By Angela Barbuti
Andrew McCarthy will forever be part of the iconic group of teenage actors from the ’80s known as the Brat Pack. And to this day, people still talk to him about it. After an audition on the Upper West Side, he began his career in 1983 with the movie Class, and went on to star in St. Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink. His new book, The Longest Way Home, outlines his career as a travel writer. As an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler, he often lives in a “jet-lagged state,” but still looks forward to coming back to the Upper East Side. The 49-year-old New Jersey native has called New York City home since he started NYU at 17. When he is not in the Amazon, he can be found enjoying a burger with his wife and two children at the Corner Bistro.
You auditioned and were accepted into NYU. How long did you spend there?
Two years, then they kicked me out.
What do you remember about that time?
Washington Square was an entirely different place than it is now. [Laughs] Rastas used to hang around and play soccer and sell joints. I was a 17-year-old kid from New Jersey, so it was a great time to discover the city.
Your first audition was at the Ansonia Hotel. Did you think you would get that part?
[Laughs] I did it ’cause I had nothing to do and just got kicked out of school. A friend said they were looking for someone 18, vulnerable and sensitive. I’m like, “that’s me!” And I had just had a headshot done; a friend of mine was a photographer. I waited in the hallway for several hours with several hundred other 18, vulnerable and sensitive kids. And 10 auditions later … but no, it never had occurred to me that I would get the job.
In your book you said that Pretty In Pink spoke to a generation of young women and men. Why do you think it resonated with so many people?
I have no idea. [Pauses] Because it took seriously young people’s problems.
Do people still come up to you about it?
All the time. They pass it down to their kids now. We’re on to the second generation of people watching it.
Is it true you met the editor of National Geographic Traveler and asked if you could write for him?
I told him he should let me write for him. I didn’t ask. [Laughs] And he took a year to say yes. He said, “You’re an actor, dude.” And I said, “Yeah, but I know how to tell a story.”
Had you given it much thought beforehand?
I had been traveling a great deal and writing about it, but just for myself. I tried to keep a journal, but I found that silly and embarrassing. So I began to write stories, and as an actor I used dialogue and character. I did that for 10 years and would just come home and throw them in the back of my dresser drawer.
You said the writer Paul Theroux influenced how you travel.
His books had a big impact on me. His idea is go alone, go far, go for a long time. So I did. I went long, far, and I didn’t come back. I was a young, single guy at the time. It was better than hanging around the bars, wasn’t it? [Laughs]
What are your favorite places in the world?
I love Patagonia. I thought that was pretty spectacular. I just recently returned from Telluride, Colorado, which I thought was pretty fantastic. When I used to live downtown, my favorite view of the world was coming across the Williamsburg Bridge. Now I live uptown, and my favorite view is coming across the Triboro Bridge. I love that feeling of coming home and coming over the rise there.
In your book you spoke about being a member of the Brat Pack.
It has come to be this iconic group capturing a time. Whenever I see them, I have a great affection for them. It’s interesting because 25 years later, it’s still something that’s talked about. And a lot of these people have had some pretty interesting careers.
To learn more about McCarthy’s upcoming projects and book events, visit www.andrewmccarthy.com
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