Caffeinated Clint meets Keith Coogan!


So by now, you’d all know that I live and breath everything Reagan-era. I’m a purist, a supporter and a devotee of anything that came out of the 1980s – even those ridiculous fucking monkeys that apparently came to life when you let them swim in the base of the toilet bowl.

I still import TAB into the country. I have the original 1989 “Batman” ticket stub somewhere. And I wore out my “Nine and a Half Weeks” VHS by the time I was twelve. And I’m probably the only guy reading this column (I could stop right there, couldn’t I?) that actually has ‘fond’ memories of seeing “Howard the Duck” at the theater – not to mention being meekly turned-on by Marty’s mum going down on a pluckin’ duck. And despite being bought up in the country, the only Farmer I’ve ever met is Ted, the one that snagged Molly Ringwald’s damp nickers.

Mostly, I just love the cats that came out of the era – the Judge Reinhold’s, the Mickey Rourke’s, the Dan Aykroyd’s, the Ami Dolenz’s, the Lucy Deakins’, The John Cusack’s, The Kevin Peter Hall’s, the Emilio Estevez’s .. .. (Why the hell am I referring to them all with a plural!? Did Bobby Duvall clone them in that Spotiswoode flick?). I miss them near as much as my Han Solo-in-Hoth-attire action figure that was destroyed by destructive cousins in the Summer of 1984.

Do you remember all those youngsters that came to fame in the 80s? I’m sure you’re familiar with Drew Barrymore, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, and River Phoenix. Some, if they’ve got The Onion bookmarked, may even be familiar with Wil Wheaton. But what about Chris Young? Remember him? He was the youngster that fronted such fun teen flicks as “Book of Love”, “The Great Outdoors” and TVs “Max Headroom”. Where’s he? Or what about Martha Plimpton – she was one of “The Goonies – who was quite the starlet there for a while? Or how about the love struck duo from “The Boy Who Could Fly”- Lucy Deakins and Jay Underwood? And don’t even try to convince me you weren’t a fan of Zack Gallighan of “Gremlins” and “Waxwork” fame. And who else wanted shares in Kristy Swanson after she smashed Anne head with a basketball in “Deadly Friend”?

Now that I’m working in a producing capacity, I’m able to not only personally thank – a lot of the time anyway – these people that entertained me throughout the years – but I’ve also had the pleasure of working with a few of them. I recently finished a picture with the adorable Kerri Green of “The Goonies” and “Lucas”, have worked with the wonderful Dee Wallace of “E.T” and “Cujo” on a couple of occasions, C.Thomas Howell too, did a project with Lisa Wilcox from the “Elm Street” series, and also Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick, to name but a few. ….

…. And in my travels this week I crossed paths with another face you may remember from the 80s – Keith Coogan. He was in the terrific little Touchstone comedy “Adventures in Babysitting” and later, “Toy Soldiers” with Wil Wheaton, and the surprise smash “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” (who, reading this column, doesn’t remember rushing out to see that one on opening weekend? If only to check out Christina Applegate on a larger canvas!?). I hadn’t seen Coogan in anything for years – he’s 39 now, but hardly aged a day – so was intrigued where he’d been hiding.

“I have been living here in Los Angeles, working on the occasional low-budget art flick – soft-core pornography, but with a Catholic twist”, Coogan laughs. “[Basically] kicking my legs up and enjoying all of those big residual checks!”.

And he’s probably not kidding – some of the films he made made a mint.

One thing my friend Eric Stoltz told me recently was that it was a different time growing up as a young actor in the 80s than it is now. I recall he mentioned that he didn’t have a publicist. Coogan said he agrees with Stoltz’s comments.

“It sure was a different time. I would say that kid actors weren’t commoditized nearly as much as they are today. And the idea that publicists are a new thing is ridiculous. You had guys hanging around all of the events, sharking you. They had a more difficult time in the past convincing parents to spend money on publicists, managers, trainers, stylists… now it’s something you have to do merely to keep up. That, and in the past, there were no “Coogan” accounts. You had to trust the parents to stash some cash for the future. Now, a check can’t even be cut by the producers unless the Coogan account has already been set up.”

For those that don’t recall, Coogan played one of the kids Elisabeth Shue has been charged with babysitting in Christopher Columbus’s “Adventures in Babysitting”. It’s considered his claim to fame.

“Surely “Adventures in Babysitting” launched my feature film career. But I have to say, “The Walton’s” was a big boost when I was 10”, says Coogan. “I worked pretty consistently in television from the late 70’s up until I was cast in 1986 by Chris Columbus. He was adamant that I was right for “Brad”, and fought for me when Disney said no.”

And of course I had to ask him about “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” – a comedy from one of my favourite filmmakers of that time, Mr. Stephen Herek. It’s the one where he said ‘The dishes are done… dude!”

“Summer camp for adults… and kids!”, Coogan says of that experience. ‘’Stephen Herek had directed “Bill and Ted’s” and “Critters”, so I knew we were in good hands. Christina Applegate had been a friend for many years, and it was absolutely terrific working with such a pro. She really did a great job on that, Christina held the whole movie together. And I have to point out, the quote is, “The dishes are done, man!”…no dude!”.

Yeah Okay, so his memory is better than mine.

Further proof? He remembers the weekend that “Adventures in Babysitting” opened.

‘’Yeah, opening up the newspaper the weekend it opened. I couldn’t believe the ad campaign. Full page color spread in the L.A. Times. I just about had a kitten. I said to my mom, “I think they spent some money on ads, no?” Adventures in Babysitting was huge… it did very well at the box office, and was one of the few George Bush investments that ever worked out – he was on the board of Silver Screen Partners III”.

And surprisingly, he ain’t pissed they’re trying to remake the movie.

‘’Not at all… I’m hoping they keep to the spirit of the original… hard to do today… the jury’s out until I see or work on it.’’

One of my favourite films in Coogan’s back catalogue is “Book of Love”. I wondered whether he even realized who director Bob Shaye was?

‘’Bob was awful… he didn’t know anything about being on a set… he couldn’t control us actors, and he had no idea what he was doing…Just kidding….’’, laughs the actor. “Robert Shaye became a good friend. For rehearsals, he invited the cast up to his beautiful Hollywood Hills home, and cooked dinner for us while we played with his Nightmare on Elm Street toys. He giggled while he showed us the trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and he asked us all for our input. Book of Love may have lost money for NewLine, but it taught Bob how to direct… while we were on the set he even confided to me and Chris Young that he had this great idea for a Sci-Fi film. He was talking about “The Last Mimzy”, which was really good by the way. Big difference from shooting a simple period piece to mounting a huge special effects film… but that’s Bob for you, always taking on big challenges.’’

Mainly, Coogan says he keeps in touch with his “Book of Love” co-star Chris Young (who, I believe, is now working in technology now? Phones-or-something-or-other?).

‘’I’m still friends with Chris. And I probably wouldn’t punch Anthony Rapp in the face if I ever saw him again… he was pretty cool, too.’’

What Coogan is stoked about is that some of the casting directors that he’s now testing for are fans of his. Seems the kids that grew up on “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Book of Love” are all grown up now – and taking over the industry.

“The new breed of Casting Directors are all fans… now if it would only turn into a guest spot on “Lost”!”, he laughs.

And here’s hoping we get to see more of Coogan again soon – – thanks for watching VH1’s “Remember When….”