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Rob Lowe has spent most of his life in the spotlight. He was a member of the “Brat Pack,” starring in coming-of-age films like “Saint Elmo’s Fire” in the 1980s. He famously struggled with addiction to drink and sex in his 20s. His acting career has taken him from teen heartthrob to where he found his biggest success: television, beginning on “The West Wing” and moving to more comedic roles “Parks and Recreation” and “Californication.” Recently, he’s moved on to write two-best selling memoirs. In the second, “Love Life,” he reflects on growing up in Hollywood and his experience as a recovered alcoholic and father to two nearly grown sons. A conversation with Rob Lowe about how failing has been key to his success and why he has turned to writing.
- Rob Lowe actor, producer, and author
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Rob Lowe's acting career has taken him from teen heartthrob as one of the "Brat Pack" to political drama in "The West Wing." In recent years, he's become known for his offbeat comedic roles in shows like "Parks and Recreation" and the HBO film, "Behind the Candelabra." In a second memoir, Lowe talks about his career, overcoming addiction, and becoming an empty nester as his younger son prepares to leave for college.
MS. DIANE REHMHis book is titled "Love Life." And Robe Lowe joins me from a studio in Santa Barbara, Calif. He's on Skype, so I can see him. He can see me. And we'll be taking your calls throughout the hour and hearing some clips of performances that Robe Lowe has given. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Rob Lowe, it's so good to have you with us.
MR. ROB LOWEThank you. It's good to be with you.
REHMGreat to see you as well, Rob. You know, you open the book by giving advice to people about surrounding one's self with interesting people. But not everybody has that choice. I mean, you are born into a family. You may have siblings. You may live in, you know, a not so interesting neighborhood. I wondered why you began that way.
LOWEWell, I was born in Dayton, Ohio. My mom was a schoolteacher. My dad was an attorney. We didn't live in the greatest part of town. But I found interesting people there just as much as I found interesting people when I later moved next door to Martin Sheen and all of -- and Bob Dylan in Malibu. So I don't really think it's a geographical socioeconomic thing. I think that you can find interesting people anywhere. But what I was trying to say was that I think it requires some effort on one's part to seek those folks out, right?
REHMExactly. Exactly. Yes. What you're doing is looking for the interest in people rather than perhaps just looking for interesting people.
REHMBut you -- clearly, you lived and worked and spent time with interesting people. You also talk in the book about your fears as you dropped off your elder son Matthew at college. Would you read that for us?
LOWESure. This is from my new book "Love Life," and it's the end of a chapter where I discuss how unprepared emotionally I was for dropping my son off at college. And this is as we've finally gotten him ensconced in the dorm on the last day. "The students who populate the university are impressive. These are the ones who didn't dumb it down to be cool, the ones who are unabashed about learning and loving it. Anyone feeling anxious about the future of our country should spend a couple of days on our college campuses. These kids are studs.
LOWEMatthew quickly meets a new group of freshmen from all over the country. 'Dad, they all can't believe I left Southern California. They all want to go there.' 'Well, this is exactly how you will get to live in Southern California if you want to. You will earn it here,' I tell him at a good-bye dinner that Sheryl and I have put together for him and his new pals. He nods in his solemn way.
LOWEAfter dinner, the gang plans on going on to one of the local night spots. 'Dad, you've got to come,' he insists. But I know, like me, he is playing to delay the end of this evening. I will leave some time before sunrise. Sheryl says that I need to go back to "Parks and Rec" by the end of the day to shoot, and I know that I'll have to. But at the end of the night, the hot spot is wall to wall with kids, easily a couple hundred of them, raucous and spilling out into the streets. I know that I can't wade into a group like that unnoticed. Matthew knows it too. 'Honey, I can't go in there,' I say as everyone piles into our rental car.
LOWE'I know, Dad.' We lock eyes for the tiniest beat. I want to see what, if anything, he will say. His new bros are already striding into the club, and he doesn't want to be left behind. This is the college good-bye I've heard so much about and dreaded so deeply. I close in to hug him, but he puts just one arm around me, a half-hug.
LOWE'Peace,' he says, a phrase I've never heard him say until he said the same thing to his little brother in the driveway. He then turns on his heel and strides away. From his body language, I know that he won't be turning to look back, and I know why. And I'm glad. I watch him until I can't see him anymore, until he's swallowed up by his new friends and his new life."
