I wasn’t going to put up another repost today, but I just realized that I never got around to reposting my review of the late actress, Charlotte Rae’s, book about her life. And since I’ve been binge watching The Facts of Life, I figure now is a good time to repost this review, dated December 15, 2015.
Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I watched a lot of TV. One of my favorite shows was Diff’rent Strokes. I also loved The Facts of Life. Both shows starred Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Garrett, a maternal, wise, loving woman who first served as a live in housekeeper, then became the cook/dietician/house mother at Eastland School for Girls.
What I didn’t know was that Charlotte Rae’s career encompassed so much more than just 80s era sitcoms. I learned much more about her life when I read her book, The Facts of My Life, which she co-wrote with her son, Larry Strauss.
Charlotte Rae Lubotsky was born the middle of three daughters to Russian Jewish parents. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born in 1926, Charlotte Rae was around to see the Great Depression and watch her parents and everyone else around her struggle to make ends meet. Nevertheless, Rae and her sisters were musically talented and felt a pull toward show business. After studying at Northwestern University among several other future stars, Rae moved to New York City and became active in the theater.
Having married John Strauss, Rae bore two sons. Her older son, Andy, was severely autistic and spent most of his life institutionalized. After a lifetime of health struggles, Andy passed away in 1999. Her younger son, Larry, is a writer and teacher. Rae writes about what it was like to work in the theater and later, Hollywood. She and her husband battled alcoholism and later, Rae dealt with the fact that her husband preferred the company of males. They managed to stay friends after their divorce.
Rae writes quite a lot about her family of origin and her career. Her attitude is upbeat, even as she describes having to deal with sibling rivalry with her older sister, Beverly, who was an opera diva. Younger sister, Mimi, was a great pianist. Rae describes her voice as “bluesy”, which is kind of hard for me to imagine, having seen her be Mrs. Garrett for so many years. Apparently, she is quite an accomplished singer, besides a great actress.
Sister Beverly Ann became an opera singer, then married a wealthy doctor and became a socialite. Sadly, she succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has since become a cause near and dear to Rae’s heart.
I never knew that Charlotte Rae struggled with alcoholism. Apparently, she’s been sober for about forty years. She praises Alcoholics Anonymous and her AA buddies for helping her stay ahead of her addiction to booze. I also didn’t know that Rae was Jewish. She shares some interesting anecdotes about what it was life to grow up Jewish in the United States.
Parts of this book were very witty. Other parts were kind of sad. Those who are looking for anecdotes about Diff’rent Strokes or The Facts of Life may come away somewhat disappointed; after all, this book is not just about those two shows, even if they did make her much more visible to the world. But what she does share is enlightening and heartwarming. We are reminded that Mrs. Garrett and Charlotte Rae are two different entities, as are the people who portrayed the characters with whom Rae starred.
I think this book will appeal most to people like me, who have enjoyed Charlotte Rae’s talents. As celebrity life stories go, it’s pretty interesting. I’d give it four stars.
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I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!
Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.
Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.
This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.
Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. 😉 See? More ripple effects!
I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…
About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office. While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia. As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s.
Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better. The work I was doing was pretty boring. It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer. You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998. William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world.
I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia. That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult. Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed. That’s where I came into the picture.
It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”. It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me. I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder. It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected. Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.
I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family. There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors. I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary. I hope she found a school that she liked just as much. Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels. But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.
Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife. Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”. Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know. I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”. Sometimes, it’s just not possible. I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy. She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met.
I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle. I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant. It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands. Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing. It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic. However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much. Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her. Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother. There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom. I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much. She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad. I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly. He did have a good side. But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase. I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people. I simply can’t tolerate it.
Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead. Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person. In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful. A lot of people have described me in the same way. More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”. Some people even think I’m hilarious. In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle. A lot of “funny” people are like that. Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.
In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad. I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe. That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years. I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though. At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance. Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious. That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years. That year, I thought of suicide fairly often. I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days. I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.
I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse. She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible. They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her. At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.
If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury? I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly. Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks. But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe? Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them. I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues. Some people heal faster than others.
I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone. In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment. I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998. It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life. When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt. It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head.
For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am. I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me. When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed. Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control. I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed. I needed help to move beyond it. In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.
Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people. However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life. Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression. Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”. I’m sure it seems that easy to them. It’s not that easy for me. I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner. In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter. Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here. It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog.
I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others. I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person. I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay. I don’t take antidepressants now. Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not. So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music. Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”. My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”. I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice. What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been? And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information? It’s not your life, is it? You don’t have to read this stuff.
I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before. However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog. So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands. If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web. You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant. But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”. That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.
As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him. I wish I were that mature and magnanimous. I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there. How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is? I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry. So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned. It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it. But with every day, there’s fresh hope.
Here’s a repost of a review I wrote on January 2, 2015 about Gary Crosby’s tell all book on growing up as Bing Crosby’s son, Going My Own Way. It appears here as/is.
For years, I heard about the controversial book the late Gary Crosby, eldest son of the late Bing Crosby, wrote about his parents. The book, entitled Going My Own Way, was published in 1983 and was considered a “scathing” account of the reality of what it was like to grow up the son of a big Hollywood star who portrayed himself as the consummate family man. I am a little too young for Bing Crosby, though I do remember the duet he did with David Bowie back in the 70s…
I didn’t actually see the Christmas special that spawned this version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, but over the years, the video has been replayed during the holiday season. I also remember Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter, who played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and was credited with shooting J.R. Ewing. Aside from that, I only heard about Bing… and Bill has told me that a few years after Gary Crosby’s book came out, the late Phil Hartman, who was then on Saturday Night Live,did a spoof about how when Bing’s sons misbehaved, they needed to go have a “talk” in the library.
I was curious about the book and the cultural references to it, so I decided to purchase a used copy. I recently finished reading Going My Own Way and, I must admit, it was very interesting. As “scathing” memoirs go, I didn’t think it was all that bad. Gary Crosby was Bing Crosby’s eldest son with his first wife, Dixie Lee. He grew up in a huge house in Hollywood, surrounded by servants, many of whom were black. Crosby’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and a serious alcoholic who relied on an Irish nurse named Georgie to keep Gary and his brothers, Phil, Denny, and Lindsay, in line.
Like his wife, Bing Crosby was also a very strict disciplinarian who strongly believed in employing corporal punishment, strict rules, and verbal abuse to control his sons. Crosby writes that it was difficult for him to have friends because his parents were so strict. It wasn’t often that he was allowed to bring friends over or go to friends’ houses. Crosby’s parents were quick to remind their sons that they were not special simply because they were Bing Crosby’s sons. Though they were educated at private schools, they were not treated differently and didn’t hang out with Hollywood types. Indeed, from the time the boys were eleven until they were adults, each summer Bing Crosby sent them to work at a ranch he owned. They learned how to herd cattle and make hay bales alongside men of much more modest means. Crosby writes that he hated the ranch work because his father forced him to do it, though he might have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d been the one who chose to go.
Gary Crosby had a weight problem when he was growing up. His backside was wide, which caused his father to refer to him as “bucket butt” or “satchel ass”. According to Gary, Bing would even call his son these names in public, particularly in front of Bing’s friends. Bing Crosby ordered his son to lose weight and would force him to endure weigh ins. If he didn’t lose weight, Gary would get a whipping. Bing used a belt that had metal studs in it and would beat his boys until they bled. At the first drop of blood, the beating would stop. Gary writes that he used to hope he’d bleed early.
When Gary became a teenager, he had a strict curfew and would often have to leave social events early in order to appease his father, who would not hesitate to use a belt and verbal abuse to get his point across. It wasn’t until Gary was 18 years old and had finally had enough that the whippings stopped. By that time, his father had traded the belt for a cane. I must admit, reading that part of the book resonated with me. I had a similar experience with my own father, who was also a proponent of physical punishment and last struck me when I was almost 21 years old. My father was also one to use verbal abuse… indeed, reading about some of Crosby’s experiences rang very true to me, since my dad did a lot of the same things to a milder extent. Crosby also writes about his father’s penchant for womanizing and drinking, as well as holding gifts over his sons’ heads in order to control them. Gary Crosby had his own issues with alcohol and drugs, which he writes about in the book. He also was one to get in fist fights when the mood struck.
