2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Arrivals
Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

EW’s newest Pop Culture True Crime feature story, “Hollywood’s Original Gone Girl,” takes a deep dive into the strange 1957 kidnapping case of Marie McDonald, a 1940s movie starlet known as “The Body.” Her lurid ordeal began with two men abducting the actress from her Los Angeles home and ended 24 hours later with a truck driver finding McDonald, bruised and disheveled, on a highway in the desert. Then some of the details — phone calls, a ransom note, and a novel called The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown — began calling into question the truth behind her wild tale. (Read the full story here.)

Eight years after the events recounted in EW’s article, McDonald was found dead from an accidental drug overdose in her Los Angeles home. The day she died — Oct. 21, 1965 — was also the 9th birthday of a girl in Beverly Hills named Carrie Fisher. The Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia in-waiting and daughter of Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds. And believe it or not, these two events were connected. “There was yellow police tape all over my house when out of nowhere Debbie Reynolds pulled up driving this green Rolls-Royce,” says McDonald’s youngest daughter, Tina Diamond, who was also 9 at the time. “And Debbie said to me, ‘Call me Mom,’ and whizzed me off to Carrie’s birthday party. It was so bizarre. I didn’t even know what death was and suddenly I was at a birthday party.”

McDonald’s ex-husband Harry Karl (a featured player in the True Crime story) married Reynolds in 1960. “My impression was that Marie McDonald was a loose canon on the deck,” Reynolds’ son, Todd Fisher, remembers. “She was very beautiful and charismatic but kind of a bad girl, while my mom was the clean-cut apple pie type of girl. I think that’s what Harry Karl was looking for.”

But when McDonald died, Todd says, “My mother thought it was nonnegotiable that Tina come live with us. That was her natural empathy. But it was a complex, intense situation. There was nothing normal about Tina, but there was nothing normal about Carrie or I either. Carrie used to call it our ‘shared weirdness.’ And Tina came into a very well-established household, and there was a disruption in the Force, if you know what I mean. It was a very odd situation and there was some degree of jealousy. Carrie was Debbie’s real daughter, and I have great empathy for Tina in that regard. It was pretty intense.”

The two girls shared a bedroom in Reynolds’ house. “I was sleeping in a pull-out bed under Carrie’s bed,” Diamond explains, “and we shared a bedroom for many years. It was a monster house, very modern, this big white marble stone cold house. Todd was in the bedroom next to us. Carrie and I went to the same school and were in the same grade. We were rivals, at times. We would fight, and we would make up.”

Diamond also has intense memories of those times, including one in which comedian George Carlin played spin the bottle with the two teenagers in a closet under the stairs. “He was like an old pervert,” Diamond alleges. “He’d probably be arrested today for the things he did with us. Back then nobody looked at it twice.”

Diamond and Carrie also spent part of their high school years being tutored in Las Vegas casinos, where Reynolds was performing.”Our recess would be in Circus Circus,” she says. “It wasn’t the greatest education, but you could also say I got a better education.”

Eventually Reynolds and Karl divorced (his financial mismanagement of Reynolds’ money is chronicled in the 2016 documentary Bright Lights), and Diamond explains she was left alone in their house. “One morning I woke up and they were packing for New York,” she recalls. “And Carrie said, ‘We’re going to New York’ and she started crying and she took the ring off her finger and put it on my finger and gave me a hug and a kiss. Nobody was watching me, I had no supervision, and I became a wild child. I went crazy. Who wouldn’t at 16?” She adds, “That’s where the book I’m writing begins.”

According to Todd, all three of McDonald’s children were financially supported by Reynolds until she passed away last December, one day after Carrie’s death. Diamond — who now lives in Palm Springs, Calif. and admits that “Todd and I are not the best of friends” — was shattered by the news of Reynold’s death. “On the day of the services for the family, I was in the car literally driving there and my gall bladder burst,” she says. “So I had surgery that day and I’m still recovering.

“It was a nightmare, and it still is,” she says of losing both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. “None of it seems real.”