REHMRob Lowe reading from his new memoir, his second. It's titled "Love Life." And if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Rob, you, in your early years, you were part of the so-called "Brat Pack." You got yourself involved in some, shall we say, questionable behavior.
LOWEYouthful indiscretions, I believe is the euphemism, I think. I'll go with that one.
LOWEI'll go with that one if you will.
REHMAnd what about how you managed to get yourself out.
LOWEWell, I mean, I think, you know, one of the things about being famous, starting at 15, is when you stumble or make bad choices, everybody's going to know about it. So -- but that's part of the -- that's just part of the deal. So it's all good, but it doesn't change the fact that everybody's going to be a party of your, you know, youthful indiscretions as we say. But for me -- and I write about this a lot in the book -- it was interesting in your intro to hear you say that I famously struggled with addiction.
LOWEAnd I thought, wow, I guess I did famously. And that makes me happy because people should know that because it's a big part of who I am, being in recovery. I've been in recovery now for 24 years. And it changed my life. Everything I have that's good today is a direct result of that. And looking back in my youth, a lot of the things that I did that I would potentially like a do-over on were also a direct result of not being in recovery. So it is a big part of who I am.
REHMHow did you finally manage to get into recovery?
LOWEWell, I think my story is really no different than so many people who have -- or who are touched by whatever ism we're talking about, whether it's alcoholism. It's, you know, food, gambling, codependency, you name it. It's a big issue. And I just had a day finally arrive, happily, where I felt like enough was enough. And it happened...
REHMDo you remember that day?
LOWEI do. I do. And I write about it. I think it's in the first book I wrote, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends." And it was my mother calling me to tell me that my beloved grandfather was ill and asking me to pick up the phone -- those were in the days when you had answering machines, and you would listen to people -- and remembering I was in no shape to pick up the phone and talk to my mom, and listening to her talk. Finally, she hung up, and then I realized I needed to get some sleep, so I could wake up so then I could deal with my mother. And I thought, you know what, man? This is no way to run a railroad. And then I made a phone call to a interventionist counselor whose...
LOWE...card I had been carrying in my wallet for a year. Talk about your unconscious knowing what you need before you know what you need consciously. And, you know, with a lot of hard work and, you know, some spiritual help, here I am, 24 years later.
REHMHow long did it take, Rob? I realize that, especially with alcoholism, one never says, I am recovered, but I am in recovery.
REHMHow long did it take from that moment you made that call until you felt -- I don't even want to use the word safe, but something like that.
LOWERight. Sure. Well, you know, you're right not to use the word safe 'cause that's the first step in being really unsafe. You know, I think it probably took -- I was lucky. I went to rehab and loved it. And I wrote about that in "Love Life." One of my big chapters is rehab. I loved rehab, for the record. It was -- I learned so much. It was great. It was a luxury to be able to go. But I'd say about three weeks in -- I was there for a month.
LOWEThree weeks in, I sort of got it. I got the concept. I realized what it was all about. And, you know, I've been blessed to not really have to test the concept of, well, I'm a different person now, I was in my 20s then, I'm a grown man, I know so much more now, I could have a glass of wine if I wanted to, I -- that kind of mindset which I hear and see all the time, I've been blessed that I haven't had to experiment with.
REHMRob Lowe, his newer memoir is titled "Love Life." The first time he wrote, the title was "Stories I Only Tell My Friends." We'll take your calls throughout the hour. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd Rob Lowe joins me from Santa Barbara, Calif. We're talking about his new memoir "Love Life." And if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. I certainly loved hearing that music from "St. Elmo's Fire." I must say, I think I and many people became very, very familiar with you in your role as Sam Seaborn in "The West Wing." Tell us about appearing in that series and what it meant for you.
LOWEWell, I'm so grateful that I was able to be a part of something like "The West Wing." Honestly for me it feels a bit like having been in the Beatles, you know. I just think it was an extraordinary show written by the great Aaron Sorkin. And the actors that I was able to work with from Martin Sheen all up and down the line were as good as you could ever hope for.
LOWEAnd, you know, I think the fact that it won the four consecutive straight Emmys for best drama is sort of an indication of where it stands in the television, you know, Hall of Fame. And I just -- I'm just really proud of it. And it is, without a doubt, my favorite thing I've ever done.
