Book Review: “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” by Rob Lowe
Surprisingly delightful! I have to admit though, I did have low(e!) expectations going in. I saw an interview with Rob Lowe on Oprah Prime a few weeks ago, and he was promoting his latest book- and sequel to this autobiography- “Love Life”. As my dear friend Stacie would say, a lot of my problems stem from watching too much Oprah. I immediately ordered a copy of his first memoir from Amazon Prime and felt only slightly sheepish about it.
But “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” is luckily not the cheesy, poorly written and arrogant dish-fest I first suspected it might be. Rob Lowe is very insightful, heartfelt, and candid in this book. I’m a sucker for all things 1980s nostalgia, so of course I couldn’t wait to read about his adventures with the Brat Pack. I was only slightly disappointed- this isn’t as “telling” and no-holds barred as the jacket copy would have you believe, but I found his story as an up-and-coming actor suddenly swallowed up in the murk of fame and excess fascinating and inspiring nonetheless.
And while much of what he discloses in the book is revealing in nature, if not particularly juicy, it’s more interesting to note what he doesn’t reveal. A few years back, my friend went on a huge biography binge and promptly loaned me some of the more dishy/trashy books in his canon, including Tori Spelling, Jodie Foster, and Melissa Gilbert. In Gilbert’s memoir, she recounts in excruciating detail a tumultuous affair with Rob Lowe, her first big love, that ended in bitter heartbreak. Lowe is described as being a complete cad (which, by the way, I’m sure he would agree with at that point in his life). While Melissa Gilbert devoted more than a few chapters to Lowe in her book, Lowe gives her barely a 3 sentence mention. It’s either a hilariously subtle “F-You” to Gilbert in retaliation to her comments, or he really thought she perfectly summed up their relationship so much that it didn’t merit a re-telling in his book. I would have gladly given Rob Lowe’s book 5 stars if he just put “My relationship with Melissa Gilbert in the 80s: Please see Melissa Gilbert’s memoir. ‘Nuff said.”
Neither does Rob Lowe give any mention to his younger brother Chad’s rising career during the period where Lowe’s was sagging. Chad Lowe actually won an Emmy for his role in Life Goes On circa the early 90s, an award which has eluded Lowe for the bulk of his career despite starring in some of TVs greatest shows. Granted, this is Rob Lowe’s story not Chad’s, and maybe he left it out in case Chad ever needed to write his own memoir. Rob Lowe also discloses more stories in his latest follow up, “Love Life”, so perhaps he writes about it there, but I found it odd that he didn’t even give one sentence to Chad’s similar rise to stardom in this work.
I was never a huge “Rob Lowe Fan”, though I knew who he was and happened to like cult classic St. Elmo’s Fire as a teenager. He’s probably the least likely member of the Brat Pack to carve out such a long and successful career. I had no idea he was a former alcoholic, but I did know at age 13 that by the time he did Wayne’s World he was already considered a has-been. In his book, Lowe recounts that much of his career has been spent trying to be taken seriously as an actor, a considerable task for a man as gorgeous and “pretty” as he is. Somehow Mike Myers tapped into a part of Lowe no one had ever encountered before and I find his comedic turns, especially Parks and Recreation, to be some of his best- and most charming- work.
The man name drops with abandon, but not without good cause or purpose. I had no idea until reading this book that many of our biggest actors and celebrities today started out around the same time. Lowe either went to school with or worked with the likes of Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Chris and Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. Holly Robinson (Peete), Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darryl Hannah- just to name a few- and all before they had even landed their first big gigs. Was there something in the water in Malibu circa the late 70s? Do we see this same phenomenon today? If this book tells us anything it’s that Hollywood has changed ten-fold within the last 30 years, and thank goodness we have Rob Lowe’s intelligent eye to bear witness.
Actors will love this book and find it extremely engaging. His humbling stories behind some of his earlier films, The Outsiders in particular, are pure instruction for inquisitive actors. Lowe is at his most candid recounting his distaste and dissatisfaction with the Hollywood system, and how he’s managed to overcome several setbacks throughout his career by becoming more in tune with who he is as a person. Part of this came about with his sobriety and a large part has to do with his wife, Sheryl, and becoming a family man- something he never imagined doing in his youth.
I love the below passage because it sums up my life in a way as well:
If you’d asked me when I was a young punk what would be the best thing that could come my way, I would’ve said, ‘A movie with Martin Scorsese’. But God had other plans. He gave me Sheryl.
As Rob will tell you (and learned the hard way), happiness comes in many forms and not just in the form of a fulfilled career.
This is a guy who went from teen heart-throb to addict and chronic ladies man with probably more than 50 (not kidding) sexual encounters under his belt, to serious TV/Film actor/writer and political activist who has been married to the same woman for 25 years with whom he has two children. Not a small feat, especially when you consider all of the current teen star meltdowns happening these days. He’s earned this autobiography, let me tell you. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in reading an inspiring, well-written, and unschmaltzy work by a bad guy who made good.
And P.S.- Tori Spelling’s first book, “sTORITelling”, was also enjoyable. Who knew?!