There are a lot of surprising things about Rob Lowe’s autobiography, but for those who keep an eye open at their local bookseller for the latest celebrity tell-all, one of the most notable things about Stories I Only Tell My Friends is that it’s one of the first times a member of the so-called Brat Pack has dared to put pen to paper—metaphorically speaking anyway—and write the story of their life.
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Indeed, only Molly Ringwald has preceded Lowe as an author, and even then, Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick is less a backward glance at her part in the pop culture zeitgeist than a self-help book inspired by her personal experiences as a teenager burgeoning into adulthood.
Lowe, however, looks back and not only fully embraces his place in the Pack but also provides some entertaining and often titillating tales of his life and loves during the ’80s.
After kicking off the proceedings with a discussion of his affinity with and empathy toward JFK Jr., the structure of Stories is chronologically straightforward. For those who think of Lowe’s career as starting with films like The Outsiders, Class and Oxford Blues, the early chapters of the book may prove surprising, as the actor discusses his experiences in television, working on the short-lived sitcom A New Kind of Family and in a couple of Afterschool Specials. It’s the former project where he first finds himself being viewed as a teen idol, most notably during a personal appearance at the fairgrounds in Riverside, Calif. “I don’t know it yet,” Lowe writes of the event, “but I will come to learn that being charged on the African savannah by a rhino is only fractionally more dangerous than being bull-rushed by a gang of fourteen-year-old girls whipped into a lather by hormones, group think, and an overdose of Tiger Beat magazine.”
Lowe’s familiarity with hormonal response is well documented within Stories, starting with a French kiss at the age of 10 while waiting to perform his part in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz. Although he doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of specifics when discussing his various dalliances over the years, he isn’t afraid to drop the names of his conquests…or their parents. There’s a particularly funny moment when, as he’s walking away from a table where Gregory Peck, Robert Wagner, Cary Grant and Prince Rainier of Monaco are sitting, Lowe hears Wagner say, “Ya know, guys, I think that kid’s banged every one of our daughters.”
Beyond listing off the various participants in his love life, Stories is also filled with…well, stories. A lot of them. It’s rather remarkable just how many times Lowe managed to cross paths with various actors and directors either before he was famous or before they were. A few examples: He met Liza Minnelli when he was eight (he heard she was in town, so he went to the hotel where she was staying and asked for her room number…and they gave it to him!); was on the set of The Muppet Movie when Kermit the Frog was singing “The Rainbow Connection”; and was introduced to LeVar Burton a week before Roots premiered. Lowe’s and-now-you-know-the-rest-of-the-story method of delivering the anecdotes of these close encounters isn’t always necessary, but it’s still rather fun.
However, Lowe doesn’t have a great deal of interest in discussing every story that celebrity gossip fans will most want to read about. Most notably, the discussion of his infamous 1988 sex-tape controversy is limited to a few paragraphs, and there’s no mention of the nanny lawsuits he’s had to deal with in recent years. On a related note, Stories comes to a rather abrupt ending following Lowe’s departure from The West Wing, zipping to its conclusion a mere three pages after making the decision to say goodbye to the role of Sam Seaborn. This isn’t a huge surprise, as there are several references throughout the book about how playing President Josiah Bartlet’s Deputy White House Communications Director was a gig that’s virtually impossible to top, but it still feels more than a little hurried to take the last five years of his life and sum it up by saying little more than, “And then I did Brothers and Sisters, Californication, Parks and Recreation and some other stuff, I’m still happy, and, y’know, it’s all good.”
When there’s not even a cursory mention of either of his first post-West Wing TV efforts (The Lyon’s Den lasted only 13 episodes; Dr. Vegas, 10), it’s clear that Lowe has some stories that he doesn’t even feel comfortable telling his friends. Make no mistake, though—the ones he does tell are extremely entertaining.
Will Harris is a staff writer with Popdose.com, as well as a regular contributor to The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., and an associate editor for the web magazine Bullz-Eye.com. He loves his wife, cherishes his daughter and now accepts PayPal.