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Not My Job: Molly Ringwald Answers Questions About Senator Byrd

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT …DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill. Thank you guys so much. This…


SAGAL: …Is the week we try to appeal to younger listeners by bringing them, you know, young guests. But since we don't know any actual young people, the best we can do is people who used to be young.


KURTIS: Molly Ringwald was the most famous teenager of the 1980s. She starred as a kind of every girl in classic films like “The Breakfast Club” and “16 Candles.”

SAGAL: When she joined us in 2010, I asked her what is was like to be part of the group of young Hollywood actors known as the Brat Pack and whether they hung out together.

MOLLY RINGWALD: Not really. No, it was really just a term that was coined, you know, by this New York Magazine writer. We weren't really hanging out. I mean, I - I was quite a bit younger. I was, like, the only one that was really the age that I was playing, and most everybody else was already in their 20s. So, you know, there wasn't really a lot of hanging out going on, on my part at least.

SAGAL: Really?

RINGWALD: I was sort of home doing homework.


SAGAL: It turns out that you were young, partially because you got your start as a performer quite young, right? You were...


RINGWALD: Yes, I did.

SAGAL: And we didn't know this about you, but you are and were at the time a singer.


SAGAL: In fact, we have - this is a piece of tape. This is – this is the vocal stylings of Molly Ringwald.

RINGWALD: Oh, boy.


RINGWALD: (Singing) Come along, get your partner, wear your brand new gown for there's going to be a party in the podunk town…



RINGWALD: (Singing) ...Where you know everybody and they all know you. And you're going to get them just to drive away the blues. When you hear that music start to play...

SAGAL: First of all, I have to ask, that's you, isn't it?

RINGWALD: (Laughter) Yeah, that is.

SAGAL: Yeah, that recording…



SAGAL: You were – you were 6, or...

RINGWALD: I was – I was a 6-year-old chanteuse with my father's jazz band, the Fulton Street Jazz Band.

SAGAL: Oh, wow.


SAGAL: And so your father was a jazz musician. Is that how it came about? That he...

RINGWALD: Yes. And he still is a jazz musician. Yeah, I started performing with him when I was 3 and a half and recorded my first album when I was 6.


RINGWALD: And that was my deep, dark past before all the John Hughes movies.

POUNDSTONE: Now, do a lot of people that knew of your performances when you were 6, are they surprised to see that you're older now?


RINGWALD: That's a great question.

SAGAL: I mean, you really are - if I were to name – like, ask somebody to list things that, like, said the '80s to them, they would probably say, OK, Ronald Reagan, Olivia Newton John, Molly Ringwald. You were, like, hugely iconic of that decade. Does that ever get tired?

RINGWALD: You know, I guess so. You know, in a way, I don't really consider myself so much a part of the '80s any more than any other person. You know, I mean, it's just a decade that I lived through.

SAGAL: I'm sorry. I hate to disagree with a guest, but no, that is not true.


RINGWALD: No, I'm saying that's from my point of view.

SAGAL: Right, OK.

RINGWALD: I don't find - I'm not living in the ‘80s in any way. I don't really have any association with it other than the fact that I was younger and that's what I was doing. That's what I happened to have been doing when I was a teenager.

SAGAL: I was just wondering if there was any other decade you'd rather be associated with.

RINGWALD: No, I think '80s is a pretty cool one.

SAGAL: That's true.

RINGWALD: I mean, it's part - I was just talking to my co-star of "Secret Life," Shailene, who's a teenager now, and she says do you think that people are going to look back on our time and want to, like, dress the way that we are? And I said, well, yeah, of course. And she's like, but I mean, we don't have any style now.


RINGWALD: I mean, like, in the '80s, you were, like, doing something. I said, well, that's just the way that they think now because we're in the middle of this decade. But obviously, it's going to be vintage one day, like everything else.

POUNDSTONE: The covered wagon people used to say that as well.


POUNDSTONE: So do you think anybody will want to wear a bustle and a snood?