REHMHow did it affect your thinking, your feeling about politics?
LOWEWell, I've always been really, really, really, really interested in that -- in the process of governing, public service, politics, whatever you want to call it. I mean, I sold Kool-Aid door to door for George McGovern, you know, when I was a kid. And so I could always pick a winner, by the way. And, you know, so when "The West Wing" came my way, it was more like, wow, here's a program and an acting opportunity that speaks to the things I am already passionate about. So I'm not really shortchanged how I feel about politics. It just maybe underlined what I already felt.
REHMWhen you say it came your way, did you go after it or did it come to you?
LOWEI had to come in and read for the part of Sam, as all of the actors had to read for their parts. And I read with Aaron Sorkin himself, which was quite an experience. And for the "West Wing" fans out there will remember the pilot episode, Sam Seaborn mistakenly sleeps with a prostitute and mistakenly tells the chief of staff's daughter that he's done it.
REHMAll right. Let's hear that very segment.
ALLISON SMITHYou're the White House deputy communications director and you're not good at talking about the White House?
LOWEIronic, isn't it?
SMITHI don't believe this.
LOWEWait a minute. Wait, please. Could you do me a favor? Could you tell me which one of those kids is Leo McGarry's daughter?
LOWEWell, if I could make eye contact with her, make her laugh, you know, just see that she's having a good time, it might go a long way to making my life easier.
SMITHThese children worked hard, all of them. And I'm not inclined at this moment to make your life easier.
LOWEMs. O'Brien, I understand your feelings but please believe me when I tell you that I'm a nice guy having a bad day. I just found out the Times is publishing a poll that says a considerable portion of Americans feel that the White House has lost energy and focus. A perception that's not likely to be altered by the video footage of the president riding his bicycle into a tree. As we speak, the Coast Guard are fishing Cubans out of the Atlantic Ocean while the governor of Florida wants to blockade the Port of Miami.
LOWEA good friend of mine's about to get fired for going on television and making sense. And it turns out that I accidentally slept with a prostitute last night. Now, will you please, in the name of compassion, tell me which one of those kids is my boss's daughter?
SMITHThat would be me.
LOWELeo's daughter's fourth grade class.
LOWEWell, this is bad on so many levels.
LOWEOh, what a piece of writing. Oh my goodness, that's an amazing speech.
REHMOh my gosh, what a piece of writing. But, you know, I could see your lips moving. I think you remembered that dialogue.
LOWEYeah, I'm not likely to forget that one.
LOWEThat was a very important moment in my life that day that I came in and read that speech for Aaron and all of the folks at NBC and Warner Brothers Television. And by the time I got into my car they had called and offered me the part. I hadn't even gotten off the lot yet.
REHMNow I have to tell you that Leo McGarry was one of my favorites.
LOWEThe great John Spencer, we lost way too early.
REHMWay too young.
LOWEWay too early. Was not only one of my favorite people on the show. I was probably closest to John. But he -- I actually think he was -- and this is saying something -- I think he was the best actor of all of us. He could do more with two words, which were usually thank you, Mr. President, than most of us could do with an entire script. He was a master of subtext and heart. He was tremendous.
REHMHe was also a very real human being. My husband and I were at an event and John Spencer was there amid all these huge celebrities, politicos. He must have spent half an hour talking with us. He was just lovely.
LOWEHe was a great man.
REHMSo his death came as a real personal kind of shock to me.
LOWEThat's for sure.
REHMI must say, I'm interested that you decided to turn to writing. Tell us why.
LOWEWell, for years and year and years, one of my fellow collaborators Mike Myers who we all know from "Wayne's World" and Saturday Night Live and the Austin Powers movies, had been telling me to do it. And I've always felt Mike had a particular sixth sense about things that would work in the culture. And so I always filed it away in the back of my head. And he's always felt that I had stories that were interesting and had a way of telling them. And I kind of half listened to him about it.
LOWEAnd there came a time where I thought, you know what? I want a challenge. I'm looking to do something new and different. And I began to write. And the response was very positive. And I just stuck with it and wrote the first book and enjoyed it tremendously. Because what I do is so collaborative. "The West Wing," you know, movies, "Behind the Candelabra," whatever, you know, those are collaborative arts. There's so many people who make it great. And when it goes badly, there are so many people who can make it not so great. But when you write, it's you, for better or worse. And I really wanted to have my voice out there for people to love or not love.
