It took me a long time to be a fan of Rob Lowe. I would see him from time to time in movies, but he was never the reason I was watching the movie. And even when he was playing charming fuck-ups like in St. Elmo’s Fire, I still didn’t like him because ultimately he looked like the guy who went out with your girlfriend after she dumped you. A bit too sharp. A bit too good looking. He rarely played the guy I wanted to be. Then I started watching West Wing. On West Wing, he played Sam Seaborn. He was a writer. He worked at the White House. And thanks to West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, he was very smart and said amazing things.
So I grew to appreciate Rob Lowe, but I didn’t know much about him. I knew somewhere in his past he had inadvertently pioneered the celebrity sex-tape scandal, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. My point here is that while I liked Rob Lowe well enough, I didn’t read his autobiography because I was a Rob Lowe super-fan. I read it because he titled it ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ which I thought was a great name for an autobiography.
It turns out one of the many things Rob Lowe has in common with his West Wing character is that he too is a writer. This book sounds like him, which is really the best you can hope for in an autobiography. He writes with potential. There is something inspirational in his tone even when he’s talking about bad things. There are times it sounds like the writing of a politician, but I mean that in a good way.
If you take the time to read ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’, you’ll find two things:
1. That Rob Lowe has always wanted to be an actor and worked hard at it.
2. That Rob Lowe was phenomenally lucky.
He gives example after example of both of these things. He starts out as a kid in Dayton, Ohio doing children’s theater. He goes after every opportunity he can find to get on stage. Then after a fairly devastating divorce, his mother moves him out to California where he just happens to go the same Junior High School as Sean Penn and his brother Chris, and Charlie Sheen and his brother Emilio. This is what I’m talking about. He does work at it, but he gets these breaks that are one in a million. What makes it work is that he doesn’t seem to take any of them for granted.
Rob Lowe may have had some incredible luck, but he’s earned his place in Hollywood. Reading his autobiography, I was amazed by great people he’s had populate his life. And yes, the whole, work hard-get famous-go on a bender-go to rehab-come back better than ever thing can be seen on every single episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. But the reason that show works and the reason this book works is that each of those stories is personal. Lowe’s descent is entirely due to the unique circumstances he found himself in. What makes Lowe’s journey worth reading is that he’s a good storyteller and he never comes off as the pompous ass I originally thought he was. He’s not that guy. He’s one of us…or at least he tries to be.
One other note. It has occurred to me that every autobiography published in the next thirty years is going to have a chapter on 9/11. I think we should take all of these chapters and put them into one book.
– Jack Cameron