P.J. O'ROURKE: Drive around on the Great Plains.

SAGAL: We have one more question for you before we go to the game. What we do before our guest comes on is we announce on our Twitter feed, which is @waitwait, just one word...


SAGAL: ...What people might want to ask our guest this week. And this was one of the questions, and we have to ask it. It's a particular, I guess, peril of your fame. How often do creepy dudes who have seen "Sixteen Candles" ask you if they can have your underwear?


RINGWALD: More times than I would care to count.

SAGAL: There you go. It's the burden of fame and success, I'm afraid.

RINGWALD: Yeah. It's actually that one thing that has prevented me from showing the movie to my 6-year-old.


RINGWALD: Really close.

SAGAL: Well, Molly Ringwald, we're so delighted to have you with us. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

CARL KASELL, BYLINE: The Robert C. Byrd Memorial Not My Job Quiz.

RINGWALD: Oh, boy.

SAGAL: Since the last Senator Byrd, who passed at the age of 92, liked to name things after himself, who are we to argue? We're going to ask you three questions about the remarkable life and career of Senator Robert Byrd. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. So, Carl, who is Molly Ringwald playing for?

KASELL: Molly is playing for Alex Stojda from Montreal.

SAGAL: All right, ready to play, Molly?


SAGAL: All right, here we go. Now, you know, Senator Byrd loved to make speeches on the Senate floor, his most memorable one probably being the one he made in opposition to the Iraqi war.

However, he once took to the floor of the Senate to protest what? A, the cancellation of the TV series, "Gunsmoke"? B, the removal of spittoons from the bars of West Virginia? Or C, the use of electrical amplification at a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert?

RINGWALD: I'll go with the spittoons.

SAGAL: The spittoons, he protested the removal of spittoons you think?


SAGAL: No, it was actually he protested the cancellation of "Gunsmoke."


SAGAL: He really liked "Gunsmoke." What can I tell you?


SAGAL: That's all right, you still got two more to go. You can still get this. To thank their benefactor, the people of West Virginia erected a statue of him in the rotunda of their state capitol. Local lore has it that the statue is arranged in such a way that what? A, at 5 pm his shadow intersects with another to make a dollar sign? B, if you stand beneath it, his hands point at your pockets? Or C, when the wind blows around it in a particular way, it whistles kaching?


RINGWALD: I'll go for the second one.

SAGAL: You're going to go for if you stand beneath it his hands point at your pockets?


SAGAL: You're right. That's what it does.



RINGWALD: How funny.


SAGAL: His hands are pointing directly into your pockets, whence he derived so much. All right, last question. As you say, Molly, if you get this one right, you win it all. Like we said, he was honored in his home state for the billions he brought there in federal aid and investment. Among other things, he got the federal government to pay for what in West Virginia? A, an $18 million bridge that goes over a culvert three feet deep? B, a Coast Guard station in a state that's 100 miles inland? Or C, a $40 million museum and research center devoted to the music made with a bent saw? You know, boing.

RINGWALD: All right, I guess I'll go with the Coast Guard.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the Coast Guard station?


SAGAL: You're right. That's what it is.


SAGAL: The Coast Guard National Maritime Center is in Martinsburg, W.Va., and it oversees mariners who are using the port of New Orleans.

RINGWALD: All right.

SAGAL: Why is it in West Virginia then? Well, somewhere Robert Byrd is smiling about that.


SAGAL: Carl, how did Molly Ringwald do on our quiz?

KASELL: Molly had two correct answers, Peter, and that's enough to win for Alex Stojda. Congratulations, Molly.


SAGAL: Well done.


SAGAL: Molly Ringwald is an accomplished actress. She is also the author of the book, "Getting The Pretty Back." It's in your bookstores now. Molly Ringwald, thank you so much for being with us.


RINGWALD: Thank you. Bye.

SAGAL: Thanks for all the great work.


SAGAL: Bye-bye, Molly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.