Title: Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography
Author: Rob Lowe
Narrator: Rob Lowe
Audiobook Length: 9 hours, 11 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Bottom Line: Excellent and honest autobiography.
“A teen idol at fifteen, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at twenty, and one of Hollywood’s top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the eighties, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.”
Thoughts: Rob Lowe has had many different titles over the years – teen heartthrob in the 80s and a cliché in the 90s. Today, with his acclaimed work on The West Wing, Brothers and Sisters and most recently on Parks and Recreation, he has been able to bounce back from his years as a Hollywood bad boy to become well-respected in the industry. In Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, Mr. Lowe explores the circuitous route that took him from Dayton, Ohio to Malibu, California, from the echelon of up-and-coming young actors in the early 1980s to his headline-making relationships and nightclub exploits to his calmer, more mature work on television. As he shares his stories, he reflects on the choices he made as well as their consequences. More importantly, he does not gloss over his poor choices or his reckless, alcohol- and drug-fueled actions. It is an honest and open narrative that shares with the world a little more insight into Rob Lowe the man as well as the actor.
While one must acknowledge that Mr. Lowe is honest about his drug use and abuse of the party/night club scene, and that he remains profoundly embarrassed by that particular path of his life, one gets the distinct impression that he still is not quite as open as he could be. He mentions his womanizing and his drug use, but unless one is very familiar with the headlines that were splashed all over magazines in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a reader will not understand just how bad it was based on most of his stories. Similarly, he mentions the infamous sex tape made with a minor only briefly, not necessarily excusing his actions but explaining them in a way that could easily be interpreted as not quite his fault. These, however, are some of the most disappointing elements of the entire autobiography.
One should not let one or two incomplete stories mar one’s overall enjoyment of the autobiography however. Mr. Lowe has had the privilege to work with some of Hollywood’s top stars and directors as well as sustain friendships with people whose names make the rest of the world sit up and take note. His numerous female conquests read like a who’s who among the elite, and even then, he does not name half of them. As titillating as all that is however, it is his discusses about his career and about his family that take center stage. As quick as the media was to label him among the Brat Pack and its dubious claims to fame, his filmography is surprisingly multi-faceted and exposes a talent for which he does not get enough credit. His discussions of his craft only serve to showcase that he is not in the business to make money but because acting truly is his calling, and his need to act becomes palpable in his stories about his early career. Along the same lines, his complete happiness with his wife and his boys denotes a satisfactory end line after a long and rough journey. Gone is the pretty boy socialite from the 80s and in his place is the mature, wise, and adoring husband/father who has finally found that inner peace that eluded him when he was young. It truly is a feel-good story, and the celebrity-filled stories only add to its fairy tale nature.
As a narrator, Mr. Lowe is excellent. His impressions of his fellow actors are perfect and highly enjoyable. One would not consider him such an accomplished mimic, but a listener has no doubt as to which actor he is imitating. Outside of that, his voice is incredibly pleasant, pitched appropriately and soothing to the ear. As the author and narrator, he shows emotion in those scenes that obviously mean a lot to him but also manages to portray his chagrin at some of his more dubious choices. His performance is of a man reliving his experiences and reflecting ruefully on them, and this only serves to highlight the narrative. He obviously cares about his craft based on his stories, and one has no doubt that this care also extends to audio work. In fact, because his voice is so well-suited to the audio format, one can only hope that audiobook producers will take note of this fact and seek him out for other narrating projects.
Never a huge Rob Lowe fan in the first place, Stories I Only Tell My Friends provides listeners with a new-found appreciation for the actor, his accomplishments, and his rougher patches. His stories are highly entertaining and surprisingly erudite for an actor/author. He is appropriately reflective and open about his past, although one might wish for a little more candidness on some of his more infamous actions. In spite of that, one knows he is balancing his need for honesty with the need for discretion and can respect him for the information he does share. His gratitude towards everything he has earned and accomplished is profound, and his final paragraphs about his current satisfaction and happiness are some of the most moving in the entire novel. Stories I Only Tell My Friends is an insightful and very well-written autobiography and one in which the audiobook version is even better than the print version solely because of Mr. Lowe’s earnest narration and spot-on impressions.