by Rob Lowe
Before I read his autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, I had already felt like I grew up with him through his classic roles like Sodapop Curtis in The Outsiders and Billy Hicks in St. Elmo’s Fire. Later, he surfaced as Young Number 2 in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, seemingly coming back from nowhere (though the book proved me wrong on that). Then he established a place in my heart as Sam Seaborn, the deputy White House communications director in The West Wing.
So when his book came out, I was intrigued, particularly by the title. I bought it in hardcover as a birthday present for myself because I was too impatient to wait for a copy to be returned to the library. It turns out that the title is right on target. The more you read, the more you feel like you’re part of his inner circle. His stories are often deeply personal while they bring you behind the scenes in everything from his movies to his family life to his love life to his struggle with alcohol and time in rehab to his political adventures.
While he had a powerful drive for success and was continually looking for the next big thing. I gladly found Rob to be humble and well intentioned, even through his greatest moments of insecurity and turmoil. Through the unraveling of his life story, he’s sort of carried through his late teenage years into adulthood by a wave he couldn’t control. His hunger to act grew with each major role he played. With it came a lot more than anyone in their late teens and even 20s would be ready for. Visit his profile on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and you’ll see a reference to him telling USA Today that he went gray at age 24.
What becomes an ongoing element of the book is his insight into other actors, many of whom also got their start in their teenage years, through Rob’s friendships and interactions. From living down the street from the Sheen and Penn families to having lunch with Sara Jessica Parker to running around with the “Brat Pack” to getting reacquainted with Patrick Swayze in Young Blood (years after playing his younger brother in The Outsiders), he continually shares his perspective into Hollywood personalities. It could come off as a bit much (really, you’re going to tout your relationships with everyone?), but his humble voice holds it together. As he gets older and enters into a more of a soul-searching time, his perceptions grow deeper. Through his depiction of his friendship with Mike Myers you see Rob in a different light—one that shows off his humor, intelligence and lightheartedness—and ultimately encourages him to write the book.
What I enjoyed most about his book is that it actually comes from Rob’s voice. It’s written in a style that feels so conversational that it’s like being in a room with him while he’s telling the story. The genuine tone lets you in as a trusted friend and confidante.
Autobiography is a new genre for me, and I had no idea what to expect. Ideally, I think the story should feel like it’s coming from the true persona of the author and make you like that person more or as much as you already did, or at least see that person in a light that derives respect for his/her journey. (It’s got to be a vulnerable experience to put yourself out there like that.) For me, Stories I Only Tell My Friends did all of the above. Each time I watch Rob act as Chris Traeger in his most current role on the TV show Parks and Recreation, I am glad I got to know him better and feel like I am still growing up with him.
—Christine, contributing author