Finally getting to my Christmas books. I was skeptical about this one because typically star bios are not for me. But Stories I Only Tell My Friends got such good reviews that I weakened and asked for a copy for Christmas. So glad I did too. It was actually very entertaining and fun.
Lowe came from very well-educated, intelligent, and loving parents. He became interested in acting at a very young age while growing up in Dayton, Ohio where he often acted in civic productions. He seemed, according to this memoir, a pretty well-adjusted child, a good student, a hard worker, and talented. He did suffer from his parents divorce and subsequent breakup of his mother's second marriage as well. His mother did end up moving herself and her sons to California where the Sheen's were neighbors and Rob became good friends with Emilio. Lowe relates many tales of vying for acting parts in Hollywood, navigating neighborhood life, and continuing high school. Before becoming an adult Rob was virtually living on his own in a bungalow behind the family home and basically became the major bread-winner of the family.
Chapters contain many descriptions of Lowe's first encounters with people who would later become famous. Too many to mention them all but as he rose to stardom he met and acted with many young actors including Robert Downey Jr., Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Cruise, and Demi Moore. His stories are well written, fun and funny. He doesn't disparage anyone either which I appreciate.
There are a few dark chapters of substance abuse and rehab but even those are not written heavy handedly. Nor does he do any “poor me” or whining about being taken advantage of or blaming anyone else for his troubles. Indeed he seems to take responsibility for his problems.
One of my favorite excerpts is on page 151 when he reflects on his relationship with his own father and what he has learned about what teenage boys really need.
“They absorb incrementally, through hours and hours of observation. The sad truth about divorce is that it's hard to teach your kids about life unless you are living life with them: eating together, doing homework, watching Little League, driving them around endlessly, being bored with nothing to do, letting them listen while you do business, while you negotiate love and the frustrations and complications and rewards of living day in and day out with your wife.”
He has remained married to the same woman for over 20 years and seems to dote on his two sons. Their family story is quite wonderful. While he did not have the stability he feels is so important, he seems dedicated to providing that for his sons. Even so he seems not at all bitter towards his parents and proudly examines the strengths each gave to him and his brothers.
It is clear that Lowe very much valued his acting experience on The West Wing TV series. He takes pride in being part of an unusually high brow project that was demanding, sophisticated, and delivered to the American public quality TV performances. I also learned from him in that chapter that sometimes one must realize that even though you know you are doing a good job, and you know you could do more or do it better if given a chance, if others don't see it, then it is time to move on. That it is OK, and not anything to be bitter about. A book that takes an afternoon to read and when you are done you give a big sigh and a “thank you” before you lay it aside.