Mark Mason has written the Bookend column in the latest issue of The Spectator. Here it is for readers of this blog.
It is 1979. You are a 15-year-old boy starring in a hit US television show. You’ve seen the crowds of screaming girls outside the gates as you arrive for work, and are therefore very excited to have received your first fan letter. You open it eagerly and begin to read: ‘Dear Mr Rob Lowe, You are a great actor. Can you please send me an autographed photo of yourself? If possible in a bathing suit or in your underwear. Sincerely, Michael LeBron. #4142214 Pelican Bay Prison.’
Anyone who thinks of Lowe as Action Man made flesh (blandly handsome, zero personality) will be pleasantly surprised by his autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. You don’t swap the Brat Pack for The West Wing without a certain amount of nous, and in this very well-written book (no ghostwriter) we learn a lot about the movie and TV biz. For example, big names in a pilot episode guarantee nothing: you can still ‘arrive like the Hindenburg’. Flagging studio audiences are given free candy so they’ll ‘cackle like hyenas, high on sugar’.
Lowe may occasionally bathe in Lake Luvvie — he wants his son to be called John, his wife wants Owen, they go for ‘Johnowen’ — but overall the book is engaging and revealing.