Most people know Andrew McCarthy from his movie roles in Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, Weekend at Bernie's, and Less than Zero, and as a charter member of Hollywood's Brat Pack. That iconic group of ingenues and heartthrobs included Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore, and has come to represent both a genre of film and an era of pop culture.
In his memoir Brat: An '80s Story, McCarthy focuses his gaze on that singular moment in time. The result is a revealing look at coming of age in a maelstrom, reckoning with conflicted ambition, innocence, addiction, and masculinity. New York City of the 1980s is brought to vivid life in these pages, from scoring loose joints in Washington Square Park to skipping school in favor of the dark revival houses of the Village where he fell in love with the movies that would change his life. Filled with personal revelations of innocence lost to heady days in Hollywood with John Hughes and an iconic cast of characters, Brat is a surprising and intimate story of an outsider caught up in a most unwitting success.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Brat: An Eighties Story by Andrew McCarthy is a 2021 Grand Central Publication.
Growin' up, you don't see the writing on the wall
Passin' by, movin' straight ahead, you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain
You'll find you're all alone, everything has changed
I was just a little bit outside the targeted audience for some of McCarthy’s films in the 80s- but not by much- so I could still easily relate. Of all the ‘Brats’, McCarthy was my favorite. I thought he was so adorable. I never knew much about him personally, as he wasn’t quite as flamboyant as some of his peers, who knew how to work the system to keep themselves in the public eye as long as possible.
I confess, I haven’t thought of Andrew in a long while- although it does seem he keeps busy, directing, and writing, and works steadily as an actor. When I saw this book at the library, I put a hold on it immediately. I was dying to trip down memory lane, and hopefully, get a little glimpse of what McCarthy was like in his private life.
The first thing you might want to know is that this book is not a full-on memoir- it really does stick, almost exclusively, to the 80s decade. Andrew doesn’t get into his romantic entanglements, etc., but he does share some personal issues, including his complicated relationship with his father, and his struggles with alcohol and anxiety.
The book begins with a very brief outline of his early life and when and how he decided he wanted to be an actor. From there, McCarthy takes us on his journey through awkward auditions, excellent connections, and some pure luck that propelled him to stardom as well as a few odd reminisces, about one or two one-off chance encounters with famous people -Maybe a little 'slice of life' Hollywood style.
Andrew has real talent, but I get the impression that fame was uncomfortable for him- he seems reserved, maybe a little introverted, and didn’t seem to care for the politics, or the some of the sheer shallowness of being a celebrity- but of course, he enjoyed the attention paid him by beautiful women. Ha! (Though he knew his celebrity was a big part of that attention.)
It was nice to revisit the eighties, to get an up-close look at how someone like Andrew, who didn’t grow up in the Hollywood circle, depending on his talent and determination, making an impression on some key people in the industry which helped to establish him as a respected, popular, and skilled young actor.
His stories are funny and witty- told in low-key, self-deprecating tone- at times. Sometimes I thought even Andrew was marveling at some of his unique experiences and by how things clicked into place.
The book also has a bittersweet quality to it, a poignancy that exposes McCarthy’s vulnerabilities, and at times a raw pain he stoically attempts to contain-even now.
This short book is hardly a definitive memoir of McCarthy’s life, but it centers on the area of his life people will be the most curious about- and it did bring back some nice memories, favorite movie quotes and scenes, while a stellar soundtrack runs in the back of my mind...
Overall, this is a very nice memoir-interesting, though a bit mild-mannered. If you liked McCarthy before, you’ll still like him after you read this book- and you might respect him even more.
I need you now like I need you then
You always said we'd meet again…
Andrew McCarthy is a director, an award winning travel writer, and—of course—an actor. He made his professional début at 19 in Class, and has appeared in dozens of films, including such iconic movies as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Less Then Zero, and cult favorites Weekend At Bernie’s and Mannequin. He chronicles these films and his time as a member of the Brat Pack in his upcoming memoir BRAT: An ‘80s Story .
Andrew has directed nearly a hundred hours of television, including some of today’s biggest hits, including The Blacklist, Grace and Frankie, New Amsterdam, Orange is the New Black, and many others.
For a dozen years Andrew served as an editor-at-large with National Geographic Traveler magazine. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Time, Travel+Leisure, Town & Country, Men’s Journal, Bon Appetit, and many others. He has been named Travel Journalist of the Year by The Society of American Travel Writers, as well as serving as guest editor of the prestigious BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING anthology.
Andrew is the author of a travel memoir, THE LONGEST WAY HOME and a Young Adult novel JUST FLY AWAY — both New York Times bestsellers.
He lives in New York.
Great review Julie! I can't wait to read this!ReplyDelete