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04.25.11

Rob Lowe's Memoir Revealed

From palling around with a young Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn to dining with Chris Farley and his “trailblazing” sex tape, actor Rob Lowe reveals many secrets in his new autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Marlow Stern brings you the best stories.

John F. Kennedy Jr.’s Last Magazine Cover

While on a ski trip in Sun Valley, Idaho, Lowe had a second encounter with John F. Kennedy Jr.—someone he used to be slightly jealous of because his ex-girlfriend had a photo of him running shirtless through Central Park on her refrigerator door. Kennedy, eyeing a “willowy blonde” across the room, asked Lowe how he settled down with his wife Sheryl, and Lowe replied, “Come on in man, the water’s warm. I’m here to tell you it is; if she’s your friend in addition to all the other stuff, pull the trigger, don’t let her get away.” (Pg. 4) Well, the “willowy blonde” turned out to be Carolyn, his future bride, and later, Kennedy would return the favor, jump-starting Lowe’s career resurgence by featuring him on the cover of George magazine in 1999, against the wishes of certain people behind a then-upcoming show called The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be Kennedy’s last cover at George—the plane carrying him, his wife Carolyn, and her sister Lauren would crash, killing all three. Lowe would continue on with the cover shoot despite his grief, honoring Kennedy’s last editorial decision at his political magazine.

Apocalypse Now

While Rob and his younger brother Chad used to make amateur 8mm films with Sean Penn, his brother Chris, Charlie Sheen, and Emilio Estevez, Rob was curious about meeting Martin Sheen, who had just returned to Malibu after being away for two years filming Apocalypse Now. On Halloween night, the Lowes, armed with eggs and Barbasol shaving cream, knocked at the Sheens’ door. No answer. Suddenly, a figure jumps out of a bush dressed head-to-toe in Army fatigues wielding a giant baseball bat. “This is my neighborhood. I am on patrol tonight! There will be no monkey business on my watch! Do you understand?” said the man. (Pg. 50) Meet Martin Sheen. Lowe would later co-star with the Sheen/Estevez patriarch on the NBC political drama The West Wing.

Losing His Virginity

Lowe would eventually become quite the ladies' man, later saying, “I’ve taken to using MTV as a sort of Home Shopping Network, and it’s not beneath me to call up to get the contacts on the sexy dancer in the latest Sting video.” (Pg. 240) He also romanced the likes of Demi Moore, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, former Marine Oliver North's secretary Fawn Hall, and a slew of others. But in a secluded mobile home overlooking the beach in Paradise Cove, Malibu, Lowe is cooked dinner by his younger brother Micah’s 16-year-old babysitter, who Lowe describes as having “beautiful eyes, Farrah Fawcett hair, and, Lord help me, an amazing body.” The girl gives Lowe a present. He opens the box, revealing a Trojan condom. “Turns out, it’s her first time, too; so together on a moonlit beach, we cross that wondrous, anxiety-filled Rubicon, cutting away the last vestige of childhood,” recalls Lowe. “I wasn’t in love, she wasn’t even my girlfriend, but she was kind, she was pretty, and she was my good friend. I was too young to know how valuable and rare that combination is.” (Pgs. 61-63)

Not Your Everyday Childhood Friends

In addition to making 8mm movies with brothers Sean and Chris Penn, and Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, and befriending Robert Downey Jr. (“No one is funnier or more brilliant at stream of consciousness banter,” Pg. 96), Lowe’s then-agent sets him up to meet a rising young actress turning heads in the title role in a Broadway production of Annie. The two teens ate French fries and talked shop at the Malibu restaurant Paradise Cove, with the girl saying of acting, “It’s what I love. I hope I can do it forever.” The girl turns out to be Sarah Jessica Parker. (Pg. 75) Lowe also kisses Holly Robinson, and befriends another young girl named Janet on the set of his short-lived ABC TV sitcom A New Kind of Family. On the day the show is canceled, Janet says, “I’m done with acting… I’m going into music. If my brothers can do it, so can I.” It’s Janet Jackson. And later, a girl named Jennifer, the daughter of actress Dyan Cannon, invites Lowe over to her father’s house. When Lowe rings the doorbell, Cary Grant answers. The trio watch “ Schoolboy Father”—Lowe’s ABC Afterschool Special—after which Grant remarks, “Young maaan, you’re quite good. You remind me very much of a young Warren Beatty.” (Pg. 94)

Young Sheenius

Lowe is childhood friends with Charlie Sheen, and the two often make 8mm movies together. However, Sheen is less interested than his older brother, Emilio, in being in movies, and is instead interested in becoming a professional baseball player. Lowe describes Sheen as “a Polo preppy clotheshorse” who is “a wonderful mix of nerd (he’s a member of the AV club and won’t go near the ocean) and rebel.” (Pg. 96) Lowe also describes Sheen as “a conspiracy-theory freak, who sometimes wears a bulletproof vest under his clothes to school, and together we debate everything from the likelihood that the moon is hollow and whether the Trilateral Commission killed JFK to the authenticity of the moon landings.” Of course, Sheen would later become a huge star thanks to two major Oliver Stone (director of JFK) films, Platoon and Wall Street, and would make national headlines over his 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Tom Cruise’s Diva Behavior

Lowe meets a young Tom Cruise during a lengthy audition process for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. Lowe describes the young Cruise as, “open, friendly, funny, and has an almost bloodless focus and an intensity that I’ve never encountered before.” (Pg. 101) They check into the Plaza Hotel in New York for a second round of auditions, and upon learning that the actors will be sharing rooms, Cruise places a call to his agent, Paula Wagner. “Paula, they are making us share,” says Cruise, who in the words of Lowe was “already showing traits that will make him famous; he’s zeroed in like a laser—all business and very intense.” (Pg. 110) Later, Cruise is screen-testing in front of Coppola for Lowe’s role as Sodapop, however, Cruise stops right in the middle of the monologue and says, “Um, I’m sorry. Um, I’m really sorry. This just isn’t working for me.” Cruise tanks, and Lowe gets the part.

