Andrew McCarthy - My 1980s Dream

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my unwavering affection for Andrew McCarthy. For anyone under the age of 35, Andrew (who I shall henceforth refer to as ‘A’) was quite simply the ‘80s actor everyone wanted to go to prom with. At least, he would’ve been if we’d had proms in those days, which we didn’t. But still. Michael J. Fox was too cutesy, Rob Lowe too…something I can’t put my finger on but which frankly made me a little nervy. A was…well, perfect.

If you’ve ever watched St Elmo’s Fire or Pretty in Pink, (and if you haven’t you need to. I mean it) then you’ll know A is the good guy. The dependable, calm, sweet-natured one with the nice face who you just know would never lie to you or let you down. Because even when he does something a little bit cray, it’s actually ok.


Let’s take Mannequin as a case in point (I know you’ve seen it). A, as the character Jonathan, works in a department store and has a penchant for getting off with the window display mannequins. Now, if this went on today it’d be plastered all over the Daily Mail and there’d be uproar on Facebook and the like. I’m sure that even in the ‘80s having relations with plastic dummies was frowned upon, yet, A, aka Jonathan, got away with it. In fact, he didn’t just get away with it – he had people like me wishing we were mannequins, on the off chance he came along, took a liking and whisked us off on the back of his motorbike-thingy (to the prom. This is where the prom fits in). 

And I’m obviously not the only one – read Jenny Colgan’s 2001 novel ‘Looking for Andrew McCarthy’. It was like that book was written for me.

I’d be hard pushed to think of an actor today who gives me the same feels. Often, usually on a Saturday evening whilst cradling a bottle of Prosecco, I’ll watch Mannequin with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes (particularly at the bit where Emmy, the object of Jonathan’s affections, gets rescued from the chipper at the very last second and Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ starts playing), wondering where A is now. A quick google search confirms he is alive and well, directing (Orange is the New Black, no less) and writing and generally doing things that don’t involve mannequins, so that’s good.

Mannequin is 30 years old this year. This also brings tears to my eyes, for different reasons. But I’ll never forget A – he’ll always have a special place in my heart and every time I hear the opening bars of John Parr’s 1984 hit St Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion), I ache a little at the thought of the imaginary motorbike-thingy ride to the prom that never was.

Someone pass the Prosecco.

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