Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
I’m too young to remember many of Rob Lowe’s early movies like The Outsiders or St. Elmo’s Fire, and I never did get into The West Wing (although it is now on my Netflix queue), but I am a fan of the Austin Powers franchise and ABC’s Brothers and Sisters. Not being well-versed in Rob Lowe of the 80s, I never really came to appreciate him as a teen star, and I certainly didn’t grow up with his movies. So I can’t say for sure why I was interested in reading his biography … other than the fact that he’s pretty!
Surprisingly, Stories I Only Tell My Friends is incredibly well-written and certainly not what I’d come to expect from an actor. According to the jacket flap, Lowe wrote every word himself. Written chronologically about his life, from growing up in Dayton, Ohio, and moving to Malibu and pursuing his acting career, Lowe tells funny and insightful stories about each step of his journey. Some stories are centered on big events of his life we know well – movies he made, women he dated, friends he met – but each event includes personal stories and epiphanies.
Having moved to California from the mid-west, Lowe was surprised by the counterculture represented in Malibu in the 1970s and paints a vivid, yet disturbing picture throughout parts of the book. He also describes what a small town Hollywood is and how everyone knows someone. Whether its common coincidence or sheer luck, Lowe has a knack for being in the right place at the right time; at a very young age, he just happens to run into Hollywood legends such as Liza Minelli and John Belushi. One day in Malibu he just happened to run across a group of kids filming a home video. Those kids, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and Sean and Chris Penn, became livelong friends and frequent costars.
Lowe also makes many insightful comments about how his various experiences, both good and bad, have changed his life. It makes you wonder if he had those revelations as an adult (perhaps while writing the book and reflecting on his life), or if he’d had them growing up. I was impressed at his intellect and keen observation.
While Lowe spends a significant amount of time talking about his life in the 70s and 80s, he doesn’t spend much time on the 90s and the past decade. I was eagerly awaiting his take on the juicy parts of his life, like sex tapes and his alcohol addiction, but Lowe tended to gloss over them much more than other areas of his life. (There was also no mention of the 2008 nanny lawsuits, possibly due to legal reasons.) He also didn’t give much time for his career from The West Wing and on. While he’s certainly not acting as frequently now as he has in the past, I feel like he glossed over some of his more important performances, like his time spent on Brothers and Sisters. Maybe he didn’t feel it warranted much page time, but I would have loved his perspective on working with stars like Sally Field and Calista Flockhart.
Even if you’re not the ultimate Rob Lowe fan, or if you’re not too familiar with his body of work, I’d still recommend this book. His insight, intellect and wit make this an incredibly enjoyable read.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends was published in 2011 by Henry Holt & Company.