Saturday 18 November 2017

Rob Lowe fails to deliver the Lowe-down on his past

Love Life, Rob Lowe, Simon and Schuster, €20

Actor Rob Lowe and wife Sheryl Berkoff
Actor Rob Lowe and wife Sheryl Berkoff
Rob Lowe: Love Life
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

A FEW months before Rob Lowe's second memoir, Love Life, was published, the former brat pack member said that he was already saving up for the slew of lawsuits which he anticipated coming from former lovers whom he dishes on in the book.

It was a canny promotional move, particularly as Lowe's first memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, had been packed with tales of juicy indiscretion. If he was only warming up with that bestselling tome then surely we and Oprah Winfrey – who interviewed the actor last week – were in for a treat.

The chat show queen hid her disappointment well, but Lowe's many conquests can sleep easy. For while he has some mildly interesting stories about encounters with the likes of Madonna – she turned him down after he refused to dance with her at a nightclub – it's clear that he gave away his most rollicking anecdotes in the first memoir. There's no mention, for instance, of the infamous sex tape he made with a teenage girl who turned out to be underage. He doesn't go near the nanny lawsuits.

And he never mentions sending a nude photo of himself with a toy snake draped around him to Andy Warhol.

In some senses, however, the book does outdo its predecessor. In Stories Lowe seemed determined to prove he was a 'real' writer, and the result was some seriously florid purple prose. Here, he reins himself in a bit, although there are still a few beauts: "If Malibu was a bastion of laissez-faire, self-centered, malignant disregard, the San Fernando Valley was a different ecosystem entirely."

The title of the book is in fact an exhortation, born of Lowe's winning optimism. He has many reasons to love life. His career has enjoyed a resurgence lately, with hits such as Behind The Candelabra under his belt. He adores his wife, make-up artist Sheryl Berkoff, loves his two sons and, endearingly, he seems to know how lucky he is – although his counting of his blessings can be a little cloying at times.

Perhaps one of the more telling descriptions of the actor comes from his Parks and Recreation co-star Rashida Jones. Jones, he writes, says Lowe is a "benevolent narcissist". He good-naturedly agrees, noting he has "a modicum of self-awareness that allows me to avoid at least the clinical diagnosis."

It's this, perhaps, that enables him to relate anecdotes like the one in which he learns that a young, successful actress he's been dating has been sleeping with Warren Beatty behind his back. He learns this from Beatty himself, who apparently seduced the starlet by telling her she reminded him of Natalie Wood (who herself had two-timed Beatty with Frank Sinatra).

Why anyone would turn down Rob Lowe is beyond him, frankly. One of the funnier stories in the book is another tale of love lost – this time involving singer-songwriter Jewel. After seeing her performance in Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil, he convinced the studio to hire her as a love interest for a four-episode arc in The Lyon's Den, his NBC legal drama. However, when shooting a climactic kissing scene, Jewel brought her boyfriend, a famous rodeo champion, to the set, and kept trying to get out of snogging our lantern-jawed hero. She eventually acquiesced, but not without ostentatiously wiping her mouth on the back of her hand in disgust.

Lowe is amiably philosophical about his failures. He missed out on a part in Nip/Tuck after his people never showed him the script. He also could have starred in Grey's Anatomy. In 2004, Lowe was deciding between headlining CBS drama Dr Vegas and taking the part of Dr Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy (which would eventually be taken by Patrick Dempsey). Even though Lowe thought that Grey's Anatomy had the better script, he listened to CBS head Les Moonves, who contended that ABC hadn't launched a successful new drama in more than a decade and that Grey's wouldn't be any different. It was a fateful decision: Dr Vegas lasted one season. Grey's Anatomy, meanwhile, has won a slew of Emmy awards and has run for 10 seasons.

Not that Lowe let this bother him overly. "Today I'm finding that fun is to be found embracing that I am once again in transition," he writes in the closing chapter of the book. "I have no idea what the future holds professionally. I will develop my own TV show; I have some interesting ideas, but you never know what will work." With Lowe's self-deprecating tales already riding high in bestseller lists in the US, nobody should be surprised if that means a third memoir.

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