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Forty-Five Candles 

An interview with Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald is one of those celebrities who is more famous for what she did decades ago than for what she's doing today.

At 45, Ringwald, seems OK with that—kind of.

She is happily married and the mother of three young children (the twins, Roman and Adele, are in preschool and her eldest, Mathilda, is 9). In the past few years, Ringwald also has re-emerged into public life. In 2010, she published "Getting the Pretty Back" and her fiction piece," When it Happens to You, a collection of connected short stories, hit bookstores in 2012. Last summer she toured with The Moth, and talked about her daughter being a bully. This spring she is touring in support of her new jazz album, Except Sometimes, released on Concord Records. She appears at The Tower Theatre on Saturday (7:30 p.m., $35-$70 tickets at towertheatre.org).

The Source recently caught up with Ringwald to talk about motherhood, her privacy and about the scene in Sixteen Candles when she hands over her white and pink panties to Anthony Michael Hall.

Source: What's the most common misconception people have about you?

Molly Ringwald: That I'm 16 years old. And also, probably, that I hang out with the Brat Pack every day. It's a pretty big misconception that there's even such a thing as the Brat Pack. It was just this invented label. But it really stuck. Every interview I have I'm usually asked when was the last time I saw someone I did a movie with 30 years ago.

There goes one of my questions. I was going to ask if you still talk to Anthony Michael Hall.

Yeah, Michael—I'd say I probably knew him the best out of everyone because we were the same age, and briefly dated. But even Michael I see very rarely.

You've obviously moved on from the John Hughes era, but people's perception of you hasn't, necessarily. How do you connect the two?

It's a gradual thing that doesn't happen overnight because those movies were so successful, and because they're playing on a nonstop loop on television. It's the same thing as the "Seinfeld" cast. Those shows never stop—and they're great—but those people don't hang out every day and have breakfast, lunch and dinner together and share an apartment. It's hard for people to make that connection.

I know everyone has one of these stories, but watching The Breakfast Club with my dad when I was in seventh grade was a real bonding moment for us.

Awww, that's really nice. I'm glad. I was talking to a friend of mine, Demetri Martin, do you know who he is?

Yeah, he's a comedian.

We were talking about what those movies meant to people and how they transcend different generations, and he said, "You're just really lucky that the movies were good." Can you imagine being so well-known for something that just sucked?

Oh yeah. There are those people, right?

Yeah. There are a lot of people. I feel fortunate. Sometimes I feel frustrated because I'm interested in what I'm doing now and I'm not one to hang out in the past. But I am glad that if I'm going to be known for something, at least it's for something good.

Are your most famous roles behind you?

That remains to be seen. I hope not. I don't think so. But it would be really hard. I mean those movies were kind of a phenomenon. Most people don't have even have one of those in their careers. So who knows? I think I'm probably more interested now in filmmaking. I want to direct and hopefully direct something I write.

You passed up a lot of lead roles in movies that turned into classics—Pretty Woman, Blue Velvet, Ghost. Any regrets?

I don't really know. I know Blue Velvet was one my mom nixed because I was still a teenager and she wasn't comfortable with the themes. Obviously it's a great movie and I wish that I had been part of it, but I prefer that I had a mother who was protective of me.

How do you identify these days? Actress? Jazz singer? Mom? Author?

I consider myself all of those things. Singing was the first thing I did, then I moved into acting and writing. And mothering. They all have equal importance—except for mothering; that's a cut above the rest. But in terms of my creativity, all three of those things are equally important to me.

You've been singing since you were a kid, even performing with your father...

My dad is a traditional jazz musician. I wouldn't consider myself modern, necessarily, but more modern than my dad—he's super old-timey. I'm kinda more Great American Songbook. My band is more hard bop, but I'm a little more classic.

Are you more excited about singing jazz now, more so than acting?

