Spork grew up in a magical time called the 80’s. Music was danceable, cable was expanding, and the drab golds, greens, and oranges of the 70’s were replaced by vivid reds, royal purples, and electric blues. Hair and earrings were big, stores began aging your denim for you, and lots of people wore hats.
It was a fine time, and its cinema was dominated by the Brat Pack. Who was the Brat Pack? Now that was a loosely defined group! If you look at the cast of St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club, you are off to a good start, but that is only the starting point. Twice in my lifetime I have vague memories of people asking about it in “Walter Scott's Personality Parade” (PARADE), and him saying that originally it referred to a specific group of actors, which included Nicolas Cage, and then it just expanded.
I never thought too much about it, until I read somewhere else that the Rat Pack originally referred to a bunch of buddies that Humphrey Bogart hung out with, and Sinatra was the only person in the popularly perceived Rat Pack who was in the original Rat Pack.
Now the nice thing about the two Rat Packs is that they are pretty well documented, between biographies, autobiographies, and film footage. I don’t know that people will really be looking for biographies of Andrew McCarthy ten years from now, but I could be wrong.
The important thing is, I sensed a trend. Nicknames are assigned, and then the assignation mutates. I waited for the next one, and it came along sometime after the release of Good Will Hunting, with attempts to bring the Frat Pack into usage. It fizzled, if for no other reason than that you need more than two people in a pack. If they had tried to bring in everyone from the cast of School Ties, they probably could have made it work. A more appropriate addition would have been Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson, school buddies who work together, and that it is interesting because when the term Frat Pack was resurrected, Owen Wilson was in it.
This group is also known as the Slacker Pack, and brings in Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and for some reason Jack Black even though I can’t really see that he has done that much with them. Then again, these packs tend to have loose boundaries.
I have thought about this a lot, and I think one issue is that gossip columnists and entertainment writers are going to have different perceptions than the movie-going public. People may party together more than they work together. Also, two or three people with things in common may draw attention, but it doesn’t really stick together until you have at least four.
Here’s what I think went down with the original Brat Pack. I think someone was seeing this rising generation of actors with Hollywood bloodlines. Nicolas Cage is a Coppola, I am willing to bet that Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen were in it, as sons of Martin Sheen, and there was probably at least one other. Maybe Robert Downey Jr. I’d say Jamie Lee Curtis if she was a little younger. Anyway, it makes sense, it has a nice hook, but Cage is off the beaten track while the other two are making teen movies in this group where not only do the same people keep acting together, but some of them are dating each other. Let’s not forget that your film roles dictate your placement in teen magazines. I don’t think I ever saw a pin-up of Cage in Tiger Beat.
Now we could go back and forth about who belongs in which pack or how to classify the recurring tertiary characters, but do not expect it to become concrete. Just remember that in Hollywood, it really is not what you know, but whom.
That being said, I’d like to make some predictions about future packs.
In 2007, Colin Farrell, Jesse James, and Dennis Rodman form the Tat Pack. Since there are only three of them, they don’t do the same type of work, and it’s a gross thing to celebrate, they are quickly disbanded.
In 2008, a passel of new actors hailing from Riga is christened the Latt Pack. Later on as other South Eastern Europeans break into American Cinema, even Croats and Serbs are referred to as Latt Packers. Since a few of them are every bit as dreamy as Goran Visnjic, people are too distracted to complain.
In 2009, as eating and exercise disorders take their toll, a gossip columnist snickeringly refers to a quartet of anorexic and underdeveloped actresses as the Flat Pack. Derided for his cruelty and sexism, he still escapes with minor injuries compared to what would have happened if he had named a Fat Pack.
In 2010, several actors who aren’t getting parts anyway begin acquiring vineyards and producing wine (because everyone knows there is a shortage of alcohol in Hollywood). They are nick named the Vat Pack.
In 2011, a bunch of big-pimpin’ hip-hop artists form the Phat Pack, riding around in stretch HumVees and buying gold together. Things end on a bloody note when a disagreement on ornamental dentistry turns violent at their Labor Day barbecue.
In 2011, the Farrelly Brothers and the Wayans Brothers address the need for more toilet humor in movies, forming the Scat Pack. Sick at heart, Spork retires to a cave with a DVD player and waits for things to blow over.
Yeah, yeah. Just be glad I decided to stick to one-syllable words ending in “at”. I was also looking at Nougat, Zagat, and Latka packs. (Not the potato pancakes. That would be Jim Carrey, feeling that his career is dead, so hitting the road with a group of Andy Kaufman impersonators.)