Rob Lowe dishes on love, sex and movie stardom

Rob Lowe notes that his two sons, Matthew, 17, and Johnowen, 14, have read his breezy autobiography, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," but adds with a laugh, only "under duress."

"They read it as an assignment when it became clear that the Oprah Winfrey show wanted to talk to them about it," Lowe said in a recent interview. "Only then did they decide to read dad's book."

Their reaction?

"They were like, 'Oh, Dad. Come on.' I am lucky if I can get them interested in anything that I am doing at this point."

The former "Brat Pack" heartthrob of such films as 1983's "The Outsiders" and 1985's "St. Elmo's Fire," recently turned 47. But as anyone who saw his shirtless pose on the cover of the recent Vanity Fair can attest, time has been kind for the eternally handsome Lowe.

This afternoon, Lowe is sitting in his sunny office at Miramax in Santa Monica. Lowe is an investment partner with Tom Barrack and Colony Capital, which has a stake in Miramax. The movie company that was created by Harvey and Bob Weinstein was recently bought by several investors. "The first acquisition in our media fund was Miramax," he explains.

"It's really obvious that it's the one thing I would be able to bring to the table with my area of expertise navigating the relationships with Hollywood. The deal just closed 90 days ago and we have been culling from the 250 books and scripts in various stages of development that Harvey and Bob spent untold millions getting to this point. We have incoming calls from people who know we have the rights to things. It's really exciting."

Lowe talks about everything in "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," such as finding his first brush with success on an ABC sitcom at the age of 15, and his romances with Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stephanie among many others, and his relentless partying, the infamous 1988 sex tape, his 1989 disastrous appearance on the Academy Awards, his realization in 1990 that he was an alcoholic, his happy, 20-year marriage to makeup artist Sheryl Berkoff and why he left his role as Sam Seaborn on "The West Wing" after four seasons.

The actor doesn't think it was a case of too much too soon that lead to him abusing alcohol.

"I am an alcoholic," he says matter-of-factly. "I have been sober for 20 years. It will be 21 years on May 10. If I had been a lawyer or a doctor or a tennis pro, I probably would have had very similar issues."

Still, he admits, Hollywood turned a blind eye to such excessive behavior in the 1980s. "There is much less tolerance in Hollywood — the stuff that used to go on would not be tolerated today.... But we were coming out of the '60s and '70s film industry. It is a much different time, although the issues are still round."

When Lowe, his mother and sibling moved to Malibu from Ohio in the 1970s, Lowe became tight with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen and hung out at the Sheen household in Malibu. Sheen was quite the character even then, wearing a bulletproof vest under his clothes to school. Lowe writes about his partying spree with Sheen in 1986 when they were both on location in New York City — Lowe was making "Masquerade" and Sheen was starring in "Wall Street." Lowe said Sheen won the contest "by a nose."

So what does he think about Sheen's outrageous actions today? Lowe measures his words carefully.

"As you know from the book, anytime you are talking about someone you have known since you were 13 years old … any discussion about Charlie has to be framed with who he represents to me and who that family represents to me. I love him. He knows I'm really concerned about him. We agree to disagree about the value of certain recovery groups and certain programs. I am happy to watch his experiment and see how it goes."

Lowe's name was even bandied about to replace Sheen on "Two and a Half Men," the CBS comedy series that the actor was fired from earlier this year. But Lowe says he's back next season on NBC's comedy "Parks and Recreation" as Chris Traeger, the eternally optimistic health-food nut who is the interim Pawnee city manager.

Though he discusses his sexcapades, he never goes into any salacious, R-rated details. In fact, as Hollywood autobiographies go, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends" is quite chaste. Don't look for much mention of his first love, Melissa Gilbert, who was his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend in the 1980s.

"For me the book was in terms of my romantic life more about my journey to getting where I got with Sheryl," he says.

Lowe's career tumbled badly in 1989 after a sex tape he made in 1988 surfaced, which showed him having sex with two women, one of whom was 16, the night before the Democratic National Convention — Lowe had been campaigning for presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Lowe said and still says he didn't know she was underage.

"I learned two things," he says with a smile. "In terms of being a trailblazer and a forerunner [in the sex tape business], it is overrated." Lowe notes that the only people who called and reached out to him at that dark time were Jodie Foster, whom he had befriended when they made 1984's "Hotel New Hampshire," and producer Don Simpson. "It was a learning experience for me."

Even before the sex taped leak, Lowe took another bad stumble when he performed the song "Proud Mary" with a singer dressed as Snow White in the opening of the 1989 Academy Awards. The ceremony was produced by the flamboyant Allan Carr of "Grease" fame, who favored wearing caftans.

"In terms of the Oscars, my Midwestern people-pleasing didn't suit me very well," he admits. "Where I come from, when the academy asks you to do something you say, 'Yes.' Of course, the third thing I learned was never trust a man in a caftan."

There was one upside: He got to meet Lucille Ball backstage in the green room after the number was mercifully over. "'Young man,"' Lowe says in his best Ball impression, "I didn't know you were such a good singer. Would you get me an aspirin …. my head is killing me.' I would have put myself through anything for that experience."

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