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I’m Karen, a Midwestern girl transplanted in the South, raised on ’80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. An early preoccupation with Rock ‘n’ Roll led me to spend my twenties working my way from intern to executive in the music industry. Now I’m a married mom of two, and instead of staying up late in rock clubs, I get up before dawn and write sexy contemporary romance starring hot heroes, served fresh.
Allow me to call to order the first meeting of the John Hughes fan club. If you want to hang out in the clubhouse, you’re going to have to recite our pledge: “On my honor, I will do my best to watch Pretty in Pink and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles every time it is on cable. I will persevere in spreading the truth about John Bender, who was deep-down a really good kid, and ensure that movie fans of all ages have seen Sixteen Candles or Uncle Buck at least once. I will try my hardest not to complain that Andie didn’t end up with Duckie, and will always think that the Some Kind of Wonderful kiss in the garage was the best ever.”
I owe a lot to John Hughes, mostly because he made my teenage years in part, bearable. (This is where the second nod goes to Duran Duran.) His movies (particularly the trifecta of Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club) made me feel less unappreciated, ignored, and misunderstood. He got me, and practically every other teenager…the geek, the brain, the popular girl, the jock, the delinquent, the goth girl, et al. He knew that we craved that one moment of personal triumph over whatever bugged us most–classmates, our parents, school–and we wanted to drive off in the kick-ass car listening to New Order after we did it. And so we begin the John Hughes Fan Club series, a love letter to the dearly-departed master of ’80s teen cinema…and because it’s my blog, I’m taking the first turn.
Karen Booth, author, ’80s girl
Favorite John Hughes film: Sixteen Candles. The cast is stellar (young John Cusack!), it’s hilarious (and yes, a bit wrong at moments), and sweet. Everything I want in a movie. Plus, unbearably hunky Jake Ryan. Cinematic gold.
And the runner-up, because let’s be honest—it’s hard to pick one: Breakfast Club is probably my second favorite. I just loved the arc of that movie…the way none of them really liked each other at the beginning and they slowly all came to understand each other. Anthony Michael Hall is especially amazing because he plays this character that is so simple on the outside and so complex on the inside. The scene where he’s talking about his friend being bullied in the locker room still makes me tear up.
Favorite moment of hilarity in a John Hughes film: The whole car scene in Sixteen Candles is so funny and adorkable–The geek trying to be smooth with Samantha, and the myriad ways in which he incorrectly reads every single cue. But if we’re going for sheer comedy, the moment when Samantha’s grandmother feels her up in the hall and says, “Look, Fred. Sam’s gotten her boobies. And they are so perky.”
Favorite poignant teenage moment in a John Hughes film: I feel a little bit like the poster child for Sixteen Candles, but there is no better ending for a film than the scene with Samantha and Jake kissing over the birthday cake.
“Make a wish.”
“It already came true.”
Gah! It’s so romantic, I want to die! The first time I watched the movie with my now seventeen year-old daughter, I told her during the opening montage that the ending was the best ever in a teen movie. She rolled her eyes and shushed me, so I shut my trap and enjoyed the ride. At the end, tears in her eyes, she turned to me and said, “Oh my God. Mom. It’s the best ending ever.” Parenting achievement unlocked.
Best use of music in a John Hughes film: Pretty in Pink, when Duckie lip syncs to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness. It’s gutsy and uninhibited and shows us what an idiot he’s willing to be to win over Andie. Second place would also be from Pretty in Pink, the scene where Duckie is listening to The Smiths Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want and realizing that Andie is out with Blane. Soul crushing.
Character in a John Hughes film that you most identify with and why: I’m probably most like Andie from Pretty in Pink, in that I was (and sorta still am) the queen of sewing and making my own clothes when I was a teenager and I also grew up with no money. The only hiccup is the Blane thing. I totally would’ve gone for Duckie.
Not to sound like a geezer, but why don’t they make movies like this anymore? Before I saw Sing Street a few weeks ago, I would’ve screamed, “I don’t know! It makes me sad!” John Carney restored my faith in movies about teenagers. Go see it. No, seriously. Don’t be lame. Go see it.
I’m planning on running these on a weekly basis for as long as I can get folks to participate. If you’re an author or an ’80s addict or just have something to say and are interested in playing, send me an email at karen [at] karen booth dot net, or shout at me on Facebook. Look for posts in the coming weeks from Karen Stivali, Margaret Ethridge (aka Maggie Wells), and Suzi Parker!
If you haven’t heard me squealing about it on Facebook or Twitter, ’80s Mix Tape is out now! This incredible collection includes seven (yes, seven!) all-new novellas about love in the ’80s, each inspired by an iconic song from the decade. It’s such an honor to have my story, Save a Prayer, alongside the work of so many brilliant authors. (For fans of Bring Me Back, SAP is set against the backdrop of the Banks Forest heyday and tells Graham and Angie’s love story.) In the mood to reminisce about one of the greatest musical decades ever? This anthology is all you need, and it’s only 99 cents in eBook format! That low, low price is a limited time thing, btw. Take a hint, darlings. Buy it in a timely fashion! And now that my sales pitch has come to its logical conclusion, allow me to welcome my guest for the 87th installment of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School–Becky McDonald, the heroine of Need You Tonight from ’80s Mix Tape. She filled it out prior to the opening scene. Poor Becky. Sounds like she’s having a hard time letting a certain guy go.
Becky McDonald, Silver Pines High, Silver Pines, WA, Class of ’83
Currently: It’s 1986 and I’m a nurse at Olympic Peninsula General
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: ZZTop! The Eliminator album came out senior year. We listened to it so many times I wore out my cassette tape! Also, the videos were amazing. We used to watch MTV all night long waiting for “Legs” to come back on. We loved the makeover the mousy girl got. Especially since most of us were mousy like she was.
Jacob, my boyfriend at the time, could play all the songs.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My ex-boyfriend’s Van Halen concert shirt. I still have it. I wear it to bed every night. I haven’t seen Jacob in two years, but he’ll always be the one, you know?
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: I pretty much liked all music, but Jacob could not handle Madonna at all. But he was a rocker, a real bad boy.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Jacob took to me to a lot of concerts and shows. Journey, Van Halen, Scorpions…but my favorite was always him. I loved watching him play and sing. He and his friends used to jam a lot, and I always thought they were going places. They finally named themselves in 1984—Ironwing. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Just like Jacob and I weren’t meant to be. He’s actually on the run from the law now. He did…well…it’s a long story. But I’ll never see him again. Part of me knows it’s for the best, I suppose. But I can’t listen to rock bands without wondering what could have been for him. For us.
Best high school make-out song: I lost my virginity to “Waiting for a Girl like You” by Foreigner, but our song was “Open Arms” by Journey.
Read Becky and Jacob’s story in Need You Tonight by Gwen Hayes in ‘80s Mix Tape. For more information about Gwen Hayes, please visit gwenhayes.com or hang out with her on Twitter @gwenhayes.