Debbie Reynolds Bankrupt

Her casino is the problem--but she really is unsinkable

By Joal Ryan Jul 08, 1997 7:50 PMTags

When it comes to finances, the force has rarely been with Princess Leia's mom.

Screen legend Debbie Reynolds (Singin' in the Rain), who spent the 1970s wearing out her dancing shoes in a barnstorming tour to pay off a $3 million debt left by her second husband Harry Karl, is dancing as fast as she can again--this time, officially declaring bankruptcy.

Reynolds, mother of actress/writer Carrie Fisher (Star Wars), yelled "uncle" Monday--done in by her money-losing Las Vegas casino venture. The Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy--a move that keeps creditors at bay.

"Debbie seems to have had a string of these," her Los Angeles-based publicist Kevin Sasaki said today. "...but she never gives up."

Indeed, the unsinkable Molly Brown is more than a role Reynolds won an Oscar nomination for in 1964. The unsinkable 65-year-old is scheduled to be onstage at her belly-up casino's Debbie Reynolds Star Theatre tonight, and every night of her usual Monday to Friday schedule. Her 193-room namesake hotel also remains open and continues to take reservations.

Located (or hidden) just off the Vegas Strip, the hotel was a dream of the entertainer's that became reality in 1992, when she and then-husband Richard Hamlett (Hubby No. 3), bought the land of the old Paddlewheel casino at an auction for $3 million.

It opened in July 1993, giving Reynolds a permanent home and glitzy showcase for her vast movie memorabilia collection--boasting more than 3,000 costumes and 36,000 square feet of props. Among its prize jewels: Elizabeth Taylor's headdress from Cleopatra. (For those of you keeping score at home, Taylor stole Hubby No. 1, Eddie Fisher, from Reynolds in 1959.)

Things at first looked bright for the hotel. But then, a massive problem: Debbie Reynolds' casino lost its casino. It closed in March 1996 when the company that was running it pulled out--saying the venture just wasn't profitable.

Reynolds tried to sell the hotel to a Phoenix-based company, but that deal fell through two months ago. Recent weeks saw 44 hotel employees laid off and Reynolds resign as the hotel's chairwoman and director.

Her son, Todd Fisher, who remains president of the troubled company, says his family is handling this latest hit with a little Hollywood moxie: "The show must go on."

Reynolds, who revived her film career in last year's Mother, will next be seen in theaters in the Kevin Kline comedy, In and Out.