Golf With Bill Murray

In 1989, Lowe jets off to Paris to screen-test for a part in a Roman Polanski project opposite Jack Nicholson called Pirates. As he’s wandering around his opulent Parisian hotel, a door opens and Bill Murray’s head pops out. “I thought I heard room service,” says Murray, who is in the midst of working on The Razor’s Edge. “These frogs are driving me crazy. Wanna watch some golf?” (Pg. 182) And Lowe ends up getting to watch golf with the star of one of his favorite movies, Caddyshack, describing Murray as “funny as hell.” When they part ways, Lowe says, “Thanks for letting me hang out,” to which Murray replies, “Thanks for not stealing my wallet.” Later, when Lowe is leaving the hotel to return to Los Angeles, he finds a leather-bound first edition of The Complete History of Pirates at his door, with an inscription that reads:

To Rob—

All the best on your movie.

Your pal,

Bill Murray

Back to the Future

On the eve of a bus tour organized by Jane Fonda to campaign to pass Prop 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Lowe and his “frenemy,” Michael J. Fox, hit the town. Months earlier at a boxing match, Fox had approached Lowe and asked where his invitation was. “Invitation to what?” said Lowe. “To join the Brat Pack. I guess it was lost in the mail,” said Fox. “Ah, well, fuck it. I got my own thing goin’ now anyway. The Snack Pack!” The night before the tour, the two party at Fox’s house, drinking and ripping on each other until 4:30 a.m., when Lowe stumbles into bed. “What the hell is going on?” asks Fox’s assistant in the morning. Next to Lowe lies an extremely hungover Fox. “Shuuuut up. Tiiirred,” says Fox, adding [to Lowe], “Get out of my bed.” (Pg. 212) The next day on their bus tour, joined by the likes of Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Fonda, and others, the two (still drunk) get the entire bus pulled over by a highway patrolman for sticking their heads out of the emergency hatch.

The Infamous Underage Sex Tape

Only a few paragraphs of Lowe’s otherwise candid autobiography are devoted to arguably his most notorious incident: his three-way sex tape involving a 16-year-old girl. He is first read the riot act entering a nightclub for not having proper ID, and then enters the club, where he was “approached by two girls who wanted me to join them back at their place. This being most 24-year-old guys’ dream scenario, I suggested we reconvene at my suite. Having just received the third degree from the doorman, it never occurred to me that there could be anyone in the club who wasn’t of age.” Lowe goes on to say, “As the three of us left, I had no idea that this romp would set in motion events that would ultimately, through a painful, long and circuitous path, lead me to greater happiness and fulfillment than I could have ever hoped for.” (Pgs. 233-234) He later calls himself a “trailblazer” and says, “If the Kim Kardashians and Colin Farrells and all the like had let their video oeuvre out into the zeitgeist before me, mine may have been met with a mere titillated shrug.” (Pg. 244) Hugh Hefner approached Lowe and complimented him on the tape, saying, “You had to do it. The technology existed!”

book-cover---stories-i-only-tell-my-friends-an-autobiography
Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography. By Rob Lowe. 320 pages. Henry Holt and Co. $26. ()

Dining With Chris Farley

Lowe would experience career highs appearing in a string of films featuring SNL alumni, including Wayne’s World, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Tommy Boy. After a long day shooting Tommy Boy, Lowe is sitting with co-stars David Spade and Chris Farley at Barbarian’s Steak House. According to Lowe, Farley “has a shot of espresso before every closeup” and also has a gargantuan appetite. At the dinner, Lowe and Spade stare in disbelief as Farley devours two gigantic porterhouse steaks. “On the table are those old-school, iced individual squares of butter. Chris places an entire square on top of each bite of both his steaks,” recalls Lowe. (Pg. 270) “Chris! What the hell!” said Lowe. Farley puts another cube of butter on top of another mouthful, and, giggling like a baby, says, “It needs a hat!”

September 11

On August 31, 2001, Lowe was on American Airlines Flight 77 from D.C. out of Dulles International. Eleven days later, American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon. Then, in late 2005, Lowe received a letter from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office requesting “a face-to-face meeting concerning Zacarias Moussaoui, who is being held as ‘the 20th hijacker’ in the 9/11 attacks.” (Pg. 297) It turns out that Lowe was on the dry-run flight, sitting with the 9/11 hijackers, according to the flight manifest. Moussaoui apparently wanted to depose Lowe. The actor wouldn’t have to testify, and Moussaoui would defend himself, and be jailed for life without parole. But it’s not like Lowe could have provided any new information, anyway. “No one that day looked like a ‘terrorist,’” said Lowe. “They looked like us.” (Pg. 298)

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Marlow Stern works for The Daily Beast and has a master's from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has served in the editorial department of Blender magazine, as an editor at Amplifier magazine, and, since 2007, editor of Manhattan Movie Magazine.