Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pretty Nice Guy: Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe.

A friend recommended Rob Lowe's autobiography Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and of course that is more than enough to get me to read a book.  Never mind that I'm only vaguely aware of him -- I remembered he was part of the Brat Pack, but couldn't pick him out of a line-up.  And he came up in a discussion of The Outsiders movie, but again I couldn't remember which one he'd played.  I wasn't even aware that he'd been on West Wing, which maybe isn't all that surprising given that I'd never seen an episode.

Despite my lack of context, I found myself drawn into his story.  He spends a lot of time on his childhood, emphasizing how naive and innocent he was before he broke into movies.  His mother's major contribution was first to divorce his father and then his stepfather before moving to California to be with her third husband, and then help him find bus maps so he could get to his auditions.  In retrospect Lowe figures a lot of his inability to say "No" to anyone comes from the patterns of avoidance and distance he learned during these separations.

He also likes to tell stories about stumbling across famous people either when he was too young to recognize them or when they were too young to be famous.  He was on a short-lived sitcom with Janet Jackson, he dated Cary Grant's daughter, he met LeVar Burton the week before the Roots miniseries makes Kunta Kinte a household name.  I recognized most of the names he drops, making me feel more current.

But even more interesting is the stuff he leaves out.  He talks about the excesses he got up to during his drinking days (and some sex tape stuff) but without much interest -- maybe he can't remember most of the good stuff.  He's forgiving but bored by his playboy self, and much more excited about the life he lead after rehab, when he wooed his wife and had his kids.  Apparently he doesn't talk much about his family or his problems to his friends, because there aren't many stories in there, just repeated assurances about what he values.  A peek at Google shows that he had some big legal fight with a nanny who claimed they had sex, but nothing of that shows up in the book.  He must be really bitter about West Wing, where he can't keep himself from revealing the broken promises, although he tells himself it's because he wants to show that he actually learned to make decisions for himself instead of just drifting along as he did through his mid-twenties.  In the end, the interesting parts of his book are what he leaves out; I learned more about Rob Lowe from seeing what kind of person he likes to describe as him than from the descriptions themselves.


Tammy said...

The book sounds interesting but not riveting.I've seen this book on the shelf and wondered. Sounds like it might be better to find at the library rather than the book store. Thanks for the review.

Patricia T. said...

Beth, I found it interesting that you were drawn to read Rob Lowe's book, when you weren't familiar with him as an actor. He was quite wild when he was young. I've watched his career because he is from Dayton, OH (actually Oakwood, a suburb). His father was a top malpractice attorney. Martin Sheen, from West Wing, also is from Dayton and very active in the community. Don't know if I'd read his book. There were a number of very dumb things he did in his young career that really marked him for a while -- especially the sex tapes. But, I alway liked him. And, I thought he spent a lot of years redeeming himself. He was very good on West Wing. I hope he is happy now. He has a lovely family.

Beth said...

That's the way he comes off in the books -- he thinks he did a lot of dumb things but he sorta understands why so he doesn't beat himself up, and he seems very happy with where he is now. But either he isn't very close to his friends or the title isn't a perfect fit for the book since he very clearly doesn't reveal much about his current life, other than that he is very happy with his family, whose privacy I assume he is protecting.

Which is good and admirable, but protecting your privacy and writing an autobiography are a bit contradictory goals. I'm glad to hear he was good at West Wing -- he was proud of his work there but felt unappreciated and underpaid.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy biographies more now than I did when I was younger. Thanks for this review.

Anonymous said...

Beth - Wow, this is an amazing review. I'm new to the blogging/reviewing world and I love the way that you highlight (in this instance) what Lowe does NOT write about. That does speak huge volumes, particularly in a biography. Thanks so much!