Believe it or not, Rob Lowe is a lot more than just professionally handsome.
The actor, author, activist and, yes, extremely attractive Hollywood celebrity comes to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Thursday, Oct. 22, for a speaking engagement. The downtown Modesto performing arts venue has partnered with Doctors Medical Center to bring in Lowe as part of its Breast Cancer Awareness month programming. Lowe’s grandmother and mother both died from breast cancer, and his father survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he often speaks out on cancer awareness.
Still, while his appearance is expected to touch on those experiences, the evening is billed as “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” based on his 2011 autobiography recounting his early life, rise to teen heartthrob status and journey to established actor.
“I thought it was a great idea because he’s a big star with a very interesting history. I had just listened to the audio version of his memoir,” said Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson. “It was a great book and very well narrated by him, so I knew the show would be a good one.
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“I don’t book lots of speakers, but I felt he was one that would be of interest to a wide range of patrons. Both people interested in the cancer angle, but also people who have known and liked him as an actor for the last 30 years.”
Now 51, Lowe’s career in Hollywood began while he was still in his teens. At 19 he was cast in his first feature film role with a host of other then up-and-coming actors – Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze and others – in the film adaptation of “The Outsiders.” By the mid-1980s, he was among a group of young stars dubbed the Brat Pack – including Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy – after appearing in a series of popular films such as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Oxford Blues” and “About Last Night.”
But Lowe’s golden boy image was tarnished in 1988 when he became embroiled in a sex scandal after a videotape of him surfaced with two young women – one whom was later found to be underage. In “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” Lowe credits the incident with being a catalyst to getting off drugs and alcohol. He celebrated his 25th year of sobriety earlier this year.
In 1991 Lowe also married makeup artist Sheryl Berkoff, whom he first met years earlier on a blind date. The couple have two sons, ages 22 and 19.
The actor’s career took off again in 1999 when he joined the cast of the popular political drama “The West Wing.” He was on the series for its first four seasons, then left to star in two short-lived series, “The Lyon’s Den” and “Dr. Vegas.” He landed on the critically acclaimed series “Brothers & Sisters” in 2006.
In 2010, after appearing in a series of dramas and TV movies, Lowe flexed his comedic muscles when he came on board the Amy Poehler series “Parks and Recreation” as literally the most relentlessly upbeat city manager in the world, Chris Traeger. He stayed with the series until 2014 and returned for its finale earlier this year.
Now Lowe is back in the comedy groove with “The Grinder.” He stars in the show with fellow acting veteran Fred Savage. The men play brothers – one a real lawyer (Savage) and one who just played a lawyer on TV (Lowe) – who start working together in their family law practice in Boise, Idaho. The sitcom premiered on Fox at the end of September and airs on Tuesday nights paired with another sitcom starring another supernaturally handsome actor in his 50s, John Stamos in “Grandfathered.”
Lowe said the show’s premise, of a Hollywood star returning to his Midwest roots, resonated with him. The actor grew up in Ohio before moving to Hollywood with his mother during his late teens.
“In this world of someone who has been famous a long time – and an actor who has navigated Hollywood, an actor who has family in the Midwest, an actor who has brothers – we go to my personal well all the time,” Lowe told Entertainment Weekly recently. “We may not use it exactly, but a lot of times it inspires them to go in other directions or just confirm their instinct that no, that’s not too over the top, that could absolutely happen. And I use a lot of my own stuff.”
Lowe also uses all his “own stuff” in his writing. After his best-selling autobiography “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” Lowe penned another book in 2014, “Love Life.” The memoir includes more life stories and family anecdotes from the actor’s life and was called “entertaining and admirably frank” by The Washington Post.
Last year, an excerpt from the book, published on Slate, about his eldest son Matthew heading off to college made the Internet rounds as a viral sensation for its earnestness and heartfelt emotion.
Dickerson said audiences can expect Lowe the storyteller to speak at the center this week. And, well, we already know he’ll be nice to look at.
“He is a very engaging – and handsome – speaker who is a great storyteller. He will tell stories about his life, his family and his career,” she said. “If anyone has listened to either of his books, they will agree he’s a fun guy to listen to.”