Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Book 6 review: ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’, Rob Lowe

My 6th book of this year is Rob Lowe’s autobiography, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’. To put it simply, this is autobiography is a great book. It was well written, insightful and funny, and just generally a good read. I had only ever seen Rob Lowe in the new TV series Parks and Recreation (in which he was brilliant) and had never seen any of his movies. So I was coming into this book cold, knowing little about Rob Lowe, and not expecting a great deal. Now Rob Lowe now has a new fan, not only of his acting, but as a writer.
The Cover of Rob Lowe's 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends'



‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ follows Rob's life as a young, wanna-be actor growing up in Ohio. then moving with his mother, step-father and brothers to Malibu in the 1970’s. Rob’s descriptions of Malibu in the 70’s before it became an expensive celebrity haven, are fascinating. In the audition circuit, and in his new hometown of Malibu Rob comes across so many of his fellow future stars; Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn amongst many, many others. Rob then details his early struggles as an actor and his difficulty with the disconnect an actor has from the finished product of a movie.

 I know little of Rob Lowe’s work. I vaguely remember seeing him in Brothers and Sisters when I was a teenager, and absolutely love him in Parks and Recreation but have not seen any of his movies. I did not grow up with Rob Lowe as the 20-something A-list celebrity so knew little of the rumours that have surrounded his life since he was a teenager.
Back in his teenage years Rob was melting hearts with this grin...
When I mentioned I was reading his book to a colleague, she simply mumbled something about drugs and celebrities. But apart from that comment, Rob Lowe’s reputation did not precede him as I read his autobiography.

the so called ‘Brat Pack’ of the 80's 

Sure this autobiography goes into Rob’s struggles with alcohol and his multiple love affairs with every girl from Princess Stephanie of Monaco, to Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant. But Rob’s insight into the film industry and into his varied career is the real star of this book. 
What is astonishing is how Lowe discovers that Hollywood is all about missed opportunities. It is so hard to predict how a movie will turn out once a writer, director, producer and ultimately a studio have had their way with it, and often an actor can give an incredible performance that is either cut from a film, or edited in such a way that ruins it. Rob speaks about how he was so excited to watch a screening of his first movie, the iconic 'The Outsiders' but was devastated when he realised half his scenes had been cut. Lowe talks about questioning whether to take the opportunity to be the leading man in 'Dune' and mentions how Tom Cruise  was cast in Risky Business, a movie he wasn't sure would be successful.  

The most obvious sign of how much I liked this book is the fact I have been on a Rob Lowe cinematography binge for the last week since reading 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends'. I have begun watching The West Wing, I have the Outsiders, St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night waiting for me to watch this weekend. It is great when a book can introduce you to something new, and Lowe has successfully introduced me to some of the greatest films of the 80's, and to a brilliant TV show that many had previously tried and failed to get me to watch (I have a Political Science degree so there were plenty of people who tried).
The Good Bits

The most surprising part of this autobiography was how well it was written. Rob Lowe was funny, self-deprecating and above all, interesting. At no point  was I bored or uninterested. He is a great storyteller.

As I mentioned, 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ has inspired me to watch The West Wing for the first time. And I cannot believe how I got through my degree in political science without watching The West Wing, so thank you Mr Lowe for introducing me to this absolute gem. The West Wing holds a special place in Lowe's heart and he speaks of his absolute love of the show. Indeed, Rob starts his book describing John Kennedy Jr.'s support for the West Wing just before his tragic death and the shaky beginnings of the show. He then jumps back to his childhood, throughout his early years of fame, his breakdown and then finishes the book with his rebirth as an actor with the West Wing.
and it all comes together like this...

Ultimately, I am very grateful that this book certainly does not fit with the history of celebrity autobiographies being truly terrible.

Paris Hilton’s biography- straight to the bargain book bin with this one

David Hasselhoff’s autobiography 'Making Waves' comes in a close second for worst celebrity autobiography ever

The Not So Good Bits
I am struggling to find one thing that I didn't like about this book. It is not necessarily a book that will truly challenge you, or change your life, but it will offer new insight into the reality of life as a 'star', the difficulties of pursuing, and staying true your artistic passion, and may even make you a fan of Rob Lowe.


4 out of 5 stars

The Next Book
The book of the moment, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I was meant to read that before this novel but I decided to read Rob Lowe's book first.


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