REHMBut you were kind of young to be writing an autobiography.
LOWEI guess. I mean, you know, for me, I just know, as a fan of autobiographies -- I mean, that's genre I really, really, really enjoy. I really sometimes prefer people writing about their lives while they're in the thick of it as opposed to looking back at events that are so far in the past you can barely remember them. So I know that there were folks that were like, wow, that's -- you seem young. But I just knew as a fan of the genre that I -- if I liked people writing about their lives while they're living them that maybe others would feel the same way.
REHMAnd then the title of your latest "Love Life" is sort of a command.
LOWEYeah, I -- yeah, it is. I liked -- it's a command and I really believe that. That's sort of, I think -- I turned 50 recently. And when people got up to toast me, what was interesting was the reoccurring theme. And the reoccurring theme was that I'm enthusiastic, optimistic and positive. And really the takeaway is I actually do love life. So I think I subconsciously picked a title that is indicative of my worldview.
REHMTell me about your marriage and the fact that there were people who did not agree with your choice of a spouse.
LOWEYeah well, I think it was probably more that they didn't agree that I should -- had any business getting married. And looking at my track record right up until that moment, they were probably right. But I like to look at it that I did a lot of, as they would say in Wall Street, R and D in the subject, research and development, until I found my wife of 23 years, Sheryl.
LOWEAnd -- but what I did know was I knew that I had found my best friend who I was wildly attracted to. And that if I had to spend the rest of my life on a deserted island it would, without a doubt, have been her, remains it would still be her. And that's it, man. If you have that, you jump on it. I'm just really happy that in my new found haze of early sobriety and being still in my late 20's that I was able to make that decision. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
REHMSo indeed you had already come out of rehab when you and she met and married?
LOWEWell, and one of the reasons I wanted to get my life together was I realized if I couldn't make it work with Sheryl who is -- who really gets me, who understands who she's dealing with, you know, how complicated I am, isn't trying to change me, all of those things. If I couldn't make it work with her, I couldn't make it work with anybody. I really did see that. So, you know, that was one of the big impetuses to getting it together.
REHMAnd how soon after was your first son born?
LOWEI'd say, what, he was born two -- about two years after we were married, I think.
REHMAnd then your second son?
LOWEThen he -- my second son is going to be 19 in September. He's going off to...
REHMAbout to go off to college as well.
LOWEHe's the next one to leave the nest, last one.
REHMWhat's that going to be like for you?
LOWEWell, hopefully it won't be as difficult as my first one when Matthew left. I'm preparing myself. You know, the -- I devoted the last 20 years of my life to them. And then to not have that around is really -- for me was a huge void. But I'm really excited. I'm -- they're both at great schools. They're loving life like the book. So it's the next -- it literally is the next chapter.
REHMRob Lowe. He's an actor most recently known for his television roles in "Parks and Recreation" and "The West Wing." His latest autobiography is titled "Love Life." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've got lots of callers, Rob. I want to open the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Connie in Dallas, Texas. Hi, Connie. You're on the air. Connie, are you there? I guess not. Let's try Mary in Statesville, N.C. Do we have...
MARYHi. I've been going down memory lane.
MARYGood morning. It's funny, last night "St. Elmo's Fire" was on. And then here I'm on my way to work and get to listen to you.
LOWEI know. The "St. Elmo's Fire" is -- I've been seeing that a lot on my Twitter feed that folks are watching it. I hope you're not too taken aback by that '80s hairdo.
MARYOh, heck. You should've seen what I looked like in the '80s. So we won't even go there. We won't even go there. Just a comment. Yes, I enjoyed your excerpt from early "West Wing" when you went through looking for the president's children. Yeah, I remember that. That's what hooked me on the show. But I called because listening to you describe how you felt when you dropped off your son at college. I had to pull over because I cried like a baby because I remember that. And remembered what it was like to take my last son. So, you're right, it is another chapter and then the next chapter is when they get married and start having grandchildren. And that's the best.
LOWEI'm going to take your word for it. I really thank you so much for that insight. And I really mean it because you kind of wonder, gee, are our closest days behind us, you know, which I think is what's underneath our emotion as we drop our kids off at college. So to hear from you, that is -- thank you, you've made my day.