Crosby uses a lot of slang and filthy language in his memoir. Personally, I wasn’t offended by it. In fact, the slang sort of gave the book a 50s nuance, which makes sense, since Crosby was born in the 30s and would have been a young person in the 50s. I liked that he included photos, which helped me put faces to his stories. I also got the sense that despite the abuse, he did love his parents, especially his mother. He even writes a message to his other siblings, products of Bing Crosby’s second marriage to Kathryn Crosby, that the father he knew was not the same man as the father who raised them. And Crosby even admits that his father passed along musical talent to him and the ranch work gave him useful skills outside of show business. As one who has a perverse interest in Pat Boone’s career, I liked that Gary Crosby also writes about what it was like to work with Boone. Apparently, Crosby thought Boone was a nice guy and easy to work with, despite his love of “clean livin’.” Pat Boone, as we all know, is also a big believer in spankings.
Gary Crosby’s mother died in 1952 of ovarian cancer. At the time of Dixie Lee’s passing, Gary was studying at Stanford University, where he wasn’t a particularly good student. I was moved by how he described his father’s pained reaction to his mother’s deteriorating condition. Yes, he writes a lot about how “the old man” abused him and his brothers, but he also somehow manages to give his father a human face. That’s why I say the memoir wasn’t that scathing. Yes, it was probably shocking to those who grew up with Bing Crosby and loved his music, but as someone who also grew up with an alcoholic and occasionally abusive father, I thought Gary Crosby was just being honest. I think back in the 80s, when this book was originally published, corporal punishment and verbal abuse were much more accepted as normal parenting than they are now. While I think sometimes Americans are going a little too far in the other direction with how they are parenting their children, as someone who experienced growing up with an alcoholic, I feel like Gary Crosby was very truthful in his account. He was not just a whiner.
As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up watching films made by the mythical Brat Pack, a group of young actors of the 1980s who made wildly popular films and had reputations for bad behavior. As a twelve year old, who was also a fan of the hit sitcom, The Facts of Life, I had watched Molly Ringwald go from her adolescent feminist character on TV to a huge movie star in John Hughes’ hilarious coming of age films. I had also seen St. Elmo’s Fire, which starred Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Mare Winningham, Rob Lowe, and of course, Andrew McCarthy. Andrew McCarthy then went on to star with Molly Ringwald in the 1987 Hughes film, Pretty in Pink, which was a hugely successful movie in terms of money made, even if the reviews were kind of lukewarm.
My teen years were in the 1980s, so I was a big fan of the so-called Brat Pack actors. They seemed to be friends, always starring in movies together. Many of the movies made by “Brat Packers” were John Hughes vehicles, but St. Elmo’s Fire was a Joel Schumacher film. I had loved that movie, too… and being a big music fan, I also loved the soundtracks that came from 80s era films like The Breakfast Club, which Andrew McCarthy was not in, and St. Elmo’s Fire, of which Andrew McCarthy was a cast member. It was a no-brainer that I would read Andrew’s 2021 book, Brat: An 80s Story. I knew I would enjoy it because of the subject matter, but I also knew that Andrew McCarthy is an excellent writer, having read and reviewed his travel book The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest For the Courage to Settle Down back in 2014. I remember how I had devoured Andrew’s fascinating travel stories and marveled at how good of a writer he is. To be honest, I much prefer his writing to his acting.
Brat: An 80s Story is a look at how Andrew McCarthy broke into acting and almost killed himself with an addiction to alcohol. The book also sheds some light on Andrew’s middle class upbringing on the East Coast, one of four brothers. He had a difficult relationship with his father, who disdained Andrew’s chosen career path of acting, yet never missed a chance to ask for money once Andrew hit the big time. In fact, a number of Andrew’s friends and relatives hit him up for cash, and he says that most of them resented him for giving them the money. Having seen Andrew McCarthy in several films, I had this image of him as a posh New Yorker type. But the truth is, he grew up much like a lot of people do, and he got terrible grades in high school. He barely got into New York University’s acting program and never intended to graduate, having set his sights on a career in theater. He ended up with a movie career instead.
