After more than 30 years in Hollywood, Rob Lowe is coming clean. From his days as a teen heartthrob to life on the set of The West Wing, Rob is holding nothing back in his can't-put-it-down autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends.
In this juicy page-turner, Rob shares revealing celebrity scoop, sexual escapades—with women like actress Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stéphanie of Monaco—and dark secrets. He even opens up about his recovery from alcohol addiction and the explosive sex tape scandal that sent him into hiding.
At age 47, Rob says he decided to sit down and write about his highs, his lows and his enduring love for the woman he says helped save his life. "One of the gifts of writing is you learn things," he says. "And I learned the real reason I'm writing this book now is because it's hopefully a handbook for my children to understand Dad."
Rob's incredible journey began in high school when his family moved to Southern California from Dayton, Ohio. He attended Santa Monica High School, where he befriended a few soon-to-be-famous classmates: Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. and Holly Robinson.
Rob says he was especially close to Emilio, Charlie and their father, Hollywood legend Martin Sheen. "Everybody in their childhood has that family where you know you're going to be there on Christmas Eve," he says. "And on any given weekend, you're going to be maybe spending the night in the guest bedroom. That was the Sheens' house for me growing up."
Along with Emilio and Charlie, Rob says Tom Cruise—who moved to California from New Jersey to try to make it as an actor—was living at the Sheens' house for a period of time. "We were all competitive but really, really friendly," Rob says.
Rob began acting when he was 15 years old, and at 17, he landed his first major movie role in the iconic '80s film The Outsiders. The cast included the who's who of young Hollywood: Rob starred alongside Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon and Diane Lane.
After The Outsiders was released, Rob's fame skyrocketed—especially with female fans. In his memoir, Rob reveals what it was like to be a teen heartthrob: "On the way to the car, I see them. They are swarming. Girls who look to be between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. They are whispering, pointing and staring at me. And then they charge. One girl grabs me by the arm. Another by the hair. One girl is literally untying my shoes while another steals the laces."
Rob says his fans' excitement was great—but there was an unsettling side to it. "There's something that just doesn't feel quite right," he says. "It took literally years for me to figure out what that is, and it was a big part of my recovery. And what it is, is that phenomenon really doesn't have anything to do with you. It's sort of about them."
By 1985, Rob was a full-blown star, landing roles in Class and St. Elmo's Fire. That year, New York Magazine writer David Blum coined a phrase that would stick with Rob and his co-stars for the rest of their careers: the Brat Pack.
Rob writes about the article—and the nickname he loathed—in Stories I Only Tell My Friends.
"For weeks, Emilio has been trailed by a reporter from New York Magazine who was doing a cover story on him. A spur of the moment dinner party is put together at our favorite hangout, the Hard Rock Cafe. A few weeks later, the writer drops his story about Emilio. Instead, the headline? Hollywood's Brat Pack. According to the reporter, what he observed during our dinner wasn't the exuberant comradery of peers but the obnoxious exploits of the a pack of interchangeable pampered spoiled attention-seeking actors who were long on ambition and fame but short on talent or humanity."
At the time, Rob says he didn't know the ways of the press. "Literally, I thought I was doing my buddy a solid showing this guy a good time—it's not all just serious career, career, career," he says. "We got our wish—it wasn't about careers. It was all about partying."
Although he didn't like the name at first, Rob says he now embraces "the Brat Pack." "I'm proud to be a part of something that, 25 years later, you guys all remember," he says. "I think that's a good thing."
One of scandals Rob doesn't shy away from in his book is the sex tape leak that sent him into hiding in 1989. The tape of himself, a friend and two girls—one of whom was later revealed to be only 16 years old—was one of the first celebrity sex tapes to go public. "Let me just say this," Rob says. "Sometimes being a trailblazer is highly overrated."
At the time, Rob was 22 years old and says he met the girl inside of a 21-and-over club—he says the doormen wouldn't allow him inside until he showed his ID. "So there's no way I would have ever thought anybody in the club would be underage," he says.
Rob says he felt like he was under siege after the tape leaked, but now, he's grateful for this low point. "It ends up being the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he says. "Because what it ends up doing is accelerating my alcohol [addiction] to where I finally get sober. I have been able to have the rest of my life that I'm so blessed with, which is now 20 years of sobriety."
By age 26, Rob says his partying had gotten out of control, and one day, he hit rock bottom.
Rob writes about the experience in his book: "I had long ago become a creation, a public image made to be consumed, piled on top of a precarious shell of a little boy wanting to be loved. Finally, the whole thing has caved in around me, and I am thrilled."
Rob has been sober now for 20 years. However, he says not everyone in his life is taking the same path he did, including childhood friend Charlie Sheen.
Since February 2011, Charlie has taken the media by storm with a series of erratic interviews, during which he has proclaimed to be “winning” to have “tiger blood” and to be on a drug called "Charlie Sheen.”
"You have to understand," Rob says. "Charlie, I've known him since I was 13. He is my homeboy. I love him."
But when it comes to sobriety, Rob says he and Charlie have different feelings on rehab. "He doesn't want anything to do with it," Rob says. "I look at him as a scout. He is out there seeing if guys like he and I can make it without [rehab], and we'll see how that goes."
Rob says the Charlie we see in interviews is just "Charlie being Charlie." "He's always been an iconoclast and a true character full of charisma and wild, and he's letting it all loose," Rob says. "He's like, 'You know what? I'm really going to go full throttle with what I've been keeping inside my whole life.' That's really where it's at."
Of all of the stories in Rob's book, Oprah says it was a passage about his wife, Sheryl, that moved her the most.
The passage reads: "And in the most surprising fact of my life, the one that at one point I thought I was incapable of feeling and unworthy of achieving, I am still in love with my wife. After almost 20 years of marriage, I look at her face and see her radiant light. I hold her and feel our hard-earned and sometimes difficult history passing between us, enveloping us in an aura of comfort, gratitude and profound attraction. If you'd asked me when I was a young punk what would have been the best thing that could have come my way, I would have said a movie with Martin Scorsese. But God had other plans. He gave me Sheryl."
"There's not a woman in America who wouldn't want her husband to say something like this about them," Oprah says.
What's it like being married to a sex symbol? "Even in our house, a sex symbol empties the trash," Sheryl jokes. "But truly, I don't see it like that. I see it as an amazing father, husband and partner. I mean, we've been best friends for 23 years."
Rob and Sheryl have two teenage sons, Johnowen and Matthew. "The main thing you need to know about Johnowen is he is very, very social and very, very smart," Rob says. "Matthew Lowe is one of the great water men that I know. He's a surfer, a great water polo player. I think he's half fish. Also, I'm really blessed that both boys are very, very bright."
Rob's sons say their dad is a teenager trapped in an adult's body. "My dad is 100 percent, absolutely a kid at heart," Johnowen says.
Of all 20 chapters in Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob says the only parts he went back and rewrote were the chapters about his time on The West Wing. Rob played the role of Sam Seaborn on the Emmy-winning drama from 1999 to 2003, when he abruptly left the show.
For years, fans wondered why Rob left the hugely successful show. "The truth is, I don't really know where it began to go wrong," Rob says. "The real bottom line is when everybody got a raise and success, and they didn't want to give me one, at the end of the day it was like, 'You know what? This is not right. It's just not right.'"
Rob say he never found out why he wasn't granted a raise, but he has no regrets. "I'm not bitter about it at all," he says. "It was a real learning experience because I want my kids, when they're in something that's cool and lauded and everybody's paying attention and it's the greatest thing that ever happened to them—but if behind the scenes, they're not being respected, they need to leave."