Eddie Fisher, the star of the show, had just flown in from the Hamptons in Roy Radin's private Cessna, and was encountering a minor state of confusion. Radin, a 28-year-old promoter, led Fisher to his dressing room, stage left at Wheaton High School auditorium, and turned to leave.
"The couch, Roy?" said Eddie Fisher, testing it inquiringly with a forefinger. "It's wet ."
Radin laughed nervously, still moving. "Uh, yeah, Eddie, we had it flown in special from New York last week, but somebody left it out in the rain . . ." Fisher cut him off with a back drive into the soggy couch, landing with a soft squish. "It's all right, Roy," he said.
Radin left. "A Tribute to the '50s," the show he was putting on Sunday night with the Montgomery County Police Association was to go on in half an hour, and the Shirelles still weren't there yet.
"I'm really proud of Carrie," Fisher said, ignoring the dampness to chat about his 21-year-old daughter by Debbie Reynolds. Carrie played Princess Leia in "Star Wars," and Fisher had just spent a week with her in New York. "It was really strange, you know, staying for a week in her place. She lives with Terry Garr, you know, the star of "Close Encounters," and so all the time the phone is ringing, young men for Terry or Carrier." He laughed, crossing his beige bucks. "Like the old days. She's doing Brecht with Joe Papp this summer."
Radin burst into the room. "Sorry, Hey Eddie, we got 30,000 for Johnstown, Pa." "Sorry," he said again, and burst back out, still in search of the Shirelles.
The '50s. In the days of bobby-soxers Eddie Fisher made between 3750,000 and $1 million a year; his television show, "Coke Time," went out on the NBC network; and he was married to Debbie Reynolds, America's Sweetheart.
But in late 1958, his marriage to Reynolds began to break up and when it did, he married Elizabeth Taylor. Meanwhile record sales were falling off, and he found it harder to get booked into theaters and clubs. NBC had canceled "Coke Time." The official reason given was low ratings, but the indignation of all those former bobby-soxers was not to be ignored, especially after Elizabeth Taylor defied an NBC ban to visit Fisher backstage before a show.
His marriage to Taylor ended in 1962, while she was filming "Cleopatra" in Rome with Richard Burton. By the mid-60's, Jacqueline Kennedy would sardonically observe that the best way to earn America's scorn was to marry Eddie Fisher.
"People don't look at that all all any more, when people get divorced," Fisher said Sunday. "The people who haven't forgotten haven't forgiven, though - there's still some morality creeping around out there.
"Of course, with the bobby-soxers - you know the Coke company tried to get me to not marry Debbie: They liked the marriage of Coca-Cola and Eddie Fisher. But nobody advises me in affairs of the heart.
"In a way, the '50s were a double-edged sword - is there anything worse than that:" Fisher asked.
Would he call Elizabeth Taylor, living just over in Virginia with fifth husband John Warner? Fisher snapped his fingers violently, "Oh jeez, that's right." But then he sat back and smiled."No, I don't think we have anything to say to each other."
"I did call her once - you know?" he said, recalling the nightmarish 1962 press conference Fisher announced to quiet rumors that he and Taylor were breaking up. But when he phoned her in Rome, she refused to make a statement.
His marriage to former beauty queen Terry Richard ended in divorce after only four months. At this, Fisher shook his head. "I've done it - made those gestures." Eddie Fisher, who once said that the insanity of marriage and the insanity of show business just did not mix, says, "I've entered those asylums before. I can never get married again." The only one of his four ex-wives he reports being on good terms with is the third, Connie Stevens.
Fisher was in Wheaton at the top of a '50s bill that included Jackie Vernon, Frank Fontaine, the Drifters, Danny and the Juniors, and Tiny Tim.
They're all great people to work with," he says, sscuffing his bucks on the floor. "I used to be so concerned about dressing rooms," - he wagved around at Wheaton High School's tile-and-cinder block - "but that's not important. What's important is if you can still move an audience, and they can still move you. It doesn't matter where you play."
Outside, Frank Fontaine was warming up a largely unappreciative audience with his Crazy Guggenheim routine. "A Tribute to the '50s had begun. "I don't know anything about that," Eddie Fisher said abruptly. "All I know is that the William Morris Agency called and said 'Want to do 30 days straight?' and I took it. I'm sollvent, I spend most of my time in Jamaica, but I wanted to sing. I never had any knocks - it was all easy. This is good hard labor. Now it'll be a miracle if I last the tour," he said, and laughed again.
It was time to dress. Fisher, as the headliner, would ordinarily go on last, but he was tired and Radin had decided to fly back to Southhampton that night. Fisher was already pulling his white shirt out of his jeans.
He went on after Jackie Vernon; under the lights he didn't look 49. It was a standard set, some Jolson, "Sonny Boy" without the mike, then the hits: "Oh! My Papa," "Anytime," "Wish You Were Here." The crowd loved it - they turned away 600 people at the door - even though Fisher's smooth baritone flatted out in a few places.
After 20 minutes Fisher was back in the dressing room, signing autographs, accepting a plaque with a Montgomery County police badge on it, posing for pictures. "Sure chief, sure." Radin called out, "Eddie will do anything for a man with a gun."
Then they were in a limousine, heading for Gaithersburg Air Park, barreling down Maryland Roads with a cruiser ahead. "He was good," the burly trooper driving said. "Last year he had Donald O'Conner and the year before Milton Berle; didn't sell the place out either time." The trooper no motorcycle escort like last year. We got a new chief, and he doesn't go for that stuff."
Radin waved it off. "Say, where did you get the limo?" he asked. The police borrowed it from a funeral home. "See Eddie, what'd I tell you - 90 per cent of the limos we get are from funeral homes."
Earlier, Fisher had said he will do an album when the tour finishes, new stuff, for 20th century. The topic come up again. "Oh yeah - Eddie's going to do an album in Setpember," Radin chimed in, "new stuff, dynamite stuff - we're writing the songs now. It's gonna be great, huh Eddie?" The limosine arrived at the Gaithersburg Air Park.
Fisher was hungry - he recently lost 40 pounds, and the show takes a lot out of him. Radin turned to an assistant: "Call McCarthy's in Southampton and tell them to stay open. We're coming in." With the promoter across the concrete strip.