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'The Breakfast Club' at 25: Where are Claire, Andy, Brian, John and Allison?

By Susannah Gora
Sunday, September 26, 2010; B03

It's been 25 years since "a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse" spent an unforgettable Saturday together in high school detention. But rather than going the way of acid-washed jeans and VHS, "The Breakfast Club" seems to take on more cultural resonance with each passing year, as new generations of teens flock to the movie, finding themselves reflected perfectly onscreen.

We know what has happened in the lives of film's stars since 1985: Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Emilio Estevez have continued to act in film, television and theater. Most of them reunited at the Oscars in March in memory of the film's late writer and director, John Hughes, and again Monday in New York for a 25th anniversary screening.

But what about the iconic characters those actors brought to life onscreen -- what might have happened in their lives over the past quarter-century? When asked if he'd ever make a sequel to the film, Hughes once told a reporter: "I know everybody would love to watch it. But I'm too fond of those characters."

I for one, am too fond of them not to imagine.

Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy): Allison majored in women's studies at Oberlin, then moved to Seattle, where she spent the early '90s working as a barista at a fair-trade coffee bar. She left town right around the time it stopped being cool to live there, worked as a volunteer for the first Lillith Fair and then moved to Austin, where she went to grad school and became an adolescent psychologist. She recently wrote a best-selling book that encourages teens to retain their individuality and to focus on inner beauty. She often tells her teenage patients, "When you get old, your heart doesn't have to die."

Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall): Despite getting an F in shop class, Brian wrote a brilliant college-application essay inspired by his poignant response to Principal Vernon's detention-day assignment to the group (a 1,000-word paper answering the question: Who do you think you are?). That essay, titled "Does That Answer Your Question?," won him a scholarship to MIT. He later moved to Silicon Valley to become an Internet entrepreneur, but after turning down offers to sell his startup for $300 million, he wound up with nothing when the tech bubble burst. He realized, though, that there was a future in social networking. As an early investor in MySpace, he made enough money to impress and later marry a swimsuit model who makes him PB and J with the crusts cut off. He recently endowed a new library at Shermer High and keeps a ceramic elephant lamp in his office to remind him how far he's come.

Andy Clark (Emilio Estevez): The stressed-out jock used to wish that his knee would give out, and it finally did -- not on the wrestling mat, but during a particularly intense punch-dancing session. During his treatment, he realized his true calling and went on to become a physical therapist, much to the frustration of his overbearing father. He once ran into Allison at O'Hare; they hadn't talked since that day in detention, but he asked her if she still had the badge she tore off his letterman jacket. For the most part, people from school have lost touch with him -- he never comes to reunions.

Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald): Claire and John Bender began a intense, clandestine romance after their day in detention; it was followed by an equally intense breakup. She moved to New York to study fashion at FIT but cheerfully put her career aspirations on hold after she met a banker at a Tommy Hilfiger show. They married, then she "squeezed out a few puppies" (as Bender predicted) and lived the life of a Wall Street wife: apartment on Park Avenue, summers in the Hamptons, winters in Aspen, sushi every night. She played tennis at her club and had lunch at the right places, but still hated "having to go along with everything my friends say." After sticking by her husband through his firm's accounting scandal in the early 2000s and a short-selling scandal at decade's end, she divorced him when she learned that he was seeing a younger woman. Recently, she and her kids moved back home to Shermer. She never stopped thinking about Bender and is almost ready to accept his friend request on Facebook.

John Bender (Judd Nelson): After spending the remainder of 1985 in Saturday detentions, Bender dropped out of high school and spent a few years feeling aimless and working odd jobs in auto repair shops. But when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it really ticked him off. He never liked malevolent authority figures, so he joined the Army, joking that it was his way of saying, "Eat my shorts, Saddam Hussein!" Appreciating the structure and discipline of military service, Bender stayed in uniform until the mid-1990s, when he returned to Chicago (he couldn't afford Shermer). He never married -- in part because he never got over Claire. After Principal Vernon retired, Bender was invited to speak at a career day at his old high school. The experience inspired him to do something to make students' lives better, so he went to college and got his master's in education. He went on to become one of the most beloved teachers at Shermer High and currently serves as its principal.

Susannah Gora is the author of "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation."

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