I enjoyed reading about Andrew McCarthy’s experiences making movies in the 80s. He definitely strips some of the glamour and mystique from the movie business, describing how he would meet legendary stars like Jaqueline Bisset (he starred with her in Class, which was his debut)– driven to a meeting in a fancy car. Then, afterwards, someone would give him cab fare or he’d bum a ride from an assistant. He mentions the conditions of working on The Beniker Gang, a movie he did in 1984, about a group of orphans who want to be a family. He clued me into some things I’d never noticed about his films, like Pretty in Pink. For instance, I never noticed at the end of the film that Andrew was wearing a badly fitted hairpiece, even though I’ve seen that movie dozens of times. The ending of Pretty in Pink had to be reshot and, at the time, Andrew was in a play in New York that had required him to shave his head.
Interspersed within his stories about making famous and infamous movies of the 80s, Andrew McCarthy includes some stories about how he fell into alcoholism and drug abuse. I get the sense that Andrew was more of a drunk than a druggie, but drinking to excess had led McCarthy to ruin. He made several forgettable and terrible films in 1987, and he made some devastating mistakes squandering opportunities that could have propelled his movie career into the stratosphere. Some readers may not like this aspect of McCarthy’s story. Looking at Amazon’s reviews, I notice that some people were hoping for more of a tell all about Hollywood life and making films. But I think Andrew’s confessions about his drinking habits are helpful and insightful. Andrew drank to excess because he was struggling with insecurities. The drinking helped, until it didn’t anymore. McCarthy’s stories about his booze habit explain why he made 80s era turkeys like Fresh Horses and Mannequin, and turned down an opportunity to work with Robert Redford.
I haven’t seen many of the movies done by Andrew McCarthy after Pretty in Pink. I did like him in that movie, as well as a few others he’s done. I enjoyed Weekend At Bernie’s, for instance, and even saw it in the theater. I almost never go to the movies, especially nowadays! But I did memorably see that flick at a theater with an ex boyfriend. It’s important to note that this book really only focuses on the 1980s and McCarthy’s work during that decade. Don’t expect to learn anything about what he’s done since then. Also, he only mentions his wife and children in passing in this book, although he does include some stories about his relationships with members of his family of origin, especially his dad. I could relate to his issues with his father, which is another reason I liked this book.
There’s something about McCarthy’s “sensitive” schtick that has always kind of turned me off a little bit, even as I thought he was kind of cute in an East Coast sort of way. I really do like him better as a writer. Brat: An 80s Story has some candid, self-deprecating moments in it that are endearing and relatable. He never comes off as cocky. Instead, it’s almost like he can’t believe the surreal circumstances that put him where he is today. He really has had some extraordinary experiences. He was actually in Germany at the Berlin Wall when it fell, and was recognized by a German soldier for being in the movie Heaven Help Us (known as Catholic Boys in Europe, where it was very successful). He also made friends with Claude Chabrol, a legendary French director who gave him the sage advice– “What is true today may not be true tomorrow”.
McCarthy comes across as someone who’s real, and I liked his anecdotes about what life as a star was like for him in his heyday. It sounds like he’s a lot happier and more grounded now, since he’s branched into writing. And he definitely dispels the myth of the “Brat Pack”. Even though it seemed like that cohort of actors were all buddies who did everything together, the truth is, the Brat Pack never really existed as anything more than a concept put out by a journalist who happened to hang out with Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, and Emilio Estevez one raucous night. After the filming stopped, so did the relationships. Andrew says he’s never seen Judd or Emilio again in the years since St. Elmo’s Fire, and he’s only run into the other actors sporadically.
In some ways, Brat: An 80s Story also reminds me a little bit of Justine Bateman’s book, Fame, in which she describes how “reality” was hijacked by becoming a famous 80s era actress. Much of what McCarthy writes about his experiences during that era echo Justine Bateman’s experiences as a famous sitcom star who grew up on TV. But I think I enjoyed McCarthy’s book more than I did Bateman’s. He has a gift for storytelling, making it seem more as if he’s a friend sharing a tale in a room, rather than a celebrity. He also includes photos, including an adorable one of him as a child, riding a bike.
I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to those who want to know more about Andrew McCarthy’s acting career, as well as a few tidbits about show business itself. However, for those hoping for a dishy tell all, it might be a disappointment. Personally, I liked Brat: An 80s Story. I appreciated the look at McCarthy’s past and how he’s become the person he is today. I think he did a good job marrying the juicy Hollywood dishing with insights about who he is as a person. If that sounds good to you, I recommend reading Andrew McCarthy’s book, Brat: An 80s Tale.
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