Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: Rob Lowe's "Stories I Only Tell My Friends"

I'm a sucker for a good showbiz memoir. Those of you that know me well also know that a move to Hollywood  and an attempt at movie stardom was the road ALMOST taken.

Yeah, in 1988 I was saving up for the big move to Los Angeles and often regale my friends in Detroit on what my Oscar acceptance speech was going to be one day or what quirky anecdote I was going to share with David Letterman when I was asked to be a guest on his show.

Alas, Jesus had other plans for yours truly and I took all that money I'd saved and headed out to Asia to be a missionary. I remember sitting in the parking lot of Burger King one day and saying to my friend Dave, "Should I move to L.A. and become a movie star or to Asia to be a missionary?"  Dave looked up from his Whopper, wiped his mouth and replied, "Steve, only you could be contemplating choices at such opposite ends of the spectrum."  In the end, the Holy Spirit got His way and overseas I went  

Of course I remember at one point laying on a bamboo floor trying to sleep in the hot Borneo heat thinking of all my L.A. money I'd shot to come there and saying to myself, "What in the hell have I just done?" 

Anyhow, back to Rob Lowe and his new memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends.  In it Lowe has delivered an insightful, intelligent, and very grounded look back at a career that has had both highs (The West Wing) and lows (dancing with Snow White at the Academy awards.) 

Because of his almost preternatural good looks Lowe can sometimes be erroneously dismissed as a "pretty boy".  This is unfortunate because what Stories instead reveals is a man with a sharp mind and a keen insight into the human condition.  For instance, when relating some of the tragedy to befall a number of friends and aquaintances living in the hedonistic counter culture of mid-1970's Malibu he states:

"To be counter to the culture, you are by definition willully and actively ignoring the culture, i.e. reality.  And when you ignore reality for too long you begin to feel imune to, or above, the gravitational pull that binds everyone else.  You are courting disaster"

Stories is filled with these observations and the former Brat Packer seems to both relish his successful situation as well as critiquing the absurdity of the system that got him there in the first place.

Lowe also has the uncanny "Forrest Gump" like quality of somehow connecting with every major person or event of the last 30 years.  For example as a 14 year old "nobody" his step father's sister is doing some technical work on a "Cheesy western" Sci-fi type movie.  She says it's stupid but if he wants to come down and watch some filming he can.  He goes to the warehouse where they are shooting and he gradually reveals that this "cheesy-western" Sci-fi movie is in fact Star Wars.  Whether he is meeting Liza Minelli, being chased on Halloween night by a baseball bat wielding Martin Sheen, or hanging out in history class with this funny kid sitting next to him named Robert Downey Jr., you are left thinking, "This guy has a lot of good stories to tell."

Lowe also seems to be aware of his audience.  This is no trashy Hollywood movie star "tell all".  He doesn't attempt to hide some of his bad choices but when addressed, are done tastefully in a manner that suggests that he has written this not just as a movie star, but as a husband and father. 

Anyhow, I literally can't put the book down and recommend it highly to readers of Beyond the Pale.  For someone who is fascinated with movies, story, and the creative process, I find myself enthralled with Lowe's tales.  He's a guy whose been around a long time, has seen a lot, and finally has sat down and wrote about it.  Ok, full disclosure. When I first saw St. Elmo's Fire in 1985, I came this close to getting an earring like his character Billy had in the film. Yep, it was the 80's and we did weird things.

In the end I find myself wishing I knew this guy personally just so I could hear some of these stories first hand over a nice meal and a cold beer.  Guess I'll just have to settle for the book...


Andrew said...

Sounds like a good read. I have always like Rob Lowe. I heard him interviewed about the book on NPR, good interview.

Steve H. said...

Yeah, pick it up Andy, you'll love it.