Andrew McCarthy was not my favorite of the Brat Pack actors. He always seemed like a milquetoast pretty boy. A sweet smile the girlies liked, but not a lot going on underneath. I never liked his Pretty in Pink character. Team Ducky for life! I didn't like him in St. Elmo's Fire, but I didn't like anyone in that picture. I was not a fan of Mannequin or those flatulent Weekend at Bernie's comedies. Less Than Zero was a watered-down adaptation of a book I didn't even like in the first place.

So why did I read Brat: An '80s Story?

Well, the movies of that era helped define me as a human being. I was in my mid-twenties when the '80s teen cycle happened, and so a little older than their intended audience. I felt like a teenager then, and despite my creaky, aging body, I still do. These best of the movies--The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Adventures in Babysitting, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Lucas, Three O'Clock High, Summer School--made indelible impressions upon me that will never be eradicated.

Teen movies were incredibly popular for a few years, and then suddenly they were considered to be the most unhip things on the planet. A large reason for this was a piece of yellow journalism by David Blum. Blum, a writer for New York magazine, supposedly coined the phrase, Brat Pack. Blum was invited to a night on the town by Emilio Estevez. Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson joined them. Apparently the young stars displayed less than gracious behavior, as youthful and successful people tend to do, and Blum flamed them in print. The effects were immediate. The Brat Pack ceased to socialize together, and they mostly stopped getting offers for good roles. Blum later expressed regret about writing the article.

Some fared better than others. Andrew McCarthy did some good roles, like Mulholland Falls, I'm Losing You, and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. He also did some throwaway movies. He says his favorite from the '80s is Heaven Help Us, which was filmed under the better title, Catholic Boys. I heartily agree with him. Heaven Help Us is a near-classic.

McCarthy became a writer, doing travel pieces and taking a position at National Geographic. He wrote an acclaimed travel book, The Longest Way Home, and a YA novel called Just Fly Away. He also turned to directing television.

Brat: An '80's Story is a new nonfiction account of his days as a hot young actor in Hollywood. It's a quick read, and I flew through the book in less than twenty-four hours. McCarthy writes with often painful candor, relating his meteoric rise to fame and the inevitable crash. He grappled with the usual addictions and failures, but managed to survive.

I liked Brat, but would have enjoyed a bit more detail about the making of the films. Perhaps McCarthy recounted the experiences as best he could. The intoxicating effects of sudden fame mixed with other sorts of intoxication probably makes a lot of the memories a little bit fuzzy.

Fans of the movies will probably enjoy Brat: An '80s Story. I read and enjoyed John Hughes: A Life in Film, which is also pretty good. I still think the ultimate book about the Brat Pack is yet to be written. I'm not sure who the best candidate for the job would be.

In the meantime we will always have the movies we still love so much. As Andrew McCarthy eloquently puts it...

Because in the memory of those movies exists a touchstone of youth, when life was all ahead, when the future was a blank slate, when anything was possible.

Written by Mark Sieber

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