Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rob Lowe: Playboy or Family Man?

Barely a week goes by without some new Hollywood scandal breaking in the lascivious news media – most recently, rape allegations against X-Men director Bryan Singer and other showbiz power players. Far less often does one hear about a Hollywood name who has left scandal behind and carved out a life of stability and maturity.

By his early 20s, Rob Lowe already had a drinking problem and career-damaging sex tape   under his belt, so to speak (this was before sex tapes were career-building). But rehab and marriage set him on the right track. “When I changed my life, when I sobered up, when I saw that show business couldn’t fill that place that was empty, those buried feelings rose, and having found the love of the right woman, I started a family of my own. The best chapter of my life began,” he writes in his autobiography, the double entendre-titled Love Life.

As celebrity authors often do, he has been making the media rounds promoting that new book. But as celebrity authors usually don’t, Lowe has been taking some traditionalist positions that set him apart from the go-along-to-get-along Hollywood crowd, and that mark him as a man of more character than the ridiculously handsome actor is usually given credit for.

In an interview with Fox411, for example, Lowe, now 50, took pride in his marriage of 23 years, which is “like the equivalent of dog years” in divorce-littered Hollywood. He said that “nobody thought it would last,” not least because of his prior reputation, but he and his wife Sheryl were committed to making it work:

I think when your relationship starts to become imperfect there's a tendency to go, “Oh my relationship is imperfect. I need to start looking for the exits.” It's about how do you live and work through the shortcomings because anyone can be together when it's great.

The interviewer continued, “You sort of have an old-fashioned view of marriage.” Lowe agreed: “I do, I guess. I believe in ceremony. I think ceremony is important, pomp and circumstance, tradition. I’m into those things.” Admitting to holding a traditional view of marriage might not seem controversial, but look at the bombs of contempt lobbed at actress Kirsten Dunst for saying something similarly politically incorrect recently. Lowe has avoided such condemnation only because the PC police are less tolerant of a woman like Dunst “betraying” feminism.

As for the importance of fatherhood (he has two sons, now 18 and 20), “It's been the work of my life, and I think it should be the work of any parent’s life. My favorite times are times spent with them.” Lowe made the decision early on to distance his boys from the entertainment capital and paparazzi. “I moved my kids out of Los Angeles, immediately. I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for 20 years, almost. I’ve had my picture taken there three times.”

While coaching one son’s championship basketball team, he ran into opposition for his competitiveness, which oddly rubbed some the wrong way: “The parents didn’t like my coaching style,” Lowe told the Fox411 interviewer. “[T]he kids and I loved each other. But it was pushups if you messed up, laps if you weren’t paying attention, subbed out of a game immediately if you weren’t living up to your potential. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was my proclivity for keeping score.”

The interviewer asked, “Does it drive you nuts, the whole ‘everyone’s a winner’ mentality?” “Absolutely,” answered Lowe. “Equality” is a buzzword these days, but Lowe is no fan of the equality of results, of downplaying exceptionalism and reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator:

I said, “It'd be nice to have a little awards ceremony for the kids.” The school said “No, then we’d have to do that for everybody.” I bought trophies for the kids myself. The school found out about it and said, “You have to buy trophies for the losing teams as well.” I think it’s all emblematic of the same thing. Winners are bad. People shouldn't keep score. It’s wrong to strive to be exceptional. I don’t get it.”

Lowe goes his own independent way even when he votes. Once a Democrat activist, now “I’m about the individual, not the party.”

He did spark a little controversy in a New York Times interview when he was asked, “Do you feel as if you had to wait out your good looks to get good roles?” Lowe responded,

There’s this unbelievable bias and prejudice against quote-unquote good-looking people, that they can’t be in pain or they can’t have rough lives or be deep or interesting. They can’t be any of the things that you long to play as an actor. I’m getting to play those parts now and loving it.

This provoked commenters to come down hard on Lowe for his supposed lack of perspective. But he didn’t say that his looks made life difficult, or that prejudice against the gorgeous is a serious problem; only that, as an actor or actress, being strikingly attractive can limit you to playing less interesting characters:

[A]ll I was getting offered was good-looking guys who take their shirts off on page 27 of every script. I’ve been told, as I’m sure others have been countless times, that the way I look precludes me from playing a cop or a doctor or a regular guy. “A PTA father would never look like that!” Meanwhile I am a PTA father…

And that family man is the role that Lowe, once Hollywood’s poster boy for scandal, seems to have settled into most happily and successfully.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 4/23/14)