REHMAnd one brief clip from "St. Elmo's Fire."
LOWEHi. This isn't real. You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's Fire, electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it. But the joke was on them. There was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when things got tough, just like you're making up all of this. We're all going through this. It's our time of the edge.
REHMThat was Demi Moore crying in the background. Tell us a little about that scene, Rob.
LOWEWell, it's so funny to hear that scene. It's -- wow, that still kind of works that scene. Wow, that's something else. It's also funny to think about those characters in the movie, which feels like yesterday to me and very much feels like a part of still of who I am because it was such an important movie for me. And my relationship with Demi and all those folks is still so strong. But the fact of the matter is, those characters are the exact same ages as my kids.
LOWESo wow, life is amazing, isn't it? Anyway Demi, she's amazing in that movie. Absolutely -- and I was lucky to do -- we did "About Last Night" together pretty closely after that. And that movie, in particular, I think, is one that really stands up. St. Elmo's is like a snapshot of the '80s but "About Last Night" sort of feels like it is a little more timeless.
REHMTimeless indeed. Rob Lowe and we're talking about his newest autobiography. We'll call it volume two. It's titled "Love Life." Short break here and when we come back, more of your calls, your email. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Robe Lowe is my guest today. He's in Santa Barbara, Calif. He joins me via Skype, so we can see each other as we speak. His new book is titled "Love Life." And I promise you you wouldn't miss him when you look at the cover of that book. It's very handsome, Rob.
LOWEOh, thank you so much. Thank you.
REHMNow, here's an email from, let's see, Amy Jean. She says, "When an election cycle gets really vicious, so every two to four years at least, my daughter and I binge-watch the entire "West Wing." It documents our very favorite president ever and always gives us hope that perhaps politics can one day live up to our ideals. Thank you, Rob Lowe, for being a part of it."
LOWEOh, that's amazing. What an...
REHMIsn't' that lovely?
LOWEThat is lovely. And that, that's one of the things that I -- that makes it so satisfying to have been a part of that show is I have -- I hear that kind of sentiment. I meet people, young people, who are drawn into Washington. And President Obama's current head speech writer has said -- told me that the reason he's a speech writer is because of "The West Wing." And, you know, I guess it's like "NYPD Blue" made people want to be cops. "West Wing" has brought people into government, and I think that's great. I think that's wonderful.
REHMExactly. But you left "The West Wing" midway through season four. How come?
LOWEWell, it's -- you know, it's a little bit like asking your parents why they divorced. It's hard to put in one answer. And in the first book, I wrote an entire chapter that I think really, really sums up why. But this many years back with hindsight, I never regretted it.
LOWEAnd the fact that Aaron Sorkin left right after I did was, to me, a real indication that I'd made the right choice because I wouldn't have wanted to have been on "The West Wing" without him writing all that amazing dialogue. And to me, the first four years of "The West Wing" are "The West Wing" 'cause that's when Aaron was doing it. And that I was able to be there for that four-year Emmy run with him was the thing. There's an art to leaving the party. Let's put it that way.
REHMWhy do you...
LOWEYou got to know when to leave.
REHMWhy do you think he left the party?
LOWEYou know, it's -- I don't know. I would only be speculating. But he'd certainly accomplished, you know, more than any -- most people ever do in a career on a TV show. And, you know, he and I have since worked together, you know, for, you know, for six or seven months in London doing a play. And that was a great time. I mean, I look back on it and go, that was really, really special.
REHMOh, that's great. Here's another email from Elizabeth who says, "Rob was delightful on 'Parks and Recreation.'"
REHMShe says, "I still love to say Ann Perkins in his style."
REHM"And can Rob share with us why he chose to leave that show?"
LOWEMakes me sound like a quitter. Is this whole thing -- it's like unrelenting. He's just a quitter. The minute you get to the Super Bowl, I don't want to play in this game. It's too much of a hassle. No. Well, it's -- you know who I blame? I blame Ann Perkins. That's who I blame.
LOWEI do. And no one can tell me otherwise. The lovely Rashida Jones, who I spoke to just yesterday, multi-talented writer, producer, got a lot of irons in the fire and so much more than being a great actress, wanted to go and write a very big top-secret movie, which she's doing right now. And so the producers kindly let her do that. And once she was leaving the show, there wasn't a lot for my character to do.
LOWEAnd so we all decided that it would be good to do it all at once.
