Highs and Lowes

 

Last Wednesday, Miss Thropist, Miss Day and I went on a highly important PCP outing to the Royal Geographic Society in Kensington, to hear the luscious Rob Lowe discuss his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Me and Miss Day were there for the 80s love, Miss Thropist for The West Wing.

 

It was a wonderful event, far more entertaining than I had  expected. Lowe was charming and natural, willing to mock himself and generous with anecdotes. I’ve long enjoyed him as an actor, but I have to say, I mostly regarded him as an unbelievably pretty face. He’s certainly tasty – the man seems to get even better with age – but he’s so much more too. Kate Muir, a Guardian film critic, was an excellent moderator and struck the right balance between slightly enamoured and teasing. The two had great chemistry, and the conversation flowed very well.

 

The experience was a big first for me – although I’ve been lucky enough to interview authors and other pop culture types, I’ve never seen one of my film crushes in the flesh.

 


 

 

It was pretty much non-stop storytelling, but my favourite parts were learning that…

 

He’d been a complete  geek at high school, due to his love for drama and awkward dress sense. Which I find just about plausible. But it’s not like he had to wait too long to become a pin-up, with a couple of droolworthy film roles (Class and The Outsiders) before he hit 20! And it seems like he very quickly became accustomed to his dreaminess, choosing dates from MTV and C-SPAN. At the same time, he admitted there was something hollow about the deluge of attention – that it was flattering but felt kind of “shit” underneath. He had a lot of sympathy for current pin-ups Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson. He eventually realised, of  his screaming fans, that “clearly they don’t know me very well, and if they did, they wouldn’t like me as much.”

He’d grown up with the Sheen family, which made his membership in the Brat Pack and father-son dynamic with Martin Sheen in The West Wing particularly resonant.  He described the Sheens as one of those families “where every weekend you’re at their house, raiding their refrigerator”. Martin was an important mentor, giving Lowe valuable advice when he auditioned for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, warning him not to let “Francis make me do anything I felt uncomfortable doing”. Which only made him feel more apprehensive.

 

The Brat Pack was an accident. He said that at the time, Emilio Estevez was highly regarded for being the youngest screenwriter-filmmaker-director since Orson Welles. (And asked us not to laugh, so of course we did.) New York magazine journalist David Blum was following the wunderkind around and Estevez was concerned that he’d appear too serious and work-centric , so asked his friends to help him demonstrate that he was more well-rounded by taking Blum to their favourite hangout, The Hard Rock Cafe. (Lowe assured us it “was cool then!”) A month later, the magazine hit the stands and the focus was no longer on Estevez, but on the whole group, as “interchangeable, vacuous” “elitist snots” who were “really interested in partying, not so much our career”. (Which “might have been true”.) The “Brat Pack” was born, and cemented by the group’s performances in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. (We were sad that he did not mention Andrew McCarthy, but it appears that he does not consider himself part of the Pack either.)

 

He turned down McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy,and his wife is still giving him grief about it. Most hilarious was the audience’s collective moan upon learning this, as they contemplated what could have been. (We were pleased when he said we were like his wife – if only!) I was further amused by how he described Patrick Dempsey as “a guy who has been slaving in the salt mines for 20 years, with a big afro”, who straightened his hair and became a sex symbol. He didn’t regret passing up the part – for him, Jerry Maguire is the role he most regretted not getting.

 

He made a provocative piece of art with Andy Warhol. The Factory King – whom he described as having a voice like a “sexed-up Liberace”- had invited him to dinner, at one of those restaurants where you can scribble on a paper tablecloth. Warhol dared his guests to draw the best pussy they could, and Lowe, wishing to impress “the girl he was trying to date, not very successfully”, took a lot of pains to create an incredibly graphic image. When it came time for show and tell, his date had drawn a very “demure-looking vagina of the Patrick Nagel school”, while Warhol revealed… a cat. Lowe still regrets that he didn’t pocket that tablecloth, particularly as Warhol recorded the event in his journals, published post-humously. “I didn’t have the balls. So that signed, original Warhol crayon is lost to the mists of time. It’s the one that got away.”

 

He made a fool out President Clinton. We all remember Lowe’s mouthwatering turn on the saxaphone as Billy Hixx in St. Elmo’s Fire – and it turns out Clinton was a fan, as well as a skilled saxaphonist himself.  Lowe admits to not being able to play, but is able to finger convincingy while a real musician plays behind a curtain. When Clinton saw him “perform”, he was very impressed and invited Lowe to jam with him at the White House. He might have gotten away with it too, if Barbra Streisand hadn’t outed him.

 

 

I also enjoyed learning about his journey to sobriety, political interests, and his academic ambitions for his teenage sons, who most likely won’t follow in his famous footsteps. He said he was probably too “middle-of-the-road”, idealogy-wise, to make it as a politician – but that didn’t stop an audience member for calling for President Lowe one day! If Ronald Reagan can do it, why not him? However, I’d prefer that he finds another small-screen outing worthy of his talents. Perhaps Parks & Recreation is just the thing – I’ve recently started watching it, but his character Chris Traeger, known for his fondness for saying “literally”, has yet to appear.

