11:30 a.m. Eased into my battered '80 Camaro and tooled on out to the Valley to spend a day with Molly Ringwald, movie star and exemplary California teen. The northern Los Angeles home she shares with her parents and older brother and sister is modest, cluttered, comfortable, welcoming. "Sometimes her fans get the address and drive by real slow and stare," says Molly's mom Adele, "but then, I guess, they say, 'Naw, that can't be Molly Ringwald's house.' " Along with her family, the 18-year-old star of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink copes with fame by hiding in plain sight.
Adele is in the cramped kitchen, slicing leftover turkey to the beat of a Merle Haggard cassette. The sideboards groan with jars of jelly beans, Tootsie Rolls and beef jerky from the shop that her father Bob manages in a nearby office building. Molly's brother Kelly, 19, has cleared space on the kitchen table to do homework for his computer studies at the local community college. Beth, 21, is in the back of the house washing her blond hair. The whole place scans like Steven Spielberg's idea of suburban paradise.
Noise from the 18-year-old's bedroom, the one that years before her latest movie was already decorated in pink--the blinds, the iron bed, the vanity, the dresser. A gust of stardust, and in breezes Molly: impossibly clear complexion (considering her deep-fry diet), hair like Ronald McDonald's, the famous waxed-candy lips semaphoring a smile. Today she is dressed in black, with standard-teen tribal earrings (diamond-encrusted loops, ruby stud in left ear), and as she says, "Hi," she piles her hair into a Wilma Flintstone topknot.
Pretty in pictures, she is prettier in person. Critic Pauline Kael's phrase, "charismatic normality," has Molly nailed. The charisma sets her apart as the one young movie actress who can set teens queueing at the box office--though typically, in today's fragmented pop culture, she remains virtually unknown to anyone over 30--and whose punk-flapper fashion sense is imitated by thousands of "Ringlets," her very own girl groupies. They pay tribute by dyeing their hair orange (as she does, from her natural dark reddish brown), smearing lipstick from nose to chin and dressing in Molly's unique designer-junk shop couture. Her normality makes her something more resonant than this month's Madonna. Molly Ringwald is both hip enough to be the style setter of Right Now and traditional enough to be any American teen of the past 50 years.
Hey, Molly, let's go out boppin'.
Andy Hardy had it easy. The town of Carvel, where MGM set its 15 popular Hardy-family films between 1937 and 1947, knew no crime or addiction. The lawns in front of those two-story white houses were as smooth as an Emerald City carpet, and Dad's morning newspaper always landed smartly on the front porch. When girls gossiped about "the pill," they were referring to an % unpopular guy at the far end of the study hall. If Go-Getting Teenager Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) got "in trouble" with a debutante or chorus girl, it wouldn't be that kind of trouble--just the yelp of puppy love. And it wouldn't end in jail or a shotgun marriage but with a sympathetic lecture from his omniscient father Judge Hardy. The teen landscape on '40s movie screens was like Eden without the apple.