REHMAll right. Let's hear it.
LOWEAnn Perkins, what are you doing here?
MS. RASHIDA JONESWhose pink razor's in your shower?
JONESLeslie found a pink razor and a pink swimming cap in your shower. Whose is it?
LOWEI guess you're talking about my razor. I shave my legs for swimming, and women's razors work better. For whatever reason, men's razor technology hasn't figured out how to properly contour the shin bone.
JONESAnd the swimming cap?
LOWEIndiana Breast Cancer Awareness Triathlon 2009 -- came in fourth.
JONESWell, I found concealer in your medicine cabinet. What's that about?
LOWEI'm a human being. Sometimes I get blemishes. I'm not perfect.
JONESI'm so sorry, honey. I'm so embarrassed. I was scared that you were cheating on me.
LOWENo. I'm not cheating on you, but I'm also not dating you. We broke up last week.
REHMAnn Perkins. All right.
LOWEYou know, it's funny that people -- when I went -- we've talked so much about "The West Wing" this -- it's always interesting to me to tell people that when I went to meet the people on "Parks and Recreation" to talk about potentially joining the show, they told me that "Park and Rec" was based on "The West Wing," but they decided, we're comedy writers. We're going to write a comedy, but what would the comedy version of "The West Wing" look like? And the answer to them was, it wouldn't be the White House. It would be Parks and Recreation.
REHMAll right. Let's go back to the phones to Brad. He's in Tampa, Fla. Hi, Brad. You're on the air.
BRADHello, everybody. Hi.
LOWEHi. How are you, Brad?
BRADI'm well, thank you. And I completely agree with your concept of surrounding yourself with interesting people. And I know people probably hit you up for stuff all the time, but I'm going to invite you out to Tampa to have dinner at some point. But I'm calling about something that's a little more important. My sister-in-law is -- she's on the verge of having to go into rehab, and she's very scared about it, has a lot of things that she -- reasons she doesn't want to go. And I was hoping that there was some chance that you could kind of put out some words of supporting wisdom.
LOWEAbsolutely. First of all, there's hope. It works. There's sort of a concept today that rehab is a scary place, a bad place, a place that celebrities go to to, like, make themselves look better and to rehab their image and not their psyches and their souls. And I can only tell you from firsthand experience for me not only did it save my life and change my life, but I enjoyed it because I learned why I was doing the things I was doing.
LOWEAnd the knowledge that she will get, if she's paying attention, will be tremendous. And, you know, I could only hope for her that she gets, you know, the gifts that come to all of us when we take that first step and then live our lives that way one day at a time. So please give her my best wishes.
REHMI hope she's listening, Brad. Thanks for calling. Let's go now to Liz in Syracuse, N.Y. You're on the air.
LIZHi. Good morning.
LIZI'm a big fan of both of you.
LIZThank you so much for taking my call.
LIZRob, I have to agree with Oprah. I watch every interview you have with her, that you are just a phenomenal writer. And...
LOWEThank you. Thank you.
LIZ...I work full time at a college, and I'm really trying to nurture my writing and -- creative writing. And I was just wondering if you could give me some tips or just kind of reflect on your writing process because it is challenging in the world to give yourself time for that, so...
LOWEI know, isn't it? Well, it's -- I don't know if it's Mark Twain, but it's that great quote about I hate writing, but I love having written.
LOWEAnd that's just really the truth. You know, for me, it's having the confidence to know that what I have to say has a value that how I say it is what people are buying into 'cause I can get caught up in, well, what's so special about this story? And sometimes the stories are special. Sometimes they're not. But what is always special is one's unique voice because that voice is yours. And it doesn't belong to anybody else. So regardless of what you write about, when you use your authentic voice, by definition, it is absolutely special 'cause there's only one you.
REHMGood thinking. Good luck to you, Liz. Let's go to Durham, N.C. Suzanne, you're on the air.
SUZANNEHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. I'm a huge fan of both of you.
REHMSure. Thank you.
SUZANNESo my question is, Rob Lowe, you've been an actor for so long, and you played such a huge variety of roles. And I guess fame is obviously a major side effect of that and, depending on how you look at it, could be the best or worst part of having a career in acting. So my question is how...
LOWEI was saying it's both.
SUZANNESo my question is, how has your experience with fame and your view of being famous changed as you've grown up and matured?
