Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Photo: MacMillan)There was only one thing I didn’t like about Rob Lowe’s really insightful and detailed autobiography – the back jacket.

To be fair to Rob Lowe, who seems like a pretty cool, humble and decent guy in his book (I’m a fan, so accept that there’s bias here), he probably didn’t have much say in what went on his book jacket. This, as far as I am aware, is a decision usually left up to publishers and book industry people. Here is what the first line of the back of the book says. The italics are mine for emphasis:

“In his critically-acclaimed New York Times bestselling autobiography, every word of which he wrote himself, Rob Lowe shares unforgettable stories of his coming-of-age in show business.”

Isn’t writing your own words the whole point of autobiographies? It’s like saying, HEY ALL YOU OTHER CELEBRITIES WHO HAVE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES. I KNOW YOU PROBABLY USED A GHOST WRITER. BUT NOT ROB LOWE. HE’S THE REAL DEAL. ROB LOWE > OTHER CELEBRITIES.

I’m probably reading way too much into that. But I just thought it smacked of ego (though like I said before, I’m going to put the blame for this one squarely on the shoulders of the publisher) and I didn’t like that one specific thing about this book.

But anyway. I loved what was actually in the book.

I sort of fell in love with Rob Lowe’s character Sam Seaborn on The West Wing when I was 17. Sam Seaborn is pretty much my dream guy, except for the whole workaholic and accidentally slept with a prostitute once thing. He’s my favourite West Wing character. Supersmart speechwriter who looks like Rob Lowe but wears adorkable glasses? Yes! I also loved Rob Lowe in The Outsiders and Wayne’s World (where his baggy, pleated ’90s pants probably deserve their own credit), and Parks and Recreation is LITERALLY one of the best shows on TV right now. So yes, I am a fan.

But even if I wasn’t, I would have good things to say about this book. It’s just dishy enough to contain some cool namedropping while leaving his Hollywood friendships intact (he has especially nice things to say about Janet Jackson, Martin Sheen – and in fact the whole Sheen family – Mike Myers, Amy Poehler, etc.). I loved the parts where he made friends with Patrick Swayze on The Outsiders and when he fell in love with his wife, Sheryl. And the most pleasant surprise of all? Rob Lowe is smart. He marvels over the talents of real-life White House speechwriters. He falls in love with good scripts. He’s self-aware enough to take the Brat Pack label and turn it into something  that, in his own words, he owns.

The best part in the whole book is the part where he gets a script for what ends up being the pilot episode of The West Wing. Lowe writes: “When Sam Seaborn speaks, it’s as if it’s me talking, but elevated by the massive intellect and wit of Aaron Sorkin. Sam Seaborn, I realize, is my idealized self. By the time I get to Sam’s showstopping speech to the grade school teacher, I can’t wait to slip into this material.” He’s right. It is one of the best scenes in the whole show, and it happens right there in the first episode.

Holy crap. I thought. Rob Lowe loves Sam Seaborn just as much as I do. If you can get an Oprah-style a-ha moment from a Rob Lowe autobiography, this was mine. I’d recommend this book just for this part alone, but the whole thing is actually pretty darn good.

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