It has recently come to my attention that this week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of John Hughes’ film The Breakfast Club. I’d like to announce proudly that I was one of the first individuals to experience this monumental film when it came out, savoring the profound messages of teen angst and individuality throughout the story.
But announcing that wouldn’t quite be truthful.
Yet I do remember a winter evening at the beginning of February 1985. It was a Sunday evening. My parents were out together and my brother was working on the school newspaper elsewhere. I was at home procrastinating from the daunting task that was seventh grade homework. I was listening to what was then Q107 — a popular, Top 40 radio station in the Washington, DC area. Everyone listened to Q107. It was a tradition we knew would never end. (Ironically, the format suddenly changed to “Adult Contemporary Mix 107.3” the weekend I began college. But I digress…)
It was a promotional weekend based on, for some obscure reason, the number three. Three times as many songs in a row. Three times the fun. And three times the winners for their contests! I was listening as one came on — and a chance was given for THREE winners to call in and win! They would take a winner from Maryland, one from Virginia, and one from the District. All one would have to do is be the first from that jurisdiction to answer a trivia question.
The question in question: name two songs in the current Top 40 — one of which is by a band and one which is a solo act of a member of that current band. It sounds confusing when I write it out here, but hey — the suave DJ worded it in a way which could be understood for miles around.
It was a Sunday night. Most people had better things to do than to call 432-1073 with the correct answer. But not me. I called and didn’t give the obvious answer of a Phil Collins song and a Genesis song. No. Instead, I mentioned “Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry along with “Only the Young” by Journey. That seemed to work. I was the best kind of winner — a radio contest winner. On the legendary Q107.
And my prize? That very next Thursday night, I was invited to a sneak preview of a hot new movie before it was officially released. It was called “The Breakfast Club.” I was excited. I called my friend Jeremy and gave him the good news. I waited for my parents to come home and mentioned it to them as well. “How nice,” I remember my Mom saying.
The next day, apparently, my Mom did some research on this new movie and discovered it was Rated-R. I was 12. I had already assumed that one of my parents would go with me to the screening. But I didn’t have an inkling that they would turn this opportunity down flat-out.
I was pissed. This was my prize! My glory! Something I had won! And my parents were going to take it away from me? Simply because of an R rating? True — there really wasn’t any barometer to figure out if this was going to be appropriate for someone my age or not. It could have been the next World According to Garp. Or it could have been the next Porkys. I was denied.
And I was instantly known at school as the kid whose parents wouldn’t even let him watch R-Rated movies.
I recall bringing up my grievance at a weekly family counseling session which was held the following Monday. I expected the therapist to take my side. Boy was I wrong. My Mom decided to come up with a peace offering of sorts — she got the station to send us a rockin’ Q107 t-shirt. I was amazed when I discovered that my Mom actually called the radio station to try to get another prize –and even complain that they would award sneak preview tickets to an R-Rated movie to a 12 year-old.
“But Mom!” I whined “How did you know the phone number of the radio station?” She was infringing on my territory. Q107 wasn’t a Mom thing. It was a me thing. There was no way that she could stomach the musical phenomenon that was Scritti Polliti.
She told me how she found out what the phone number was: “I listened. They say the phone number every three minutes.”
It was the first time I can remember where my Mom’s eyes spoke to me and undoubtedly said “Duh!”
Anyway, she called the request line and was transferred to the general manager’s office. He told her that if she had a problem with me winning contests on the station, the solution was to simply not have me listen to the station. Eventually she was able to get them to send me a t-shirt. In retrospect, it was a very generous gesture of my Mom. And, in retrospect, the t-shirt probably looked better after ten years than Judd Nelson.
But it wasn’t my sneak preview. I moped around for the next week. My Dad said that he would take me to the movies to see it — only after there was more information about what to expect in this R-Rated film. We didn’t end up going. I remember seeing it for the first time on VHS at a friend’s house.
But this movie to this day continues to remind me of my Mom. Who was doing the right thing at the time because she gave a damn about me — even though I felt the opposite was true. Letting a 12 year-old kid see an unknown R-Rated movie? Especially one with pot and Ally Sheedy’s nude scene? No chance.
Which is why I’ve decided not to let my seven year-old go to the movies to see “Hot Tub Time Machine” when it comes out. It may not be the most popular decision. But in 25 years? Maybe he’ll understand.