???? ©????️✝️????️????✝️®????️????️♓️✌????️ ℹ♑️ ????️ ®????️ℹ♑️✌????️ ©????Ⓜ️????✝️????️®✌????️..????ℹ♈️ℹ♑️⛽️ ✝️♓️???? d®????????️♏️❕ pic.twitter.com/bxlvHiRRyE
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) December 12, 2016
Fisher, who joked in the article that her house was a “guest house for wandering Brits,” continued, “We became very, very good friends by the end. He is a good person and he was very good to me when I had a friend pass away. He’s a really good soul. This was someone for whom I became a therapist, bear in mind. There was a lot of transference. I still talk to him all the time.”
The “You’re Beautiful” singer talked about living and writing at Fisher’s house in a 2013 interview with Yahoo Music, saying, “She said I should stay with her when I wrote the first album (Back to Bedlam), and now, whenever I record, I’ve been living with her. It’s very much my home away from home, and it’s a very creative house. One minute Sean Lennon will be passing through and Harper Simon, who is Paul Simon’s son. When I was working on this album, I’d come home from the studio at one in the morning and Carrie would be on her bed writing. She’d be the first person I’d play every song to. And after she heard it, she’d give me her critique and then send me out in the morning to fix it up.”
Fisher’s house was eclectic — AD described it as a “hip museum of a house, an ode to the obsessive joy of collecting, is as charming, imaginative, original, and fun as the actress-author herself.” (A fan posted some of the signs on the front gate of the property, including “Beware of crabs” and “Public Telephone Within.”) Blunt told BBC Breakfast in 2013 that Fisher “put a cardboard cutout of herself [as Princess Leia] outside my room to protect me at night” when he stayed there. He said that it had Princess Leia’s “hair in the buns and she’d even written her date of birth on her forehead and her date of death. [Princess Leia] was guarding me through the process.” He lovingly described his landlord as a “weird and wonderful person.”
Fisher was wonderful in the sense that she helped him choose a title for Back to Bedlam, which went on to sell 11 million copies. (“He didn’t know what Bedlam was before I told him,” she told the Independent.) She was weird and wonderful in the sense that she had a piano in her bathroom — and she let him record there.
“I recorded the album in the bathroom because she had a piano there, and we didn’t have the budget to buy one or hire a studio,” Blunt told the Telegraph.
As for why she had a piano in the john, “We had no place else to put it,” Fisher told AD, “and the room has good acoustics.” Of Blunt recording there and going on to find big success, she said, “This is just one of those houses that does things to people.”
Blunt paid tribute to his friend and therapist on Twitter Tuesday, writing, “Sweet dreams, darling @carrieffisher. I’m gonna miss you. So much.”
Sweet dreams, darling @carrieffisher. I'm gonna miss you. So much. x
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) December 27, 2016
Blunt mentioned that Sean Lennon was someone he’d see while staying at Fisher’s home. The NYC-based musician son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono often stayed there when he found himself on the West Coast. It seems the connection there is Sean’s childhood friend, Harper Simon, who as mentioned, is the son of Paul Simon, Carrie’s first husband.
Lennon seemed crushed by her passing, posting two tributes to her on Instagram on Tuesday.
In them, Sean called her “one of the best and closest friends I’ve ever had in my life.” He said they had “magical evenings” together, and he wondered how he’ll be able to go on without her there ” to fix” the dramas in his life. He described himself as “shattered” and his heart “permanently broken,” comparing the loss to his father’s death when he was just 5.
It seems on one of those magical evenings chez Fisher, Lennon broke a pricy Handel lamp given to Fisher by George Lucas. During an interview with CNN in 2011, Fisher said the Star Wars creator “bought me a lamp” for writing an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, however, “Sean Lennon broke it.”
Actor and singer Craig Bierko was another Coldwater Canyon Drive regular. On Twitter on Tuesday, he explained how they met. It also seemed they had pet nicknames for each other.
15 years ago our agents arranged a 1/2 hour meeting between #CarrieFisher and me and it's ended far too abruptly. I love you, Linda.
