Picks and Pans Review: Debbie: My Life

updated 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Debbie Reynolds with David Patrick Columbia

"When are you going to get over being a Girl Scout?" Elizabeth Taylor once asked Debbie Reynolds. "Never. I like being a Girl Scout," was Reynolds' reply. "How boring. How BORING," replied Taylor, who would soon run off with Reynolds' husband, Eddie Fisher. How boring, how BORING is right. Debbie Reynolds, nee Mary Frances Reynolds, was the Brooke Shields of her day, a professional virgin. No one could have been more ingenuous, more the tomboy, more the sexual naïf (and more proud of it), more, as she calls herself, the Kid. While her recollections of her own relentless purity wear thin, she has more to talk about. There is her career, from Miss Burbank contest to movie star (Tammy and the Bachelor, Singin' in the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown), Las Vegas headliner and Broadway star. She also, of course, gives a lot of space to her marriages to Eddie Fisher and shoe magnate-compulsive gambler Harry Karl. And she doesn't overlook Taylor, depicting her as a passionate woman who knows what she wants and gets it (Debbie describes herself as Peter Pan to Taylor's Salome). Reynolds also writes about her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, and how their relationship endured a rough patch. Reynolds' life clearly hasn't been the stuff of Aba Daba Honeymoon, but she made some dopey choices along the way and had a trencherman's appetite for playing the martyr. She got engaged to Fisher on their third date, when he presented her with an 11-carat diamond, then stayed married to him for no good reason. (Fisher coming across as a spoiled, petulant brat is no surprise since he came across as a spoiled, petulant brat in his 1981 autobiography, Eddie: My Life, My Loves.) Reynolds became engaged to Karl with almost equal dispatch—he gave her a 17-carat diamond—and divorced him when she learned he had been womanizing and spending her money on gambling. Reynolds does appear to be as unsinkable as Molly Brown: She paid off all Karl's debts at no small hardship and comes off as a loyal friend, a responsible mother, an estimable daughter and a trouper—well, all right, a Girl Scout. For what it's worth, little Debbie, now 56, is happy at last. At 40, she found sexual fulfillment, something, she tells the reader several times, she didn't have with either of her two husbands. She is now ecstatically married to real estate developer Richard Hamlett. There are such choice moments as Reynolds and Karl ending up on the same ocean liner as Taylor and Richard Burton, or Reynolds' encounter with Marlon Brando when he kept referring to her as "Tammy." But for works of art that Reynolds is connected with, see Singin' in the Rain. (Morrow, $18.95)

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