29 January 2023

Rob Lowe

Hunky American actor Rob Lowe (1964) was one of the members of the Brat Pack and a teenage idol during the 1980s. He is also known for the television series The West Wing, in which he played the role of Sam Seaborn.

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Santoro Graphics Ltd, no. C245.

Rob Lowe
French postcard by Spotlight Magazine.

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Just Seventeen, one of a set of six postcards. Photo: Retna Pictures Ltd.

Among the original members of the Brat Pack

Robert Hepler (Rob) Lowe was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1964. He was the son of Charles Lowe and Barbara Hepler and grew up in Dayton (Ohio) and Los Angeles. Lowe has one brother, the actor Chad Lowe (1968), and a younger half-brother from his father's second marriage, Justin.

His career began when he was eight years old, with appearances on the local television station and summer theatre. After his parents' divorce, Lowe moved with his mother and brother to Los Angeles where, along with Emilio Estevez and others, he was educated at Santa Monica High School. In 1979, Lowe got the role of Tony Flanagan, the teenage son of star Eileen Brennan, in the television sitcom A New Kind of Family (1979-1980). The series ended after only 11 episodes.

However, his name stuck when newspaper and magazine articles began aligning the handsome, sensitive young actor with the up-and-coming members of the Brat Pack. Along with Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, Anthony Michael Hall, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, and Ally Sheedy, he was among the original members of the Brat Pack. He did a number of television films and earned his first Golden Globe nomination for the teen drama Thursday's Child (David Lowell Rich, 1983). Lowe appeared alongside Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise in The Outsiders (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983).

The following year, he got the lead role in the film The Hotel New Hampshire (Tony Richardson, 1984), alongside Jodie Foster and Nastassja Kinski. Lowe starred with his fellow Brat packers in the coming-of-age film St. Elmo's Fire (Joel Schumacher, 1985). Lowe won his first award for this film: a Razzie Award for worst male supporting actor. Partly because of his looks, Lowe became one of the Pack's most famous members. In between, Lowe starred in less noteworthy productions. In 1988, Lowe received his second Golden Globe nomination for the film Square Dance (Daniel Petrie, 1987).

In 1988, however, his popularity suffered serious damage when a video emerged showing Lowe filming himself having sex with two girls, one of whom appeared to be underage. This happened in Atlanta, where Lowe was attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Lowe claimed he did not know she was underage, which was confirmed by the doorman of the bar where they met. She had also lied to get into the bar. For this, Lowe performed 20 hours of community service in Dayton. Around the same time, a leaked home video, in which Lowe could be seen with a model called Jennifer and a boyfriend, Justin Morris, while they were doing a threesome in a hotel room in Paris, was commercially marketed. This was one of the first celebrity sex videos to be sold commercially. Both videos caused a lot of damage to Lowe's career.

Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, C Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise in The Outsiders (1983)
Australian postcard by TV Hits. Photo: N. Moran / Sygma / Austral International. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise in The Outsiders (Francis Coppola, 1983).

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Box Office, no. BOPC 3006.

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Minerva, Edinburgh, no. PC253, 1989.

After the scandals faded into oblivion

After these scandals, Rob Lowe sought treatment at a clinic for alcohol and sex addiction. After the scandals faded into oblivion, Lowe's career revived. This was partly because he mocked his irresponsible behaviour during an appearance as host of Saturday Night Live. In one of his appearances with the church lady, played by Dana Carvey, the latter promises to keep quiet about sex videos during the interview. In return, Lowe gets spanked by her live on TV.

When Lowe is also spanked at the end of the skit, it turns out that, to the dismay of the church lady, this gets him sexually aroused. She starts exclaiming that Satan should be expelled from Lowe's buttocks, to which Lowe tells reporters, "I love getting spanked. I love the feeling of a glowing ass so much".

