Under Radar, Andrew McCarthy Beats Bottle

ByABC News
March 25, 2004, 6:18 PM

March 26 -- Ever since a group of hot, young actors in the 1980s were dubbed "the brat pack" and made movie millions celebrating teen angst, there has been no shortage of tabloid headlines: There was the Rob Lowe sex tape, Demi Moore's well-publicized love spats and gossip about drug use and rehab.

Then, there was baby-faced Andrew McCarthy. He was the sensitive, vulnerable one on screen, and at least based on the absence of tabloid fodder seemed to be a choir boy off screen.

He was only a sophomore at New York University when cast in his first movie, Class, playing Rob Lowe's prep school roommate who ends up being seduced by an older woman. 1986's Pretty in Pink, co-starring Molly Ringwald, certified him as a leading man, box-office golden boy and heartthrob for smart girls.

But what no one knew not his co-stars, not the tabloids, not even McCarthy himself was that behind the scenes, the young star was quietly becoming an alcoholic.

"If I was frightened, it gave me good Dutch courage," says McCarthy, now recovered and starring in the ABC series Kingdom Hospital. "I felt confident and sexy and in charge and in control and powerful none of those things I felt in my life."

I Was So Hung Over

He says he took his first drink at age 12 or 13, long before he started acting. Years later, in his early success, he found he was able to booze it up at night and still hit his lines just right in the morning, even getting praise along the way.

In Pretty in Pink, for example people said, 'Oh he's so sensitive and lovely,' " McCarthy tells ABCNEWS' 20/20. "I was so hung over for that whole movie I'm thinking 'God, I got a headache. I am just dying here. I got to go lay down.' But on film, it came across a certain way."

After a night of heavy drinking, McCarthy says he barely got through one scene in Pretty in Pink in which he gazed hazily at Ringwald in a record store.