Hollywood is a monster that eagerly seeks talents to engulf them and, almost with the same speed and force, destroy them. Whole generations of actors have lived moments of glory to later be forgotten by the industry and by the public, or to be only names in the middle of the gas, old glories who fell too young to never overcome. That is the case of Andrew McCarthy, one of the most projected actors of the eighties who stayed in that, in a project, neither successful nor unsuccessful. One of so many more names that, for most, oblivion was swallowed.
McCarthy was one of the members of what in the eighties came to be called Brat Pack, literally “the gang of brats” or “spoiled.” A denomination that started in a magazine article New York Magazine of 1985 as an insult to a very young group of eight specific actors and that ended up defining a whole generation of those interpreters who triumphed in commercial successes of the time. Among his peers are from Demi Moore to Rob Lowe, to name the best known on the official list, which was later expanded to other names such as Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, Matt Dillon or Matthew Broderick. Now, Andrew McCarthy reviews the not so idyllic eighties in a book between chronicle and autobiography entitled Brat: An ’80s Story (Niñatos: A History of the Eighties), which will go on sale on May 11 and which represents one demystification after another.
The first thing that McCarthy (now 58 years old) takes off the pedestal is to that group that never was. Because to begin with they did not even form such pack. That was “a sensational time,” he had said on occasion, but now he also confesses that they were not friends, and that he never even met with some. Although he acknowledges that the Brat Pack concept benefited them: the power of that label (“which was a stigma and became an adorable nickname,” he explains) lengthened the shadow of many of them, as read in a preview of the book published by the New York Post.
The group was created in line with a couple of teenage films of the time: St. Elmo, meeting point (from Joel Schumacher, 1985) and The club of five (from John Hughes, 1985). McCarthy appeared in the first and also in another of the classics of this Brat Pack, The girl in pink (Also written by Hughes, 1986). Back then, he was a kid from New Jersey to study in New York after discovering his love for the boards with a school production of the classic Oliver. He managed to get into the University of New York (NYU) on the condition that he keep good grades.
Then he started signing up for castings, some with the new technologies of the moment. In 1983 he was asked to record an audition on a groundbreaking videotape, a milestone for the time. When they saw him in Los Angeles, the people in charge did not like him, but they did not know how to advance the film, so in the end they were convinced, they called him again and that became his first role and his first success, Class.
He thought that everything would be sewing and singing. He dropped his studies, lowered his level, and was fired from NYU. He spent a year without working, desperate, except for an advertisement for Burger King that he recorded with a then very young Elisabeth Shue, who soon after would triumph in Karate Kid. He invited her to have a drink but their date did not work out and they never saw each other again.
Luckily, he recorded a couple of projects in 1984 and 1985. That year and the next came his two greatest hits, St. Elmo… Y The girl in pink. By then he was already fond of alcohol – he had been drinking since he was 12 years old – and had been smoking marijuana since high school. At the beginning of the filming of St. Elmo… the producers gave him a bottle of wine. He took it home and drank it whole. “It marked the first time he drank alone,” he reveals in his book.
In 1987 “drinking to excess was a practically daily habit,” he says, and in fact that same year he was already addicted to cocaine, which almost caused a heart attack. Account that in the filming of Blow to the American dream he had to jump into a pool and just before had taken cocaine. The blow of cold water to his chest almost made him collapse. Soon after, he embarked on a car trip across the United States with two friends, drinking and using drugs in seedy hotels. A police officer stopped them while the car was running, and the cocaine he was consuming shot all over the back seat: “The police officer dazzled us with his lights in the back seat and all over my face. I tried to look like I just woke up rather than my chest was about to explode. “
McCarthy had ceased to be that “little kid” that John Hughes had discarded for The girl in pink but that his co-star, Molly Ringwald, had personally chosen because he liked him (although he never became friends with either of them). Nor was he any longer the one who once tried to pick up “a very cute young girl with short hair” who happened to be Courteney Cox. Alcohol had gone “from being a teenage diversion to the dominant force” in his life. The whole of the eighties went by like this, until in the early nineties he woke up in his apartment “with a violent hangover, broken by seizures.” He made it to the bathroom, fell to his knees and cried “for what life had become”.
In 1992 he entered rehab to finally be clean for the rest of his life. In 1999 he married his high school sweetheart 20 years after their first date and three years later they had a son, Sam McCarthy, who has followed in his father’s footsteps and is now an actor in series such as Dead to me O Condor. In 2005 they divorced and shortly after he joined Dolores Rice, with whom he has two children.
His most intense stage in the cinema ended when his real life began. In the mid-1990s, he appeared in low-budget television movies and some smaller series, although he did not stop working on them. Now he does it from the other side and with greater success: he has directed episodes of series such as Gossip Girl, Orange is the New Black, Halt and Catch Fire, New Ámsterdam O Grace and Frankie. But mostly he has focused on writing about travel. For about 15 years now, Andrew McCarthy has published in popular media such as National Geographic Traveler (where he writes frequently), the magazine The Atlantic or the newspapers The New York Times O The Wall Street Journal. In fact, in 2010 the Society of Travel Writers of America gave him an award and named him Travel Writer of the Year. It seems that the world was eager for him to see it and tell it, even if it was from a certain anonymity and not from the fame of that hard and elusive Hollywood.