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Florence "Florrie" Fisher (c. 1918 – c. 1988) was a motivational speaker in the 1960s and 1970s who traveled to high schools in the United States, speaking about her past as a heroin addict and prostitute. She is perhaps most notable as the inspiration for the character Jerri Blank on the television series Strangers with Candy.

Biography

In addition to lecturing at many schools in the 1960s and 1970s, Fisher wrote an autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back, which told of her life from childhood up to the point when she became a motivational speaker. In 1970, she appeared in The Trip Back, a public service announcement detailing her appearance at a New York high school. Fisher's distinctive appearance, thick Brooklyn accent, and larger-than-life tales of prostitution, drug binges, larceny, botched abortions, and lesbian jailhouse encounters, turned her into a cult figure in the late 1970s, with bootleg videos of her public service announcement becoming a collector's item in the 1980s. During her time as a motivational speaker, Fisher was affiliated with the rehabilitation movement Synanon, which she credited with helping her beat her addiction. She also had ties to Phoenix House, a sister organization of Synanon's, and often recommended it to students during her speeches as a reliable means of combatting addictions.

The exact date of Fisher's birth is unknown. In her autobiography she gives conflicting dates, at one point stating that she was 43 in 1963, then later indicating that she was born in 1918. According to the information given by the publisher, Fisher was in fact born in 1920. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in Brooklyn. She briefly attended an unnamed Midwestern university in the late 1930s.

Fisher had a series of short-lived marriages documented in The Lonely Trip Back. She describes being married at least four separate times: first in a parent-arranged marriage to a childhood friend named Joe Rosinsky; next, to her pimp, whom she identified in her autobiography as David "Davey" Bohm; to a heroin junkie identified as Danny Orenstein, who claimed to be an insurance collector in Miami; and lastly, to a sheet metal foreman named Manuel "Philip" Bacalad (aka Bocala), whom she initially met as a pen pal just prior to becoming a motivational speaker.

Despite her crusade to get young people to learn from her mistakes, Fisher herself soon jumped back into old habits; Miami, Florida Police Department reports indicate she was charged with narcotics possession in 1971 and possession of stolen property in 1972. She and Bacalad disappeared from the public eye entirely sometime in the mid-1970s, with unsubstantiated rumors claiming that she was either dead after relapsing, or that she and Bacalad were involved in a cat burglar training venture in Miami. In the early 2000s Internet rumors claimed that she was responsible for a burglary at the condo of mafioso Meyer Lansky in 1979.

As of 2009, the fates of Fisher and her husband remain unknown, although her lifestyle combined with her age has led many to assume that she has probably died. At least one internet source claims that in her last years of life she attempted to flee her sordid past by settling in the small town of Sidney, Montana, where she died in the late 1980s due to natural causes.

Legacy

Among those who saw the The Trip Back were Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, who noticed a resemblance between Fisher and their friend Amy Sedaris. The two men showed Sedaris a copy of the video and, suitably impressed with an impression that Sedaris did of Fisher, they then created a television series based around the concept of Florrie Fisher going back to high school as a student. The result was Strangers with Candy.

External links

For video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1te8DbKaNnY








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