After many failed attempts of trying to craft the perfect press release to announce the upcoming EP from Justin Courtney Pierre, there comes a time when one must admit defeat. Instead, I have a memo directly from the desk of Justin Courtney Pierre himself that surpasses any cool or jargony things I could’ve written:
My obsession with Debbie Reynolds started at a young age. I believe I was 12 when I noticed her book, Debbie: My Life, on my grandmother’s nightstand. My parents traveled for work, so I spent a good deal of my childhood and early teen years in the company of my grandmother. We watched The Golden Girls together, and she let me feast on a rotating smorgasbord of Pepperidge Farm products, sherbet ice cream, and giant bags of gourmet popcorn she’d pick up from our frequent late-night trips to Red Owl.
I didn't just watch shows; I loved to read. I fully immersed myself in whatever world I was investigating. Didn’t matter if it was The Hardy Boys, Calvin and Hobbes, IT,Spaceballs: The Book, or biographies about old ladies with big hair. I simply enjoyed the act of reading, and I constantly took on characteristics and mannerisms of the people in the stories. I’m pretty sure my parents thought there was something wrong with me, but my grandmother made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world (even if it was all a grand exaggeration of half-truths and utter nonsense). There was something more comfortable about not fully being myself. A freedom of sorts.
To this day, I do not know what compelled me to pick up Debbie's book, but from word one, I was enraptured. I couldn’t put it down. The obsession really picked up once I realized that Carrie Fisher was Debbie Reynolds’ daughter. Star Wars was at the forefront of many thoughts, as a child of the ‘80s. I have a strong memory of being taken to Return of The Jedi by the very grandmother whose book I was now reading, along with my cousin Jared, and the subsequent trip to Children’s Palace to purchase a scout trooper and a speeder bike. I thought Princess Leia was a dead ringer for my mom, and Han Solo WAS my dad. To some degree they still are.
I often found connections to things I couldn’t explain, nor did I fully understand, but always just went with it. Like jumping off a cliff and figuring out the landing on the way down. I’ve only in the last few years realized I was living in a purely instinctual way back then (a place I long to get back to). This is to say, my connection to Star Wars, and thus the characters of Princess Leia and Han Solo, made me think of my own parents, my life, my grandmother, our time together watching films like Star Wars, and a book about the mother of Carrie Fisher. It all seemed like a puzzle to me, a puzzle of the unsolvable circular unending variety. Puzzles like these occupied much space in my adolescent brain.
Somewhere along the way I fell in love with Debbie Reynolds. As I grew up, I watched every movie of hers I could get my hands on. Albert Brooks’ Mother is perhaps my favorite performance of hers because she reminds me so much of the grandmother who was responsible for inadvertently sending me on this lifelong obsession I still don’t fully comprehend.
I’ve heard people say that time heals all wounds. I don’t necessarily believe that. I believe that time unearths more accurate truths. It is then up to you to figure out what to do with what you discover.
A strange thing happens when a person experiences trauma at a young age. Your body and your mind find a way to protect you from it. It helps for a while until it doesn’t. Add to that an overactive imagination and a shitload of drugs, and suddenly reality isn’t so obvious. I feel like I somehow used Debbie Reynolds as a substitute for my own mother (her name is Debbie as well) and as I mentioned before, my mother and father always reminded me of Han Solo and Princess Leia.
Over time, the lines get so blurred, you can’t even trust your own memories.
This is essentially what these songs are about. That confused area where, once the fog is lifted and the excavation begins, you start to see the buried bits of this and that residing beneath the false veneer you weren’t even aware of in the first place, yet robotically kept up for over forty years because you never thought to question its validity. For me, that was uncoupling the story of Debbie Reynolds from my own.
Or perhaps it was Deborah Winger.