Stories I Only Tell My Friends ★★★
Henry Holt and Co., 2011
I don’t read celebrity gossip rags or keep track of who’s marrying / divorcing / screwing who at any given time (not that there’s anything wrong with that people!). I definitely didn’t pick up this memoir of one of Hollywood’s all-time pretty boys hoping for a salacious tell-all about who wears women’s underwear or who includes small animals in their sex play.
So why the hell did I pick up this book? Several reasons top the list:
1) Reviews promised a poignant, self-deprecating coming-of-age tale in the long shadow of the Hollywood sign (I’m happy to report that’s mostly the case).
2) Rob Lowe: yes, I did crush on him when I was a teenager, and lo and behold these many, many years later, I was curious to see what kind of a man he had grown up to be. Not ever having seen one episode of The West Wing or either Austin Powers movies (a ridiculous gap in my pop culture history), I lost track of Mr. Lowe somewhere in the late 80’s.
3) I’m a sucker for memoirs that focus a lot on the making of movies. Don’t ask me why — I don’t act, have never wanted to make a film, but I love movies as only a fan can and every so often a memoir will come along that captures the magic of movie making in a way that enthralls me. I’m one of those geeks who will listen to director’s commentary and “the making of” extra features, not for every movie, but always for the films I love. Should you care, my favorite memoir of this sort is Bruce Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. Bloody brilliant!
So for all of these reasons, I knew pretty early on Rob and I would be spending a few evenings together. I went with the audio version and am so glad I did. Rob’s voice is lovely, but he also offers up a pretty decent impersonation of almost every person he has crossed paths with. Not all of them are great, but most are funny, and a few are so spot on they had me rolling with laughter. He certainly had Patrick Swayze down cold. I particularly loved his wry assessment of his super energetic co-star: “he makes Tom Cruise look lobotomized”.
I had no idea Rob’s early life included close friendships with the Sheen and Penn family. His one anecdote about the first time he meets Martin Sheen is hilarious — considering Martin is just returned from the jungle and the two year Apocalypse Now drug-induced, frenzied insanity that was that.
There are no earth-shattering confessions. Much of the book reads like a love letter to his long-time wife (a rarity in Hollywood for sure) and children (two sons), and for a man approaching 50, that is as it should be, and I was glad to hear that he chose the road of sobriety and sensibility. Heaven knows it could have gone the other way — Exhibit A.