If you've read anything in the rest of this site, which I assume you have because you've wound up here, you know I grew up in the 1980s. Grew up listening to Duran Duran, Adam Ant, The Bangles, The Go-Go's...Well, those were the sounds of the 80s.

But who can forget the movies that came out back then? And that group of actors who portrayed our counterparts in them? Yes, I'm talking about the ones we could all identify with: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Jon Cryer, Matthew Broderick, James Spader, and Robert Downey, Jr. First dates were spent in darkened movie theaters watching them on screen. We rented the videos and sobbed our hearts out over fudge-ripple ice cream with extra chocolate sauce because of a recent romance-gone-bad. The rental stores had to keep a couple extra copies of St. Elmo's Fire on hand because of wear and tear when teenage girls would keep rewinding the infamous Rob Lowe Bare Butt Scene. Not to mention the soundtracks for these films became an integral part of the soundtrack of our high school and college years.

All of these actors stand out in our hearts and memories in their own way. (How many times have YOU heard "Whatsa happenin', Hot Stuff?" or a droning "Bueller? Bueller?" in the last couple months even?) But there's one person on this roster who seems to spark more concern and genuine caring from his fans and those who grew up with his on-screen silliness than the others.

Yes, I'm talking about Robert Downey, Jr.

Why should we care about some famous guy who kept screwing up his parole? Who seemingly took the leniency of Judge Mira for granted, and who made a lot of people think that just because he was famous, he could skate by on his charm and keep thumbing his nose at California law? Okay, why?

Because he's wasting part of his life locked in a cell about the size of our kitchens. Because he's not so much a criminal as he is someone suffering from an addiction. Because just maybe California State law is wrong on this point.

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe Judge Mira made the right decision, and maybe Robert needs a major reality check before he can really come to terms with his drug use. I don't know the full story, because I don't know Robert. I do know I've had friends who were (and some still are) addicted to meth, coke, and other assorted goodies. And I can honestly say that a prison term isn't what they need. Some need gentle guidance, and others need a stricter rehab environment. But a full-on prison term is too harsh, in my opinion.

When Robert was sentenced to Corcoran in 1999, I ran across the article in a newspaper I was reading after seeing my friends' band one night. What struck me, though, wasn't the article about him, but the adjoining article on that page. It told the story of a major drug dealer who had been one of the suppliers for most of the West Coast (if I remember correctly...the paper has gotten lost somewhere in my cubby-hole of an apartment!). This man seems to elude prison with startling regularity, all the while crying "foul!" at every charge levelled at him.

I stared at the contrast of these two stories in disbelief. Here's a man who's been accused of major drug trafficking walking the streets a free man, and continuing to conduct his business, while someone who is in more need of help than anything is incarcerated in a penitentury. The more I looked from the smug face of the trafficker to the face whose pinup my sister had once stuck to our bedroom wall, the more my vision blurred. I realized my eyes had filled with tears because I felt helpless to do anything about it.

But there is something I can do about it, I've found out. Maybe we can't get Robert out of his prison sentence, but we can help those who wind up there after him. Remember Robert's documentary, The Last Party? One of the descriptions says this:

"A youthful perspective on the 1992 presidential campaign with a witty, cautionary message to young Americans to start participating in democracy or get the kind of government they deserve."

We need to heed this advice as it applies to this situation. We need to stand up and make our opinions heard. We need to let lawmakers and the judicial systems know what we feel is proper punishment, and what oversteps the bounds.

I still believe Robert should be in a rehab facility, not a prison facility...even though he is going through four hours of rehab a day there.

And the last thing I want is to be sitting in that all-nighter in the wee hours one day, and open the paper to find that this brilliant, talented man has gone the way of too many others before him...and all because he didn't receive the proper treatment. A small part of me would be gone forever, too.

Top photo courtesy Virginia de Paula. The bottom photo ripped off the INDB site. (Hey...that's how websites are made!)