The name Molly Ringwald will probably mean something different to you depending on how old you are. If you were a movie-going adolescent or adult in the early 1980s, Ringwald began making a strong impression on audiences in Paul Mazursky’s “Tempest,” followed by the double whammy of the late John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club,” not to mention “Pretty In Pink.” Other folks, who might have tuned in to “Different Strokes” and “The Facts of Life,” just prior to that, will remember her as Molly Parker on both shows.
Ringwald’s reign as the Queen of the Brat Pack ended by the late 1980s, although she continued to work regularly in film and on TV. In the late 2000s, following a second marriage and motherhood, Ringwald had a full-scale career comeback, including stints on Broadway and the TV series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” But there’s so much more to Ringwald than all that.
Ringwald is the author of two books, most recently the stellar “When It Happens To You: A Novel in Stories,” which came out in paperback May 7.
She is also quite a singer, and has been performing since she was a child, both on stage in musicals and with her jazz musician father’s band. Her first CD, “Except Sometimes” (Concord), released in April, does a terrific job of introducing listeners to a talented vocalist and skilled interpreter of other people’s songs.
You close your CD with the track “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” The song is best known through its association with the movie “The Breakfast Club,” in which you starred, and your jazz-vocal rendition is inspired and delightful, revealing a whole new side to the song. Whose idea was it to include it on the disc?
Molly Ringwald: It was my idea. We were recording the album not long after John Hughes had passed away. He was obviously on my mind a lot. I wanted to do something, some kind of tribute to him.
You describe your new book, “When It Happens to You,” as “a novel in stories.” Which story came first and when did you know that you wanted write more about the characters?
The story that came first was actually “The Harvest Moon,” the first story that appears in the collection. Originally, I had the idea to write a collection on the theme of betrayal, which was what was interesting to me. Thinking about something that sort of connects us all. I thought that it was a very rich subject.
I started it with this marital betrayal. As soon as I wrote that story it came out a lot longer than I had anticipated which meant that I was going to have to rethink the other stories. Originally, I had intended to write quite a few stories and have it be a lot shorter. But it didn’t turn out that way.
Once I wrote the first story I realized that I wanted to stick with those characters and write around those stories and find out how they had gotten there. That’s when the novel in stories idea came to take shape.
“My Olivia,” about a mother dealing with her son’s gender identity, is one of the stories from the book that really stayed with me. What was the inspiration for that story?
That’s nice to hear. They were a couple of different inspirations. The first is that I have people in my life that I know are transgendered adults. Most of them are artists and they are flourishing in who they are, now.
But I often thought about everything that I didn’t see, when I didn’t know them, what it was like with their families and how they became the person they were, and the choices that their parents made.
I also came at it as a mother of three children, and what I would do in that situation.
Thirdly, my daughter went to preschool with a child I’m quite sure is transgendered. Actually, three different children, come to think of it. Two were boys who were obviously going to be girls growing up. One of them was a girl who identified as a boy.
It was interesting to watch the parents struggle with that and come to terms with it. One of them was coming to terms with it and, I think, doing everything right. The other one was struggling in a way that I don’t know what’s going to happen.
I think all of those were my mind a lot and were interesting and intriguing to me. I felt like I wanted to explore that in writing.
You did a wonderful “No on Prop 8” PSA a few years ago and you received an Equality Award from Equality California. I would imagine that as an actress, both in theater and in film, you probably have a fair share of friends in the LGBT community. When did you become aware of a following in the LGBT community?
A lot of it has to do with my outspokenness for the cause. I think that really touched a lot of people. I’ve tried to show up as often as possible and done a lot of work for AIDS and Housing Works and AmFar. It’s definitely a mutual adoration [laughs].
Top photo: Far more than an ‘80s teen movie star, Molly Ringwald has recently released a CD and her second book, ‘When it Happens to You: A Novel in Stories.’ Out in paperback this month, the book includes a story about a mother raising a transgender child. (Publicity photo)