much the least interesting thing there is to know about
Andrew McCarthy? He was a charter member of Hollywood’s
most interesting thing about that, meanwhile? That he
ever belonged to anything. Or anyone, for that matter.
many things had I walked away from in my life because I
hadn’t been able to commit?" McCarthy, 49, asks,
not at all rhetorically, in the opening pages of
"The Longest Way Home," his startlingly
fellow Brat Packer Rob Lowe’s recent nonstop dish-athon
(and those of just about every other Hollywood
memoirist), McCarthy doesn’t regale readers with the
many juicy roles he turned down over a three-decade
career and the many starlets he didn’t.
"The Longest Way Home" is a lyrical, yet
unsparing account of the extraordinary lengths that
McCarthy, the consummate ensemble player in such 1980s
cinematic touchstones as "St. Elmo’s Fire,"
"Less Than Zero" and — let us all bow our
heads in respect — "Weekend at Bernie’s"
(I and II), went to discover and ultimately confront his
was writing the book, in a large way, to solve this sort
of personal dilemma I had," McCarthy said recently
by phone about the stranger-than-any-movie-plot story
that begins with him getting engaged to the mother of
his young daughter (he also has a son by his first
marriage) and then instantly becoming a serial bolter
who heads out solo to such far-flung spots as Patagonia
and the Amazon. "The book isn’t really a travel
book at all." Still, "The Longest Way
Home" is organized as an arc of travel essays —
and some very good ones at that. That’s hardly
surprising given the admittedly surprising detour
McCarthy’s taken off the standard issue Hollywood
Thespian’s Career Map. A knack for discovering places
— or new meaning in old ones — allowed him to morph
into a unique working journalist/movie star hybrid about
a decade ago.
an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler, his
work pops up everywhere from the Atlantic to Bon Appetit
and even won him the Society of American Travel Writers’
prestigious "Travel Journalist of the Year
Award" in 2010.
what?! Blane, the preppy heartthrob from "Pretty in
Pink," can just plop himself down in a
snake-infested rain forest in an off-the-grid area of
Costa Rica known as "the Osa" (Chapter 4 in
the book)? And nobody blinks twice? "Sometimes
people recognize me, and it opens doors in ways I would
not be welcomed otherwise," admitted McCarthy, who
seems more empathetic than your average screen idol with
the rather peculiar job demands of the press corps’
I say I’m from National Geographic, people clam up or
just start quoting stats," McCarthy said of those
he meets while traveling. "I try not to pull out my
pad and act differently around them. Instead, I run off
to the bathroom a lot to write things down. People
probably think I have a prostate problem!" One
problem probably will never go away completely, McCarthy
says: "I have that weird push-pull where I want to
talk to you and not want to talk to you." Such
insight wasn’t come by as easily as early fame.
McCarthy unflinchingly writes about the roots of his arm’s-length
relationship with happiness and personal attachments —
the comfortable suburban New Jersey upbringing darkened
by a distant, yet demanding father; the instant
celebrity that began with a role as Jacqueline Bisset’s
teen lover in "Class" and which he nearly
drowned in temptations like booze over the next decade.
somewhat emotionally lost in his early 30s, he felt
pulled to retrace a pilgrimage through Spain he’d read
a book about. Somewhere along that 500-mile route of
blistered feet and psyche, he writes, "my pack felt
lighter ... Through travel, I began to grow up."
But would he ever grow up enough to come home and
finally marry "D," as he refers to his fiancee
in print? That’s the through-line to the book, which
McCarthy says occurred to him as he almost maniacally
began lining up travel-writing assignments even as he
took steps to officially settle down.
you’re travel writing, there’s the trip you report
and the parallel personal things going on that you never
write about," said McCarthy, who kept two separate
notebooks to force himself to do so this time.
"There’s a sort of ownership that happens when
you write it down. A certain solidity to what you
discover about yourself when it’s not just running
around in your head anymore."