 

 

I only wish we’d been sitting closer to the front. It was completely heaving even when we arrived 40 mins early! Sadly I didn’t get to ask my question either – I wondered whether, as he was a published writer, a self-described wide reader and now studio executive, there was a book he wanted to adapt for the screen. And Miss Day didn’t get to find out whether he was still in touch with Mr. McCarthy. However, when he signed our books, we got to tell him about his inclusion in our 80s guide to romance and our intention to write about his “saxiest moments”, epitomized by his saxiness in St. Elmo’s Fire. He seemed charmed, especially by being described as “saxy”.

 

So, without further ado, enjoy a  selection of Lowe’s saxiest roles over the years, as he evolved from the hottest Brat Packer to a total DILF:

 

Sodapop Curtis in The Outsiders (1983)

 

 

I’d never heard of Coppola’s film bout 50s delinquents until Lowe discussed it at the event, but he made me want to watch it right away. This was apparently his breakthrough role, and one he nabbed ahead of Tom Cruise (who has a more minor part), leading to the latter punching him in the face. I was frankly a little disappointed by how little his gorgeous gas attendant character, the brilliantly named Sodapop Curtis, is featured, but the following scene almost made for for it:


That scene would not have been as hot with Cruise – who seems to be deliberately blocking our view at times. Sodapop is so beloved he even has a blog!

 

 

Franklin ‘Skip’ Burroughs IV in Class (1983)

 

 

Who could resist fresh-faced boarding school boy Skip? It takes a pretty big man to forgive someone for sleeping with your mother, so even if he forces the adorable Andrew McCarthy to wear ladies undies, he still gets a mention. Especially as he totally pulls them off. (I know what I’d like to pull off… rawr.)

 

John Berry in The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)

 

 

While I remember liking the John Irving book this film is based on, this tale of a hotel-owning family’s fortunes (mainly misfortunes) seems much more tawdry on screen. Jodie Foster, who plays Lowe’s sister Franny, for whom his character has an incestuous passion, describes it as the beginning of the low point of her career. But when it comes to saxy moments, it’s worth 10/10. John Berry gets to make out with and bed an impressive number of women – with those lips, who wouldn’t?

 

I couldn’t find the film’s saxiest clip – John running in the rain and panting outside a cougar-waitress’ door – but check out the trailer for a taste!

 

 

Billy Hixx in St Elmo’s Fire (1985)

 

 

This scene needs no introduction. It’s easily the saxiest performance of all time, and there were a lot of sexed-up-saxy moments in the 80s – it’s Billy’s big gig at the gang’s favourite hangout. Even his long suffering wife can’t resist him after his sweaty display…

 

Dean Youngblood in Youngblood (1986)

 

 

Dean is a sensitive farm boy who doesn’t want to fight, but can totally pull it out of the bag on the ice rink. An amazing 80’s-tastic performance here…and ok, so I’m lowering the tone here, but just hold out until this video’s 15 seconds in…

 

 

Danny Martin in About Last Night (1986)

 

 

Ah declarations of love in the pouring rain. Is there anything more romantic? The wild weather conditions make everything seem more poignant, as this moving scene demonstrate. Rob Lowe heartbroken in a downpour, it just makes my heart melt… Demi Moore must be made of stone!</div

 

Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World (1992)


There’s no denying the appeal of a man who can speak a foreign language. We’re not just talking about GSCE French here, oh no, we’re talking Cantonese. Or rather he is, in an incredibly saxy manner.

This TV exec is most certainly a cunning linguist. Were we meant to be pleased when Cassandra returned to Wayne?

Sam Seaborn in The West Wing (1999-2006)

At the talk, Lowe lamented the lack of ladies in Deputy White House Communications Director Sam Seaborn’s life. However, when we first meet him, it seems like women are the source of all his problems. In the pilot episode he accidentally sleeps with a high-class call-girl (Lisa Edelstein) and lets it slip to the very person he shouldn’t – skip to 5.05:

Co-Pilot Steve Bench inView from the Top (2003)

Gwyneth Paltrow may wish she’d never made this film – what is it with Lowe and regretful blonde co-stars? – but I thought it was good, vapid fun. Lowe has little more than a cameo, but he’s picture perfect as Co-Pilot Steve Bench, who knows just the right thing to say to a nervous flight attendant:

Co-Pilot Steve: You’re a pro. You’re going places.
Donna Jensen: Ya think?
Co-Pilot Steve: I’m a pilot. It’s my job to know where people are going.

Jeff Megall in Thank You for Smoking (2005)

If anyone can get cigarettes into space, it’d be Jeff Megall, Hollywood superagent extraordinaire. I think we can all count ourselves lucky that Lowe isn’t in politics – he has dangerous amounts of charisma, which is most safely utilised on screen.

(The whole thing’s worth a peek, but skip to 2.40 – 5.15 for Lowe, and everything before 2.40 for a fun build-up to his powerhouse character.)

When do you think Rob Lowe was at his saxiest? Do share!