Tarzan's Mate Meets the Brat Pack in St. Elmo's Fire

UPDATED 07/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

A lot of people know what model-actress Andie MacDowell, 27, looks like. Besides appearing on more Vogue covers than she can remember, the 5'8", brunette beauty succeeded Brooke Shields as the Calvin Klein jeans girl. But not many people know what Andie sounds like, and that bothers her. If you saw her first film, 1984's Greystoke (she was the Earl's ward who gets the vapors for Tarzan), you actually heard Glenn Close's dubbed-over voice. If you catch her in the summer's hot St. Elmo's Fire, as the doctor who makes Emilio Estevez swoon, you'll hear a trained, homogenized version of her voice. No, you have to go back two years ago to that Calvin Klein commercial in which she soliloquizes about cracker life down South—Dot 'n' Earl and The Happy Valley Trailer Court—to hear the real thing: a slow, delicious, drawn-out Blanche DuBois drawl.

MacDowell's voice is important to her because it's Southern, and anything ripe, sensual and magnolia-laced is vital to her. There was nothing of Dixie, however, on the set of St. Elmo's, about a group of college friends, where the Brat Pack (Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy) held sway. "Here were all these young Hollywood actors," says Andie, "and I'm from Gaffney, this teeny tiny little dot in South Carolina." She was thoroughly intimidated. But going bowling with the cast and attending Rob Lowe's 21st birthday party helped put her at ease. If the pack does indeed have a bratty side, Andie says she never saw it. She praises her co-star Estevez, Martin Sheen's son, as "really sweet. I don't know what it's like having a famous father and growing up in Hollywood, but I don't think Emilio was spoiled," Andie says. "I told him I was frightened and he said not to worry, that acting was like dancing—you just get up and do it."

For MacDowell, it's not that simple. Knocking back White Russians (vodka, crème de cacao, cream) in a Manhattan cafe just one block from her one-bedroom Upper West Side apartment, Andie reflects on the Southern background that still shapes her life. She grew up in Tennessee Williams country—that hot tin roof region of the soul where she was troubled and traumatized by her mother's miseries. "My mother was an alcoholic and ashamed of it," she says. "She just wanted to get drunk, to forget. She was a teacher and lost her job. It was so sad."

While close to her father, a lumber company owner, Andie (born Anderson) MacDowell was raised by her mother after her parents divorced when she was 7. Andie was particularly attached to her mother, who died of a heart attack four years ago at age 53. "She loved to garden. She'd pick flowers for me. I loved her so much. It was very sad that she drank. For four years I would only drink water. I don't like the taste of alcohol. Even now I have to have sugary drinks."

Looking back, Andie sees her childhood as a period of maladjustment. Unlike her four older sisters, prom-queen types all, "I was wild looking. I had this wild hair and these big old lips. I was the first person to double pierce my ears, and I had friends in both races, which wasn't usual there. When people objected, I said—-'em. I just made it worse. I'd wear T-shirts with no bra and hiphuggers with small halter tops. I guess I liked being sexy."

Andie's sexuality became her ticket out of Gaffney. After two years at Winthrop College, in Rock Hill, S.C., MacDowell began haunting the New York-Paris modeling circuit. With due speed she was posing for such top photographers as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Bruce Weber.

Her photos in British Vogue vaulted her into Greystoke, and although being dubbed was infuriating at the time, Andie understands now why it happened. "My voice would've stuck out in the film, and my accent was much stronger then. It made me work hard. Now my voice is much richer." (Determined not to get burned by St. Elmo's Fire, she had a no-dubbing clause put in her contract.)

The interview is interrupted when Craig Sheffer, Andie's boyfriend of eight months stops by. "Don't feed the dog," Andie reminds him. The dog is Kounack, a 93-pound Alaskan mala-mute. Sheffer, a 25-year-old actor, will soon appear with Emilio Estevez in That Was Then, This Is Now. She met Craig at her agent's party last fall. "We have not left each other's side since that night," she says. "Isn't he precious?" Craig, Kounack and Andie share the country-cluttered apartment that she purchased with her $3,500-a-day modeling fees.

When she isn't working as a model (she's currently in a L'Oréal TV spot) or holing up at home watching rented video movies with Craig, Andie works out a strategy for her acting career. Unlike many of her model-turned-actress colleagues, MacDowell has no delusions of dethroning Streep. "I haven't achieved a star-role type thing," she admits. What she wants is more challenging work and more of a chance to be sexy. "I haven't been able to use my sensuality yet except in commercials," she says. "My sexuality is untapped." Listen up, Hollywood.

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