Molly Ringwald is steaming up the jazz scene
By Naughty Mickie

Molly Ringwald is known best for her acting in films such as "Sixteen Candles" (1984) and 1985's "The Breakfast Club," but she also sings and dances. Her father Robert Scott "Bob" Ringwald is a famous jazz pianist and at age 6 she recorded "I Wanna Be Loved By You" on a Dixieland jazz album with his group, Fulton Street Jazz Band. Ringwald was also the lead vocalist on two Disney albums in 1980. She has been on stage in "Cabaret," "Enchanted April" and as the lead in "Sweet Charity." Currently, Ringwald is in the ABC Family series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which debuted in July 2008.

You would think acting would keep her happy, but Ringwald is busy rekindling her love of jazz. She has been performing gigs throughout Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, mostly in intimate club settings.

I caught up with Ringwald during a rehearsal for a performance with pianist Peter Smith, bassist Ryan Cross, saxophonist Allen Mezquida and drummer Clayton Cameron. Curled up in comfortable chairs, we chat like old friends.

"I always loved to do it and I grew up singing with my dad before I did any real acting," Ringwald tells me. "I love traditional jazz, but I've always been drawn to bebop and modern."

Ringwald was accepted to USC, but didn't go because she went to Paris and stayed there. She didn't have to work the usual jobs of a struggling artist.

"I never did because I started so young and had success as a young person." Ringwald pauses, grins and says, "I did babysitting, does that count? That's the only job I did."

Today finds her living in Venice, California, married to writer and book editor Panio Gianopoulos and the mother of the perky and sweet Mathilda, age 4. As we talk, Mathilda wanders just outside the door to peruse the flowing fountain surrounded by flowering plants.

"I'm a mom. I like to spend time with my daughter and I like gardening and I'm a writer. I like cooking. I'm actually working on a non-fiction style book called 'Getting the Pretty Back'," Ringwald shares.

Ringwald had been thinking about singing again, but she had to find the right person to join her. Peter Smith was in a play with her in New York. At the cast party he sat down at the piano and played and she approached him about performing together as she had been looking for someone.

"We liked the same styles, we liked the same songs," Ringwald says.

They decided to gig together, but then Ringwald moved to L.A. Smith followed not much after and they reconnected.

Ringwald takes care when choosing the music for her shows. 

"I try to pick songs that haven't been done ad naseum, I try to pick songs that are more obscure and songs that I like a lot to hear. That's the main thing," Ringwald states. "There's so many great songs out there, but when song is associated with a singer like Ella Fitzgerald what am I going to do with it?"

She selects songs that strike her lyrically: "I try to find songs that I can connect with."

Also coming from an actress' perspective, Ringwald approaches the tunes as a character or a role.

She is stretching her talent a bit further and has co-written "I Just Want to Be With You" with Smith and performs it at her shows. Of course, I have to ask Ringwald where she finds her inspiration.

"I find inspiration from life. All songs are basically love songs, whether they're about falling in love or getting your heart broken," Ringwald replies.

We discuss how jazz is once again becoming popular in the music scene.

"People need to support jazz if they like it. The scene is still fragile, but I definitely think it's coming back," Ringwald asserts.

As I look at her bright eyes and curly still-red hair, I remark that Ringwald has long been one of America's sweethearts. I ask her what it's like to be a role model.

"I had more pressure when I was younger than I do now," Ringwald says.

So how does she balance all the things in her life?

"I'm always happy to be busy and occupied. It is hard to figure out how to be the career woman and the mother," Ringwald tells me, adding that her husband helps out and they work together.

Returning to my role model question, I ask Ringwald if she has any advice to share.

"I don't know. I live my life the way it works for me, but everyone is different," Ringwald replies.

Ringwald is slated to continue filming "Secret Life of an American Teenager" and has a movie offer in France. Her book should be out in fall.

Mathilda comes in the room clutching a bouquet of cattails. She gives her mom a hug and then grins at me and hands me a few of the fronds. It's time to go, but Ringwald, ever-gracious, offers me a final thought.

"We're going to keep doing this. We're going to keep playing here and hopefully book a whole bunch of other gigs around town," Ringwald says with a beaming smile.

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