Getting the Lowe-down on Rob, as actor and ‘80s icon heads for Balboa Theatre
Ask Rob Lowe what part of his touring one-man show he likes the best, and he’ll tell you, basically: The end.
Not in a “please put me and the audience out of our collective misery and grant us the sweet release of oblivion” kind of way, but in a “hey, this party’s just getting started!” kind of way.
“My favorite part is that every evening ends with a Q&A from the audience,” the actor and ’80s movie idol says of “Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends LIVE,” which lands at downtown’s Balboa Theatre on Friday.
“And in my experience, that’s been the most fun and the most wild because the questions people come up with are always mind-blowing to me. And it leads to a very raucous evening.”
If you know Lowe, you won’t be surprised that his life and career offer up plenty of fodder for questions. You might be surprised he’s so game to answer all of them.
But then, you can bet the still boyish-looking 54-year-old has heard just about everything by now — particularly given the nonstop barrage of brutal jabs he faced a couple of years ago when he was roasted by fellow celebrities on Comedy Central, a takedown he seemed to weather with remarkably good humor.
It’s a lock that that the live show itself will cover Lowe’s status as a key alumnus of the Brat Pack, the ’80s posse of young actors who came to fame in movies like “The Outsiders” and “St. Elmo’s Fire,” both of which were among Lowe’s first big hits.
“That’s a big part of the show,” Lowe acknowledges, adding with a laugh: “I’m a firm believer that if you’re asking people to pay money and come see you, you wanna play the hits.
“And without revealing too much about it, my sense of it is that anytime you could be part of a movement that people are talking about 20 or 30 years later, that’s a good thing.”
A couple of other things people still talk about from that time: Lowe’s dubious status as a pioneer of the celebrity sex tape, thanks to a leaked 1988 video of him in a hotel-room bed with two female companions he had met in a nightclub (one of whom turned out to be 16, although Lowe said he thought she was 18).
And then there was the unforgettable Snow White Episode from the 1989 Academy Awards. That was the over-the-top production number showcasing Lowe and Snow (played by San Diego’s Eileen Bowman, who has since become a major force on area stages) traipsing through a trippy kind of Hollywood fever dream, with Lowe as the princess’s “blind date.”
As Lowe commented in his 2011 memoir “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” from which the live show takes its cues: “Did I mention that no one was on drugs when they came up with this idea?”
Lowe survived the ’80s and the excesses that came with it — although his career seemed on life support for a while — to find a second phase of stardom on “The West Wing,” “Parks and Recreation” and other television hits.
Given the way both his memoir and its 2014 follow-up, “Love Life,” cover difficult ground, including family problems and struggles with substance abuse, Lowe says that “the big shocker for me when I did the first couple of shows was how funny it was.
“It’s what I tried to do with the books; it’s meant to be wildly entertaining, funny, but also you come away with this emotion that kind of sneaks up and surprises you. And a lot of that comes around when I talk about my family, or I talk about addiction or recovery and things like that.”
Lowe is speaking by phone from his home in Montecito, the community near Santa Barbara where he lives with his wife of 27 years, Sheryl, and where they raised their two now grown-up sons.
It turns out Lowe heads to San Diego pretty frequently for sportfishing trips with one son, and with friends who keep a boat here. He also surfs here, although his go-to spots are closer breaks such as Hollister Ranch and Rincon.
And because he’s a surfer who’s also Rob Lowe: “I was making a movie in South Africa, and I got to surf J-Bay,” he says — meaning Jeffreys Bay, the fabled righthand point break.
“It lives up to its reputation,” Lowe reports. “It’s by far the best wave I’ve ever been on in my life.”
Surfing’s not the only sort of workout he gets: For Lowe, performing live is about “keeping that (acting) muscle flexed and toned. And it’s taking my theater experience to the next level.” (Lowe’s stage credits include one Broadway show and a stint in “A Few Good Men” on London’s West End.)
“Theater is being out there on the high wire. Doing a one-man show is being on a high wire without a net.”
And doing it about your own life sounds a bit like being up there trying to balance a basket of eggs.
“You want it to be fun, you want it to be light, but you also want some substance and some heart and a little bit of drama,” as Lowe puts it.
“And I kind of think it ticks all the boxes.”
“Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends LIVE”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., downtown
Tickets: About $46-$81
Phone: (619/858/760) 570-1100
How you know Lowe
Some of Rob Lowe’s most notable film and TV credits:
“The Outsiders” (1983)
“St. Elmo’s Fire” (1985)
“Wayne’s World” (1992)
“The West Wing” (1999-2006)
“Brothers and Sisters” (2006-2010)
“Parks and Recreation” (2010-2015)
And of course … those DirecTV commercials (2014-15), in which Lowe played himself opposite such unfortunate alter egos as “Extra Paranoid Rob Lowe,” “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” and “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe.”
‘Snow’ in the forecast
Rob Lowe used to be sensitive to ribbing about his role in the much-mocked “Snow White” episode from the 1989 Oscars (which is actually — going out on a limb here — not so terrible as advertised). Now he embraces it.
“The show closes every night with that story,” Lowe says of how it figures into his live performance. “In excruciating detail. It’s a show-stopper. You wanna open big and you wanna close big. And that one does it.”
Lowe, by the way, has not seen Eileen Bowman — the San Diego actress who portrayed Snow — since that moment 30 years ago. But (spoiler alert) that could change Friday night.
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