I've been on a real memoir bender lately haven't I? Sometimes I just need that fix that is like gossip, only from the horse's mouth.
I find it fascinating to explore my perceptions of a person BEFORE I read their book, and then after. (Like with Rod Stewart, I originally thought him annoying and a cad, and ended up with a semi-crush on the man. Or maybe that was just the influence of narrator Simon Vance, I don't know.)
Rob Lowe was in all the movies of my youth. The Outsiders, Class, St. Elmo's Fire, About Last Night, Wayne's World. I always thought he was a decent actor but never had a fixation on him. He was almost too cute. And I thought him an actor who crashed and burned and had to resurrect his career, like Robert Downey Jr., which gained a bit of my respect. I was curious to know what else he had to say.
Synopsis: In "Stories I Only Tell My Friends", Rob Lowe humorously and candidly tells us his life story. And what a story that is. Raised in a broken home by a scattered mother who remarried multiple times, Rob was left to his own devices. He'd always been drawn to acting (which at the time was considered freakish) but never received professional training or coaching, nor encouragement. But through sheer determination and frequently being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people, he became a child star at 15 and went on to become an iconic face in the movie business.
As a pre-adolescent, he knocked on the hotel room door of Liza Manelli. He was neighbors with the Sheens (who often hosted Tom Cruise for couch-crashing) and the Penns. His aunt and uncle worked on the set of Star Wars. He dated Carey Grant's daughter (and ultimately bedded a long list of celebrities like Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco). Was this a long string of good fortune? Perhaps, but Lowe used every advantage thrown at him.
His big break was when Frances Ford Coppola awarded him the coveted role of Sodapop in "The Outsiders", along with a huge cast of future stars like Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise. He rode that wave but ultimately hit a dry spell and turned to excessive drinking, which landed him in rehab. As he meets and marries the love of his life and starts a family, he regains his momentum with a string of successful TV shows, particularly The West Wing.
In the retelling of his life, Lowe is refreshingly honest about his looks, his luck, his passions, his successes and failings. While he was once an ambitious and superficial party-animal, bound to die alone, he now looks back on his life with wisdom and gratitude for his blessings. And full of stories worth sharing.
My thoughts: I guess I thought I might get pompousness, or a little bitterness, from someone who might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. A pretty face and all that right? But instead, I got a breath of fresh air, and a sharp cookie who understands the business and understands people. Lowe is incredibly engaging and a hell of a storyteller. Obviously an astute observer of others, his stories are that much more entertaining because he throws it all at us...the mannerisms, the conversations, the attitudes...of everyone he has ever known. Like, I totally got it when he described the young, pre-Risky Business Tom Cruise as intense, but that Patrick Swayze made Cruise look lobotomized.
And he has HUNDREDS of these stories. He chucks them at you so fast, you can't even remember them all, let alone write them down, but it is fun and you laugh the whole way, amused, fascinated, horrified.
I will say that he is a bit of a name-dropper, and had a tendency to build up to some of the bigger names. He hints at who he runs into when we was 19 at a casting call, but strings you a long a little before he gives you the big reveal. I didn't need all that drama really. The stories stand on their own.
A word about the audio production: The gift of this book was that Lowe narrates it himself. He is an amazing narrator...relaxed, conversational, with a hint of mischief or regret or glee in his voice. His imitation of some of the people in his life are uncanny. Not every author can pull this off, but he proves his acting mettle in spectacular fashion here.
Audiobook length: 9 hours and 11 minutes (320 pages)
4 out of 5 stars