Friday, July 10, 2015

Amanda Peterson of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” 1971-2015

Like many people my age, I saw Can’t Buy Me Love in 1987 and then an untold number of additional times on cable. I even bought the DVD probably five or six years ago, though I did not watch it till this week when news broke that its female lead, Amanda Peterson, died at age almost-44.

In my self-appointed role of “pop culture archeologist,” I keep a list of people I want to track down and interview, and Amanda was on that list. Her last appearance in a film was in 1994. Over the years, I’ve  seen more than a couple of posts by people asking whatever happened to her.

Now we know she had rough patches. This is always upsetting to learn, but in this case more so because she seemed to fall victim to some of the traps she presumably left Hollywood to avoid.

Upon rewatching CBML for the first time in more than 20 years, I felt it hasn’t aged particularly well. But Cindy, the character Amanda played, is the least clichéd part of it. Her performance is charming and assured.

The world learned of Amanda’s death on 7/6/15, and the morning after, I contacted Ryan Hartsock, the Colorado photographer who took the last known professional photos of Amanda, in 2012. They’d been online since then, apparently, but didn’t come up when I searched for Amanda a year or so ago.

photos courtesy of Ryan Hartsock of KR Productions/

Unsurprisingly, at least one outlet much larger than me also interviewed Ryan, and beat me to posting it. But I am running mine anyway, as a tribute to the star of a movie that meant enough to me at one point that I wanted to own it. Thank you for your time, Ryan. If you were suffering, Amanda, I’m glad you aren’t anymore.

How is it that you met Amanda?

I met Amanda through a friend while planning an event to help models and photographers in May 2012.

Did you meet her family, too?

I never had the opportunity of meeting her family other than her daughter.

What was her initial response when you asked to photograph her?

We spent quite a bit of time on the phone leading up to the event and never once mentioned taking her photo. On June 3, 2012, she and I talked and it was decided that she was willing to shoot on the conditions that she choose the photos and “don’t Photoshop the hell out of me.” The images I took that day were only released at her discretion and on her time frame. She was very careful as to how they were released.

The snake...was she immediately cool to pose with that? Or nervous?

She loved the snake, as did her daughter. She spent a great deal of time playing with it and I think had a genuinely good time.

Why did you photograph her? How aware were you of her movie past?

She wanted to get back in front of the camera on her own terms and I accepted. I jokingly say it took convincing but in reality, although she was hesitant because it had been so long, she was totally open to the idea. I knew of her role in movies but to date I still haven’t seen them, other than Annie when I was young.

Updates on Amanda were virtually nonexistent online, but apparently you’d posted the photos back in 2012? Before she died, did anyone stumble upon them and ask you about her?

We had agreed to post the pics and just see the response without advertising the shoot. People were able to send emails through the website that she and I would read when we were able to meet up. She didn’t have her own email so she would sit with my computer and read through the fan mail that had been sent to me. That always brightened her day. There have been several people that have been in contact over the years with various interview offers and requests but she wasn’t ready and had hopes of starting her own blog and website that unfortunately we never finished.

Did you ask why she left the film business and/or if she had plans to try to break back in?

No, it was kind of a non-issue. I base my opinions of people on the present and how they treat me and those around them. I was there to listen to various stories as she brought them up but her past to me is irrelevant, she was a great person while I knew her and that’s what matters.

Did you see/communicate with her after the impromptu shoot?

We did stay in contact every few months over the years but it definitely wasn’t all the time. We would go months without any contact and then spend hours at Starbucks while she read the latest gossip about herself or spend time texting back and forth regarding offers or ideas. I was a go-between basically, I would send her the info and she would go over things with her manager and get back with a yes or no. She was cautious to keep her whereabouts as private as possible.

Anything else about Amanda you’d like to add?

I would love to get all of the photos from that day to her family but the only number I have is her cell. If they could contact me, that would be great. [MTN: They since have.] She had an effect on so many people and I think it would be nice to get all these emails and messages to them so they can see the good versus all the media spin and gossip that seems to flood the headlines. She was a great individual and it’s disheartening to see how cruel people can be. She had also sent me cell phone pics of her and some of her friends backstage at concerts, etc. Although she wanted them to be seen, I don’t feel that this is the time now and I’d like to pass them off to her family.

In the time I knew Mandy, she always treated me with kindness and respect. Although I was just breaking out in photography at the time, I’ll always feel honored that of all the great photographers she could work with she chose lil ol’ me.

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