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Carrie Fisher's dad dies

September 24, 2010 1:49:20 PM PDT
The people of a certain age 'round here like to say "older reference lost on a younger audience" when referring to something that you have to be of a certain age to remember.

Actually, it's not entirely accurate to say we "like to say" that; I suspect we rather hate to say it. But perhaps that's another day's topic.

Anyway, we had one of those moments today, with the death of the singer and actor Eddie Fisher. Laurence Olivier he wasn't. Neither was he Frank Sinatra. But he was a talented entertainer who lived what at the time was the fast life. In fact, his complicated love life proved more headline producing than his string of pop hits - 17 Number 1 songs between 1950 and 1956, and nearly 50 songs in the Top 40 during that span.

He was married to Debbie Reynolds - they became something of a malt-shop dream couple. They had a couple kids. One of them was Carrie Fisher, the writer and actress (she was Princess Leia in Star Wars). But then he divorced the girl-next-door Reynolds to marry the siren Elizabeth Taylor, whose previous husband, director Mike Todd, had died in a plane crash. Todd and Fisher had been great friends.

That was in 1959, and it was the first memory I have of a celebrity's romantic life making news - at least the kind of news a 9-year-old might care about. This kind of lifestyle seemed so different than anyone else's - or at least anyone else I knew. There was something both pathetic and intriguing about the guy. No one gave him props for leaving his wife and family - in fact he was the target of much derision, even in Los Angeles where this kind of thing happened more often than in other cities. But, hey, on the other hand, he was married to Liz Taylor!

Eddie Fisher got his, though, when his new wife, a few years later, fell in love with Richard Burton. And suddenly, he was alone.

That I remember all this I suspect says something about celebrity news coverage. I mean it resonated. And I couldn't help but compare the coverage of Fisher's scandalous love life back then with the coverage of the scandalous lives of current celebrities.

The troubled actress Lindsay Lohan comes first to mind, because today she was remanded into custody for failing a drug test while she was out on probation. This is her third stint in the slammer in the past three years - and this time she's less likely to be released early because of overcrowding. The last time she served only a couple weeks in rehab - instead of the 90 days of her sentence.

The young woman clearly is an addict - and I have compassion for those with the disease. But I also wonder if all this news coverage isn't in some ways also enabling. She behaves badly, and she gets coverage. I can guarantee she wouldn't get coverage by behaving properly.

I'm just sayin'.

And it's something we discuss, as we put together our newscasts. And it's prelude for our 11 p.m. 'cast, which is to say - for all of you who write in and wonder why we cover this young and troubled character - we'll likely have a story about Lindsay Lohan. There are, the other side argues, lessons for other young people to learn from her bad behavior and her addiction.

Also at 11, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer tonight takes a look at how easy and relatively inexpensive it is to buy powerful and "extremely dangerous" hand-held lasers. Lasers with a 1,000-watt radiation beam that can hit a target miles away.

We're also following the trail of controversy Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is leaving behind in New York. Yesterday his comments about the U.S. being behind the Sept. 11 attacks drew barbed reviews. And today the Iranian leader met with Sarah Shourd, the American "hiker" held for months in Iran but released earlier this month. She apparently pleaded her case that her finance and another friend still in custody be released. We'll see.

And under the heading of "Diversity, NOT!" - consider the Texas Board of Education, controlled by social conservatives, and which today voted to "curtail" references to Islam in their textbooks.

Wow.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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