At 3½, future teen movie queen Molly Ringwald broke into show business singing the blues, accompanied at home by her father, jazz pianist Bob Ringwald.
“I sang Bessie Smith songs,” says Ringwald, now 47 and performing more upbeat music from the Great American Songbook Sunday night at the Cabaret South Beach.
“I grew up with jazz. I actually sang jazz before I acted or did anything else,” says Ringwald, 1980s star of John Hughes-directed classics The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.
“Of all the things that I do, music is the most joyful of everything. I really enjoy it. It sort of translates to an audience,” Ringwald says. “I approach every song in the same way I approach characters. I like to figure out who the person’s singing to, what they’re singing about. It’s a similar experience in a way, but there’s music so it has that almost visceral feeling.”
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Cabaret South Beach is particularly well-suited for Ringwald and her pianist, says nightclub co-owner Edison Farrow: “It’s exciting to be bringing this amazing talent to Miami in such an intimate venue, where the performer is no more than 20 feet from you.”
Ringwald will perform songs from her recent album, Except Sometimes.
“There’s an energy to a live performance. I feel the audience is a part of the show. It’s always different depending on who’s in the audience and the feeling that’s created there. I like the fact that it’s ephemeral. It moves me,” she says. “Today, it’s hard to make everything just exist in the room. People aren’t supposed to take pictures or record. Nobody really wants to honor that because they feel like they want to keep it forever, but I like that quality, that it’s something that just this room shares. There’s really something special about that. I like to keep it that way.”
At age 6, Ringwald recorded a jazz album with her father. About 2,000 copies were pressed and “they go for a good price on eBay,” she says.
In her early teens, Ringwald put music on the back burner.
“I really kind of felt I had to choose something and just focus on that. I was very focused on the acting,” she says. “Probably part of it was connected to that fact that it was very associated with what I did as a kid and I kind of wanted to do my own thing. Sort of a teenage rebellion. I just wasn’t really interested in recording. I only wanted to focus on the acting.”
Ringwald made her TV debut in the late 1970s, appearing on the youth-oriented sitcoms Diff’rent Stokes and The Facts of Life. By 1982, she was making movies. In May, 1986, Time magazine featured her on the cover with the headline, “Ain’t She Sweet.”
As she transitioned into adult roles, Ringwald’s red-hot career cooled a bit. She spent time in Paris, made films and performed on stage, including stints starring in revivals of Cabaret and Sweet Charity.
In 1999, Ringwald married French novelist Valéry Lameignère. They divorced three years later. Ringwald and current husband, author Panio Gianopoulos, have three children, 11-year-old Mathilda, and 5-year-old twins Adele and Roman.
Ringwald doesn’t want her young children in show business and says it’s “practically a daily battle” keeping Mathilda from becoming a professional actress
“She really wants to and we’re in California, and I let her do community theater,” Ringwald says. “But a lot of the people who do theater with her, they have agents already, they’re going out for commercials, they’re on Disney shows. She looks at other people and she says, ‘Why do they get to do it and I don’t get to do it?’ It feels like a punishment to her.”
It doesn’t help that Mathilda, an aspiring film director, has seen Ringwald’s early movies.
“That’s the other thing that gets thrown at me: ‘Why did you get to do it and I don’t get to do it? Why do you get to be special and I don’t get to be special?’ It’s a daily conversation.”
Many of Ringwald’s Brat Pack pals from the 1980s publicly battled demons as they grew older.
“I feel that I was fortunate,” she says. “A lot of the people that were child actors really got messed up. They didn’t have parents that were protecting them. I had parents that were very, very protective of me. Yes, the business can be really awful, but I felt that I had that foundation, that safe place with my family. My mom has said if she had to do it over again, she would have only let me do nonprofessional stuff.”
Ringwald says she has no regrets, though.
“I feel like I’ve had an extraordinary life and I continue to have an extraordinary life. I feel like I’ve also been given tremendous amount of advantage and luck. I really don’t have any complaints about that,” she says. “I look at my own experience and I think about my own kids, and yeah, I feel like I’m a little bit of an anomaly, that I was able to stay focused and sane. I look at a lot of people who have gone through what I went through and they didn’t. I want to make sure I don’t get my kids involved with something that statistically will just f--k them up, basically.”
If you go
Molly Ringwald sings from the Great American Songbook 8 p.m. Sunday at the Cabaret South Beach, 233 12th St., Miami Beach.
Tickets start at $60, plus service charge. There is a two-drink minimum. Click here to purchase.