Book Review: Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

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Like his character on The West Wing, White House speechwriter Sam Seaborn, Rob Lowe stays admirably on message in his new memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. He's at pains to paint himself as a grounded, levelheaded man who has (mostly) successfully navigated the rapids of early fame and success, debilitating personal crises and then a career rebound as that White House staffer.Anyone looking for a salacious book from one of the original Brat Pack members should look elsewhere; this book is a reinforcement of Lowe's 21st-century profile as a funny and charismatic leading man, not a searing tale of Hollywood excesses. His partying days are, of course, discussed (while he makes clear that those days were emotionally barren for him, a night out at NYC club Area with Jodie Foster is hardly rock bottom), but he mostly keeps his demons locked up tight. The infamous sex tapes that almost derailed his career are only briefly mentioned-actually, only one is mentioned-but no details are revealed regarding how or why they were leaked.

What's more surprising about Stories I Tell My Friends is the number of factual inaccuracies that mar the book. Lowe claims that Jane Fonda made her debut in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and won an Oscar for The Morning After (she was only nominated). He also claims that he saw a rough cut of GoodFellas (released in 1990) while doing European press for 1986's About Last Night.

And while Lowe has a lot of stories to tell about his soon-to-be-famous friends (he was besties with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, and hit on an 18-year-old Daryl Hannah at a dinner party), he has the annoying habit of introducing them sans names, before ending the anecdote with something like, "He's open, friendly, funny, and has an almost robotic, bloodless focus and an intensity that I've never encountered before. His name is Tom Cruise." After five or six of these revelations (involving everyone from Cary Grant to John Cusack), the conceit wears thin.

Lowe's reluctance to deviate from his happy-healthy-humane message also blunts the edge of his chapter on leaving The West Wing, after being shafted by the producers in terms of salary and press coverage. His refusal to do anything other than look at the sunny side is healthy, but doesn't really translate well to the memoir format. We expect highs and lows when it comes to celebrities telling tales, but Lowe's book insistently claims that even the lows were just precursors to the highs. An admirable point of view, but one that hardly makes for a page-turner.

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