Even as a teen in the ‘80s, watching Andrew McCarthy’s characters - “Blane” in Pretty in Pink, and “Kevin” in St. Elmo’s Fire - I thought: There are a lot of thoughts swirling in that actor’s head. He seemed different than other stars – the thoughtful and sensitive one of the “pack.” I won’t name that pack because he didn’t particularly love that label at the time, but I know you know. Now, I see I was right! Andrew McCarthy is incredibly introspective and impressive. In his new book, Brat – An ‘80s Story (Grand Central Publishing, May 11, 2021), Andrew reveals his many insights, perspectives, and memories along his road to stardom. He takes readers on a fascinating ride! With every chapter, I felt like I got to sneak behind the scenes of movie sets, family dynamics, and nights out on both coasts.
If you have long been an Andrew McCarthy fan, or curious about why so many Generation X women have loved him since they were girls in the ‘80s, you will understand the attraction when you read this book. The soulful eyes and charming sincerity he brought to the roles he played? That's real, too. He’s a man of substance in real life, and his stories show just how much he navigated through and how he found his calling as a kid and as one of four boys, becoming an actor, a star, a travel writer, a family man, and a director.
A few pages in, it’s also clear he is a gifted writer. His stories paint vivid scenes of '80s movie sets and stardom. But he shares much more ahead of that. As a reader, I felt let in on his boyhood and dreams. We see when he caught the acting bug, all the way back to the school play, when he relentlessly pursued, and won, the role of The Artful Dodger, in “Oliver.” He embraced it, much like all the chances and work that came his way, or opportunities that he carved out for himself.
And while he takes us into moments such as arriving at Sammy Davis Jr’s mansion for a late night hangout, or auditioning for John Hughes, he seems like a down-to-earth guy. His struggles with alcohol and self-doubt make him seem awfully familiar, and very real - not just like a star, but like someone we might know.
New York City was his backdrop through so many decades, and I could almost picture the streets he walked down. It’s clearly a place this New Jersey boy (then man) seemed quite at home in. And he takes us there, from acting classes and his first apartment; to NYU and parks, dive bars and later escapes from L.A. The people who played a role in his life, at various stages, seem meant to be – professors and acting coaches who did and didn’t believe in him, first directors, and Hollywood starlets.
Which brings me to the scoop so many of us readers really want to know. What was Rob Lowe really like? Was the cast of “St. Elmo’s Fire” actually out every night, living it up? How did he get cast in “Class?” What was he thinking when he arrived at celebrity mansions? How was it being a houseguest at Jacqueline Bisset’s? What was he thinking during meetings at the studios? We learn all of this, because Andrew is an introspective guy, and doesn’t seem to hold back in this book.
I was always intrigued by this actor. His movies mark the pop culture memories of my growing up years. But now I also have a newfound respect and admiration for him as a human being. The professional success he has experienced is impressive, for sure, but his ability to see his shortcomings and redefine his own success - like all of us could, and more of us should - is truly admirable.