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Andrew McCarthy: 'Brat' memoir is an 'honest reckoning' of teen idol years

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Andrew McCarthy: 'Brat' memoir is an 'honest reckoning' of teen idol years
Andrew McCarthy's memoir "Brat" is out in paperback Tuesday. File Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, May 10 (UPI) -- Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire icon Andrew McCarthy says it took years of reflection and sharpening his skills as a writer to become comfortable enough to pen his memoir, Brat: An 80s Story.

"I don't think I could have written it a moment before I did," the 59-year-old actor and director told UPI in a recent phone interview.

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"It took a long time to come around to it," he added. "I just saw an interview with Al Pacino about the 50th anniversary of The Godfather and he said, 'It's taken me 50 years to get over The Godfather' or something like that, and I thought, 'If it took Al 50 years to get over The Godfather, I'm OK with 35 for the Brat Pack."

The book, which comes out in paperback Tuesday, delves into McCarthy's childhood, training as an actor and reluctant membership in the Brat Pack, a collective title given by the media to 1980s teen idols -- such as Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Robert Downey Jr. -- even though they didn't spend much time together off-screen.

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Brat also looks at how McCarthy transitioned to more adult roles in projects, such as Less Than Zero, Mannequin and Weekend at Bernie's, but risked everything by using alcohol and drugs to cope with the pressures of fame.

Sober since the 1990s, McCarthy now is a married father of three, noted travel writer and in-demand director for TV shows like Gossip Girl, Orange is the New Black, The Blacklist, The Sinner and Good Girls.

He soon will be seen playing Dr. Ian Sullivan, a pediatric surgeon, in the FOX medical drama, The Resident.

A year after Brat was initially published, McCarthy doesn't wish he left anything out. In fact, he plans to follow the memoir with a documentary film that could see him speaking to some of his fellow '80s luminaries about their experiences in the spotlight.

"I'm good with it," McCarthy said of his feelings toward the book now.

"I think it's a pretty honest reckoning of what I experienced at the time. I'm pleased with the response. I'm pleased with the reaction to it. People had asked me for a long time if I would write a book about the Brat Pack, and my answer was always 'no.'"

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However, when the topic came up again a few years ago, McCarthy reconsidered.

"I didn't say 'no' right away [that time], and that made me curious," he recalled.

"I just sat down and wrote it. I didn't want to sell it, so that when I delivered it, it wasn't what people thought it might be, so I wanted to write the whole thing to see if I had something to say and to write more about my own internal experience of the time instead of just telling stories -- gossiping, as it were."

Touring to promote the book showed McCarthy how much people in their 40s and 50s still love the movies that impacted them in their youth, including Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire, which saw McCarthy play sweet romantic leads, and Less Than Zero, which cast him as a rich kid trying desperately to save his best friend from drug addiction.

"The Brat Pack has grown to become this warm and fuzzy, iconically affectionate term for a period in pop culture, for a demographic in a generation of people. I was quite surprised and touched [by the fans' reactions]," McCarthy said.

Asked if anyone from his past got in touch with him after the book was published, the author replied, "Some."

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"Books are funny. It takes a certain kind of person to read. A lot of people don't read," he laughed.

"Some people did [reach out] and they were nice and some people were like, 'I had no idea you were going through that at that time!'"

Camera phones and social media weren't around when he was at the pinnacle of his celebrity, but that doesn't mean it was any less intoxicating or intrusive for McCarthy and other young actors back in the day.

"It's always been a minefield. In the '80s, we felt like we were on the leading edge, like: 'Oh, my God, there's so much press. Now, there's a show called Entertainment Tonight on every night. Every night!" the actor said. "At that time, we felt so inundated [with attention]."

But he said fame is relative, pointing to rock 'n' roll titan Elvis Presley as an example of someone who achieved global stardom in the 1950s and '60s when only "three TV channels" existed.

"When we were made the Brat Pack, it was one magazine article that came out one week, and within days that term was embedded in pop culture," he said.

"Who knows? Maybe if the news cycle were so fast, like it is now, in two days it would have burned through and the Brat Pack would have been long gone and forgotten [by now], with people off to the next thing. Are we glad that there weren't cameras every second, everywhere? You bet."

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McCarthy said he doesn't think it is any easier for artists coming up today with entertainment news outlets clamoring to cover them as they endlessly publicize themselves through social media.

"Becoming famous is a pretty slippery slope in any era and I think becoming famous young is a very slippery slope. I always say I wouldn't wish success on anybody under 30," he emphasized.

"Becoming famous young before you have any sense of yourself is very precarious, and it pours Miracle Grow on your character defects."

An extraordinary 1987 photo included in Brat shows McCarthy grouped with dozens of other stars in the Paramount Pictures stable, including legends Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Jane Russell, Bob Hope, Robert De Niro, Faye Dunaway, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner.

McCarthy revealed in his book that he was in bad shape the day the portrait was taken and, because of that, the event wasn't what it could have been. While he had mixed feelings before writing about the episode, he has since made peace with the results of the photo session.

"Before, I'd look at that picture and I'd just simply cringe. Now, I look at it with a bit of an affectionate understanding of my youth," he acknowledged. "I was not someone who was bred for that kind of thing, and it was quite overwhelming."

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Not telling the artists he idolized how much he loved them and was inspired by their performances is one of McCarthy's few regrets in life, he said.

"I was too hungover and too shy, too frightened, and that was unfortunate," he said. "But I was thrilled to be part of it, and the picture is still there, and there I am clinging to the edge, and there's everybody."

McCarthy said he is in a positive place now, working behind the camera and occasionally acting in episodes he directs, and then switching gears to write about his adventures around the world.

"I like to work, and it's nice to just keep moving and doing different things," he said, adding that he is enjoying his new, high-profile gig on The Resident.

"It was so nice to just walk in and go, 'Where do you want me?' And go back to something that I used to know so well and haven't done in so long," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, there I am again.' It felt like breathing to me."

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