Florence "Florrie" Fisher (September 18, 1918 – May 26, 1972) was an American motivational speaker in the 1960s and 1970s who traveled to high schools in the United States, telling stories about her past as a heroin addict and prostitute. Her eccentric mannerisms and often lurid stories--which included tales of prostitution, jailhouse lesbianism, and botched abortions-- made her into a cult figure in the late 1970s and 80s, with VHS tapes of her speaking engagements becoming collector's items. She is better known today as the inspiration for the character Jerri Blank on the television series Strangers with Candy.
The exact date of Fisher's birth is unclear. In her autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back, Fisher 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 born in 1920. Her parents lived in Brooklyn, then later moved to Miami, Florida.
Fisher said she had a series of short-lived marriages. 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.
After an interview with David Susskind generated 100,000 letters, Susskind invited Fisher to appear on The Mike Douglas Show, which he co-hosted in 1969. Fisher then began speaking at schools and 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 recording of her appearance at a New York high school. Fisher's stories were often lurid or sensational, such as her assertion that she knew six men who had been sentenced to death at Sing Sing and Raiford Prison for committing six separate murders while under the influence of marijuana. 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 combating addictions.
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 speaking engagements becoming a collector's item in the 1980s.
Among those who saw 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.
- Susskind, David (1970). The lady is back from hell. In Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin Alumnus, Vol. 71, Number 4 (Feb. 1970) pp. 9-14.
- Fisher, Florrie (1971). The Lonely Trip Back: As told to Jean Davis and Todd Persons. Doubleday, ASIN B0006DYQEM
- New York Daily News (1970). The Trip Back. Directed by Ralph Weisinger, Avon Productions
- Douglas, Mike (1973). Back from Hell. The Rotarian March 1973, pp. 36-38.
- Bon Jour, Pee Wee - Denver: Inspiration for 'Strangers With Candy' Retrieved 2017-07-27.