— Craig Bierko (@MrCraigBierko) December 27, 2016
Like Blunt, Bierko worked at Fisher’s house — actually, in the same room. That’s where he shot the premiere episode of his web series “Bathing With Bierko,” in which he interviewed John Malkovich in the tub. Fisher was away at the time, but gave him access to her home. So he brewed up some coffee (at Malkovich’s request) and they got to work.
“It’s Carrie Fisher’s bathtub,” he told Newsweek of the shoot. “She’s a friend of mine and it never even occurred to me to tell anybody that that’s where we’re shooting it. But it just so happens that she lives in Bette Davis’s old house. And so it’s one of these great old bathtubs. The bathroom itself is enormous; it’s like the size of a studio apartment. [Fisher] has a piano in it, of course. Naturally. She’s Carrie Fisher, she has a piano in her bathroom.” In a second interview promoting the project, he called her “probably one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met. A true friend.”
Another visitor to Fisher’s house was none other than Courtney Love. Fisher told Vanity Fair that Love lived next door and that their daughters, Billie and Frances Bean Cobain, often had sleepovers. In the 2006 British TV documentary The Return of Courtney Love, the singer from Hole visited Fisher. After she entered the gates and drove up the driveway, they hung out in Fisher’s bedroom, amid a stack of Country Life magazines, having a heart-to-heart. (And Fisher gave great advice. “You’re not mistreated. You’re choosing the people who are doing this.”)
It starts at about 35:30:
And here is a tribute Love posted to her friend and former neighbor on Twitter:
Carrie fisher – great wit – great friend / one of the brightest lights has gone out . Deep condolences to Billie and Debbie pic.twitter.com/NoUQt1mq5u
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) December 27, 2016
For Fisher, opening the doors of her home to so many wasn’t without drama. In 2005, R. Gregory Stevens, a Republican media adviser, was found dead in her home — in Fisher’s bed — after an overdose of cocaine and the painkiller OxyContin. (That’s the “… and Greg Stevens” she referred to in her Wishful Drinking bio.) A year later, she spoke about it in an interview with Vanity Fair.
“This friend of mine had a very dangerous job. He ran presidential elections in very unstable countries, so for him to have died anywhere else was like Patton dying in a car accident,” she said. “He did drugs. A lot of people were staying at my house, which is why he was sleeping with me. He came home around midnight, and he and I sat up and talked. He was very tired, and he then went to bed. When I got into bed, I put a pillow between us and I woke him up. We watched TV for a little bit. I was woken up in the morning by my friend Bruce Cohen because we were going to have tango lessons. I had planned to make soufflé that morning. And I went around the bed to wake up Greg and he was dead.”
She continued, “From the first moment I blamed myself. I thought I’d put the pillow on his face. I was in shock for months. I thought I had killed him because it had happened on my watch and I had failed to save him. They say his body was so worn out from drug use that if it hadn’t happened that night it would’ve happened on another one.”
Fisher said she later thought Stevens was haunting the property until her friends had an exorcist come over and clear the air. “After that, things were fine,” she said. “But you know, he didn’t just die in his sleep; he died in mine. So it’s still not gone, and I don’t think it will ever be.”
And at the time of her death, Fisher was a defendant in a wrongful-death lawsuit involving a 21-year-old woman struggling with heroin addiction who fatally overdosed two months after she lived in Fisher’s guesthouse. The family of Amy Breliant sued Dr. Stephen Marmer, rehab facility operator Warren Boyd, and Fisher related to the woman’s 2010 death. The complaint — filed in 2013 — said Fisher had an arrangement with Boyd in which she allowed him to use her guesthouse as part of his network of sober-living homes, and was paid $10,000 a week.
The family claimed that Boyd was hired to get Breliant clean, but that his treatment was costly, ineffective, and illegal. Fisher was looped in, the case alleged, because “Boyd used Carrie Fisher’s celebrity status as one of the instruments by which he conducted his fraudulent drug rehabilitation practice that we believe led to Amy’s death.” Boyd denied any wrongdoing in the matter. The lawsuit is ongoing.
While we don’t know what Fisher’s daughter, Scream Queens actress Lourd, will decide to do with the house after her mother’s sudden death at the age of 60 on Tuesday, we now know that she has made the decision to care for her mother’s beloved French bulldog. It was reported on Wednesday morning that Billie has taken custody of Gary, whom her mother brought everywhere with her, even on the red carpet.