No, I think I want to do all of it. [Laughs, and in a jokey voice says]: "I want it all! I'm a modern woman!" Singing is something that I really love because it's not exactly a career. It doesn't have the same kind of expectations.

Variety is great, right? I love people who do different things. Sometimes I think the general public can get confused because we live in such a specialized society. You're supposed to do one thing and one thing only—from law to medicine. It is the same in the professional field. It used to be, if you were an actor you also were expected to dance and sing. But now, certainly when I was coming up, it was very specialized. You weren't encouraged to do more than one thing. I think that's changing.

In the mid '90s, you retreated from the public eye and moved to Paris. What precipitated that decision?

I think it wasn't really conscious. I moved to Paris, but I kept working during that time. But it wasn't my priority.

Now you're fully back.

Well, I wouldn't say I'm fully back. I'm kind of back.

But your TV series, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," has been successful and now you've got two books...

But I think the kind of celebrity I have now is something I'm more comfortable with. I'm able to have a family. I wouldn't say we're completely anonymous, but we're able to go places and, for the most part, people are really respectful—as opposed to what I had before during those (John Hughes) movies.

You talk about your family openly in "Getting the Pretty Back." Is there any irony that you are bringing your private life into the public sphere?

I feel like I'm selective in terms of what I talk about. I talked about her [eldest daughter, Mathilda] when she was really little. As we go forward I'll probably talk about her less and less. I want to protect her privacy, even if she doesn't care about it. It is a constant conversation that my husband and I have.

Let's talk about music. You helped bring a lot of important '80s music to the forefront. Do you keep up with what's current? What's on your iPod these days?

I have really varied tastes in music. It just ranges from jazz to classical to alternative. I'm really into Andrew Bird right now. I love The Magnetic Fields. The last thing Yo-Yo Ma did, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, is really amazing. I'm listening to a lot of Carmen McCrae. Right now I'm really into listening to Bossa nova. I listen to a lot of podcasts also. I love "The Moth," and "Radiolab" and "This American Life."

Your "Moth" talk on bullying was great.

Thank you.

It's hard being a mom. There's that dynamic that the kids should be the center of attention, but you're Molly Ringwald! How do you refocus that attention?

Now my elder daughter is starting to understand because her friends...[interrupted by the clamoring of kids busting into the house] hang on one second. [Hi sweetie! Oh, Thank you! Papa's at work. I'm on the phone, OK? I'm working, too.] That was really funny. That was the answer to your question right there.

Did your kids just get home?

Yeah, my kids just got home from preschool and they wanted to hang out. In terms of celebrity they don't know what I do exactly. They don't understand anything about acting. They saw me on the "Today Show" the other day and my son couldn't figure out why [they were] talking to me. But my eldest daughter is figuring that out. A lot of her friends are seeing the movies that she hasn't even seen yet. Which I think is kinda crazy—8-year-olds shouldn't really be watching them.

I was going to ask about that. How old will your kids be before they see your movies?

The only one Mathilda has seen is Sixteen Candles.

Was that on your watch?

Yeah, I debated it because of the whole giving-my-panties-to-a-geek, I was like, 'Arrgggh!' I don't know if I want to explain that yet. But she was like, "Why did your character do that? Did he just want people to think that you really liked him?" She went straight to the subtext.

What will you perform in Bend?

I don't know. Probably a lot of songs from the album, but not all of the songs because I'm usually into performing songs I've just learned, or am working on, to keep it fresh. But pretty much from The Great American Songbook.

How many songs into a jazz set does it usually take audience members before they let go of Sixteen Candles Molly?

So far I've had really great experiences. The people that buy tickets to the show kind of know what they're going to get.

Any upcoming projects?

I'm touring for this album. Hopefully I'm going to be writing 60 pages for my new book, if I get the time to sit down and do it. And I'm also developing something for TV right now.

Any hints?

No. That's all I can say.

The new album is great.

Thank you.

Molly. It's been a pleasure.

Thanks so much.

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