In 1989, he sang the song 'Proud Mary' with the band Snow White at the Academy Awards, which was not a success. His role opposite James Spader in the film Bad Influence (Curtis Hanson, 1990), in which he had to portray a villain, brought Lowe positively back into the limelight. In 1992, he made his Broadway debut in the play 'A Little Hotel on the Side'. The roles he was offered improved and in the same year Lowe appeared in Wayne's World (Penelope Spheeris, 1992) with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.

For his portrayal of the deaf-mute and strangely plague-immune Nick Andros opposite Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald in the miniseries The Stand (Mick Garris, 1994) based on a book by Stephen King, Lowe received rave reviews. After this, Lowe temporarily disappeared behind the camera, where he produced the Western Frank & Jesse (Robert Boris, 1994) in which he also co-starred with Bill Paxton.

In 1997, he wrote and directed the television film Desert's Edge (Rob Lowe, 1997). Also in 1997, he played the role of the right-wing leader of a Christian movement in the Sci-Fi film Contact (Robert Zemeckis, 1997), starring Jodie Foster. In the comedy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Jay Roach, 1999) starring Mike Myers, he imitated the voice of Robert Wagner for the role of Young Number Two and did an extra as the Decapitated Henchman's Friend.

Rob Lowe in  Youngblood (1986)
Belgian promotion card by U.I.P. S.N.C., Bruxelles. Photo: United Artists. Rob Lowe in Youngblood (Peter Markle, 1986).

Rob Lowe
German collectors card by Bravo, ca. 1986.

Rob Lowe
Italian postcard by Vitorius Roma, no. VR 461.

The West Wing

In 1999, Rob Lowe was back on television regularly when he got the role of acting head of communications Sam Seaborn in the NBC hit series The West Wing, about the life of President Bartlett (Martin Sheen). Basically, the series was supposed to revolve around his role, which was then the focus of the pilot episode, but the reviews for the complete cast were so raved, that a shift was made in the role assignment.

In 2000 and 2001, Lowe received Golden Globe nominations in the "Best Actor" category for this, and in 2001 he also received an Emmy Award in the same category. In 2002, however, Lowe left the series because he could not agree on his role and salary. He wanted a more prominent role in the series with an accompanying salary than NBC was willing to give him. Although the other actors and especially Martin Sheen tried to keep him in the series, the episode featuring his departure was aired in February 2003, earlier than expected. During the final season of The West Wing, Lowe returned to his role of Sam Seaborn, appearing in two of the final four episodes.

After this, he featured in the series Lyon's Den (2003), where he plays an idealistic attorney trying to get out of the shadow of his father, who is a senator. The series flopped and was taken off TV after 13 episodes. The same happened with the series Dr. Vegas (2004-2005), also produced by Lowe. It stopped after 10 episodes due to a lack of success. Lowe starred in the remake of the Stephen King miniseries Salem's Lot (Mikael Salomon, 2004) with Donald Sutherland and Samantha Mathis.

In 2005, Lowe played the role of Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee in the theatre production of Aaron Sorkin's play 'A Few Good Men' in West End London. Lowe played a supporting role as a movie agent in the satirical black comedy Thank You for Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2006) starring Aaron Eckhart. In 2013, Lowe played a notable role as the evil plastic surgeon Dr Jack Startz in Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013), the successful film about the last decade of pianist and entertainer Liberace's life.

In 2017, Lowe made a reality series with his two sons, the then 24-year-old Matthew and 22-year-old Jon Owen, The Lowe Files. With the exception of the hour-long pilot, the series featured 30-minute road trips with the Lowe boys, and occasional TV guest stars known in the field, investigating common urban myths and legends that Rob has loved since he was a young boy and has shared with his boys throughout their growth. Recently, he starred in and produced the TV series 9-1-1: Lone Star (2020-2023) about firefighters in Austin, Texas. In 2015, Lowe received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Lowe has been married to makeup artist Sheryl Berkoff since 1991. They met on a blind date in 1983.

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Photographs, no. 130.

Rob Lowe
British postcard by Photographs, no. 135.

Rob Lowe
French postcard by Editions Humour à la Carte, Paris, no. ST - 133.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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