LOWEA really good question. First of all, the nature of fame has changed tremendously since I have been famous and since I've, you know, started trying to be famous. I think more people today want to be famous than want to be a good actor or want to be a good musician or want to be a good author. There's a whole culture of fame for fame's sake that didn't exist when I was coming up. So it's very much changed the landscape and, in my humble opinion, not in a good way.
LOWEBut, that said, listen, I really enjoyed being famous for all of the good that it brings. And that is meeting people, having people invest in you, you investing in them. That's -- I really, really enjoy that so much. And the downside -- you know, you can mitigate it, you know. I mean, I moved out of L.A. so I don't have to deal with paparazzi. You know, there are things one can do to minimize the downside. And I always know that, without being famous, for an actor, it becomes increasingly hard to pay the bills. So I'm always grateful for it.
REHMIn "Love Life," you write less about your career highs and more about failures after "West Wing." Talk about those failures, what they were, and how they've informed your adulthood.
LOWEWell, it's funny. As I was writing all of those stories, I often ask myself, why am I so drawn to writing about my failures? And I think, first of all, it's funnier, it's more interesting, and there was a moment when I went, geez, I'm going to make myself look like a complete hapless, you know, nimrod. But, you know what, so be it. I like the stories. Anyway, to answer your question, I learn more from my failures than I do from my successes, first of all.
REHMI think that's true for everybody.
LOWEFor everybody, right?
LOWEAnd it never ceases to amaze me how many things have to go right for something to work out. So when things don't work out, you know, I try to figure out why they have. And the two big stories in the book about, you know, being executive producer and star of a big fancy, big budgeted, in your face, NBC Thursday night TV show as it's going into the toilet is -- it's just it's the kind of thing that if some other actor wrote, I'd be really jealous. I'd be like, dude, that guy's great. This is a really cool story.
REHMSo for you, for example, give me a specific moment where you knew failure was on you.
LOWEOh, yeah. Well, one of the -- absolutely. One of the things I learned -- and the reason these stories are in the book is there is a lesson. And the big lesson is, creatively, when you're working with collaborators and you're not seeing eye to eye, it never gets better. It only gets worse. So my thing in the future is if we're not on the same page, let's leave while we're in love. That didn't happen on my follow-up TV series "The Lion's Den."
LOWEAnd I knew there were many signs. We shot in a paint thinning plant as opposed to a soundstage -- not a good way to get off. It was a, God help me, a dildo factory next door, which is not exactly what you're looking to see as you walk into a -- it was in the Valley, the porn center of, you know, like, you know -- they didn't put us in the Fox lot, probably not a good sign.
LOWEAnd then the day that we finally got cancelled, there were forest fires threatening to burn the entire place down as I drove in. They were evacuating the dildo factory, but the television people, of course, were not allowed to leave. You know, in the sex industry, you're able to flee for your lives. But when you're making a failing television show, you've got to work right up until the flames are ready to kill you.
REHMOh, good grief. Good grief.
LOWEGood grief is right. Yes.
LOWEThat's "Love Life," ladies and gentlemen, page 232.
REHMYeah. What about playing the role in "Behind the Candelabra" with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon?
REHMWe're almost out of time. But I'd really love to hear your reaction to that.
LOWEWell, to work with Steven Soderbergh who directed it and Matt and Michael, who I've admired for so long -- they're both tremendous actors -- I knew going in that they were going to be knocking the ball out of the park. You know, Michael Douglas is Liberace. You know, Matt, you know, in tight little dolphin shorts as the doe-eyed lover with the frosted hairdo. I mean, I knew that they were going to, you know, be killing it. So I had to come in with, you know, bringing my A-game.
LOWEI mean, I couldn't come in with any weak cheese with that crowd. So I came up with this character of Dr. Startz, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that five or six scenes could have the impact that Dr. Startz has had. It was just one of those moments where, you know, sometimes as an actor, you get rewarded for taking a really big swing. Sometimes you strike out. But sometimes you connect with the ball. And it was a big swing, and I was surrounded by great people. And, you know, it sort of lives in infamy.
REHMWell, Rob Lowe, I've loved talking to you. It's been great fun.
LOWEThank you. This has really, really been great. I appreciate it.
REHMThank you. Rob Lowe, his newest autobiography is titled "Love Life." Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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