Poetry, they say, is about living, and that is something 28-year-old actress Ally Sheedy has definitely done. At 18 she moved to Hollywood and quickly became a star. She's appeared in such hit films as "Bad Boys," "The Breakfast Club," "St. Elmo's Fire," "Short Circuit" and most recently "Betsy's Wedding." Although she was critically acclaimed for her blithe movie portrayals, her life in the late '80s was far from light and happy: She battled bulimia, went through terrible depressions and became addicted to drugs.
All of these experiences, her stay in a drug rehabilitation clinic and her recovery are documented in her new book of poems, "Yesterday I Saw the Sun," which is as raw as it is well-written.
Ms. Sheedy, bright and honest, lunched over a conversation dedicated to her battles, her poetry and her love of trashy breakfast cereal.
Q: In your book, you're very forthcoming about your past problems. Why did you choose to be so brave and write about them?
A: Well, first I wrote poems simply as expressions for myself, so I could remember everything. It was therapy. Later, a friend of mine at Summit Books read them and thought they were good publishing material. What helped me to decide to publish them was that it helped me so much to read honest accounts from people who had gone through similar things. Like the William Styron book ["Darkness Visible, a Memoir of Madness"], which is amazing. So I decided to turn something negative into a positive. I wanted to write it down and share it with other people to hopefully inspire them.
Q: I understand that you've received a lot of positive feedback.
A: Yes. One woman wrote me a long poem who was just out of rehab. Wives of alcoholics have written me. And a few men with eating disorders have written, too. Because they were men, they couldn't find any material that spoke to them about their disorders, so they related to my poems. So I felt validated by that.
Q: Your book begins with thank-yous to actor Eric Stoltz and actresses Demi Moore and Jane Fonda. What's the connection?
A: Eric has been one of my closest friends. He came to visit me in Hazelden [a rehab clinic] and was really supportive. The same for Jane and Demi. I'm not close to Jane anymore, but basically Demi organized the events that put me into rehab. I was angry at her at the time, but by the end of it all, I saw that she was like an angel.
Q: Why did you go into rehab?
A: When I came to Hollywood in 1980, I was compulsive and smoking a lot of pot. I went to see a counselor and got sober for seven years. Then I fell in love with somebody who is a heavy drinker, and it started all over again. I would take tranquilizers . . . they were my means of escape.
Q: Enough of this heavy stuff. Let's change the subject.
Q: Of all the characters in "The Breakfast Club," which one are you the most like?
A: The one I played, the introvert.
Q: But she had greasy hair.
A: I know! And I would, too, except I have to have clean hair for my jobs. There's something about her . . . she's the outsider and she knows she's the outsider. She feels things very deeply but has all these bizarre defenses on top of them. I could relate to that!
Q: Does it peeve you that you're lumped in the so-called "Brat Pack"?
A: At first, I thought it was funny. However, time has gone on and it's difficult. It's a stigma. You have to prove you can act, and I think I'm beyond that.
Q: What do you think about Vanilla Ice's eyebrows?
A: (Laughs.) I think they go well with the rest of him. I like those intricate carvings, I really do. His music is fine, but I don't like what he says about other people. He's made some disparaging comments in the press about MC Hammer, and that's bothered me because he's a special performer. I saw Vanilla Ice just last night, in fact, on the "American Music Awards." And I liked Reba McEntire. She's cool.
Q: When you were a kid, which breakfast cereal did you prefer: Count Chocula or Franken Berry?
A: Count Chocula. I loved it. The milk turned into chocolate milk. And I have one for you: Did you like Cap'n Crunch or Quisp?
A: Oh, me, too. Quisp looked just like a Martian. He was so cute.
Q: If you could be any beverage, which would you be?
A: Mountain Dew. It tastes kind of summery -- just like the commercial says. When I drink it, I always think about that commercial, where people are out of their minds and splashing around in the water. (Laughs.)
Q: If your life were made into a rap song, what would the title be?
A: Probably "You Can Touch This."
Q: What's your most embarrassing talk-show experience?
A: Well, once I was on "A.M. Los Angeles," and the host looked at me and said, "Does it ever bother you that you're ordinary-looking, plain and not that pretty?"
Q: Did you slap him?
A: No! I was stunned. I said, "I, ah, never thought of that." Of course, I was sweating.
Q: Since you are a poet, finish this line for me: "I think that I shall never see . . ."
A: (Long pause.) A good woman's role in a film that makes money.