LOS ANGELES—For Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds fans, getting a wristband to the stars’ public memorial was of a galactic proportion: A rare, once-in-a-lifetime event.
It meant they were guaranteed a seat in the Hall of Freedom at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, where the memorial is taking place later today—a guaranteed goodbye to Star Wars queen and her legendary Singin’ in the Rain mom.
“Princess Leia, Luke and Han Solo—they’re like family,” said Liza Rios-Proprofsky, who was at the front of the line with her husband. The two had a Star Wars themed wedding last year. They have matching wedding rings with the Jedi symbol on them.
“Did we ever meet Carrie Fisher? We’ve seen her, but we didn’t know her. But from everything she gave fans—her books, her roles—we felt like we knew her. When I found out she passed, it was like we lost a family member,” Rios-Proprofsky explained. “We want to be here to be amongst other people, and just to say goodbye to Carrie and Debbie in a more personal way.”
For Todd Fisher, Carrie Fisher’s brother, the public memorial he organized was a way to give the fans—who he called his “extended family”—the ability to say goodbye to his sister and mother, who were buried side-by-side at the cemetery in January.
“My mom was very connected with her fans,” Todd said as he handed out a wristband. “Even when Carrie and I were little, and we walking down the street, she [Debbie] would take time to meet people. We want to take time and make sure everyone feels important and included.”
Some fans lined up as early as 2:30 a.m. to be at the front of the line. Anticipating the long wait, many brought fold-up chairs, umbrellas (for protection from the sun), snacks, books, and games.
By 9 a.m., there were about 100 people eagerly waiting for their wristbands. Fisher interacted with every single one of the attendees, individually handing out the wristbands and taking selfies with those who asked. Almost everyone had a story they wanted to share with him about his sister or his mom, or both.
Todd sported a pin with a photo of Carrie and Debbie that a fan gave him.
“Thank you Todd!” people yelled, as he hurried back inside the Hall to continue preparing the memorial.
More attendees slowly made their way up the cemetery hill to join the line.
“This is sort of like lining up for a Bruce Springsteen concert,” one latecomer said.
Some came sporting Star Wars gear. Others held on to signed memorabilia, which served as a conversation starter in line.
But almost everyone came ready to share their fondest memory of the stars.
“When did you meet Carrie?” one fan asked another while waiting in line. “I met her 15 years ago.”
“I never met her but I felt like I knew her,” said another.
Summer Mitchell, a 23-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, planned a trip to visit her family in L.A. and to attend the memorial.
“I felt very connected with Debbie and Carrie in a way beyond just ‘oh I like these movies, these tv shows,'” Mitchell said. “I’ve been a big fan growing up. They mean a lot to me on a personal level. I have all of Carrie’s books. I’m also a dancer, so Singin’ in the Rain really inspires me. I felt like I would regret it if I didn’t come.”
Mitchell sells and designs journals—she calls them the Carrie Diaries—with Carrie Fisher quotes on them. All proceeds go to The Thalians, Reynolds’ charity dedicated to mental health causes. She gave one to Todd after he gave her a wristband.
The public memorial will feature home movies, images and still pictures from the family archives. There will also be a video, produced specifically for the event, featuring a new song by James Blunt, a friend of Fisher’s, dedicated to the late star. Music from John Williams’ Star Wars score will also play.
The service will be live streamed on DebbieReynolds.com beginning at 1 p.m. PST.