Rob Lowe admits he hasn’t spent much time in Houston. It’s not like it’s Pawnee, Indiana. None of Lowe’s iconic characters — and there seems to be several lifetimes of them, from The Outsiders to The West Wing to Parks and Recreation — have called Texas home. But Lowe still found himself closely watching Houstonians’ response to the utter devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey.
“It was so sad and shocking to see,” Lowe tells PaperCity over the phone in a one-on-one interview. “The other side of it, it was so inspiring to see how everybody came together — an armada of mashup boats from all over the country that helped rescue people. Really quite moving and inspiring to see.”
Lowe, a devoted, longtime Los Angeles Dodgers fans (he’s not one of those celebrity bandwagon fans hopping on now that they’ve made the World Series), also professes to be scared of the Houston Astros. “First of all, for the record, I’m terrified of your Astros,” Lowe says. “I’m very much hoping not to see the Astros at Dodger Stadium.”
Now, Lowe is in Houston, for what he guesses is only the third or fourth time ever, on a day that the Astros unexpectedly face playoff elimination. But Lowe isn’t here for baseball. He is on a much more serious mission, one that’s been a driving force in a life that likely seems beyond charmed to most people. Lowe is in town to talk about his battle with addiction and his recovery as the featured speaker for The Council on Recovery‘s Fall Luncheon at the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel.
“Recovery and being in that world is probably the most important thing in my life because without being in recovery, I probably don’t have anything else in my life,” the 53-year-old uber-recognizable actor says.
Twenty seven years sober now, Lowe can jokingly note that he’s “probably the only sober person with a $100,000 wine cellar.” He loves to entertain and he can watch his friends drink great wines without partaking himself.
But it took Lowe a long time to get here — and he knows how vital the services are that The Council — which has been helping people fighting addiction since 1946 — provides in Houston. “I, for one, couldn’t do it (on my own),” Lowe says. “I really needed structure and invaluable support. In many ways, it’s giving back to the kind of people who allowed me to have success.”
In some ways, Lowe is enjoying arguably his most personal success in his fourth decade in show business. He’s done a one-man show on stage that gets just as personal as his two books. (You have to hear the story about his wife regularly staying up till 4 am, watching Family Feud, playing complete havoc with his schedule — I’d love to tell you about it, but Lowe’s only telling that story on stage.) He did a TV show with his sons — 23-year-old Matthew and 21-year-old John Owen — dubbed The Lowe Files that has the three of them examining the supernatural, including chasing Bigfoot.
One of the cool things about talking to Rob Lowe (besides the fact that Chris Traeger is on the phone) is how beyond dad pumped he comes across when the subject turns to his sons and their show.
“It is sort of a dream come true,” Lowe says. “I think every parent would love to work with their kids on something they enjoy. And can shine a great light on their kids. I’m proud of them. They’re not professional actors. Matthew is in law school. John Owen is a senior at Stanford — it looks like he’ll enter the business, but he hasn’t yet.
“They were so funny and charming on the show, and just genuine and authentic. I was really proud of them.”
Rob Lowe’s Unusual Gift
It’s a good time to be Rob Lowe. But it always seemed like a great time to be Rob Lowe. He burst onto the Hollywood scene in something of a magical way, part of the Brat Pack of actors that appeared poised to rule the town for decades — and slurp up every wonderful minute of it. But looks can be deceiving. Sometimes the handsome guys who seem most high on life itself are the ones having the most trouble with it.
“One of the great things I’ve learned through this is never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides,” Lowe says. “Someone may look high on life, but you never know what’s going on inside.”
Looking back, Lowe calls his addiction and his alcoholism “a gift.” He knows that sounds twisted to many, but it’s his truth. “A lot of the common characteristics that alcoholics and addicts have can also be their strengths,” Lowe says. “I find that people who have this are often very, very smart. Part of their personality has a certain charisma to it. Very emotional. Can latch onto something in such a deep and passionate way.
“And they’re usually unbelievably sensitive. Those are really, really great qualities to have if channeled the right way.”
Now, Lowe finds himself talking about addiction almost every day. People will come up to him after his show, or stop him on the street (he’s not hard to recognize), and talk about their struggles with addiction or their brother’s, or father’s or mother’s struggles — and Lowe will share some of his experiences. He’ll tell more stories today in downtown Houston, just blocks from where the Astros will play Game 6 later, mere miles from the very worst of the flooding.
Rob Lowe doesn’t know everything this city’s been through, but he does know something about recovery.
“Sometimes out of the darkest tragedy is a real opportunity for growth and magic to happen,” Lowe says.
Many well-known actors come across as rushed (and sometimes annoyed) in these type of interviews. Lowe seems eager to share, even though the call’s not about promoting any of his own projects. He’s part of a community of addicts — and he takes that seriously. This is what you do — reach out and try and help someone if you can.
Turns out, there’s some Houston in Rob Lowe after all.
Rob Lowe spoke at The Council on Recovery’s Fall Luncheon as part of the Waggoners Foundation Speakers Series. For more information on The Council and its programs, click here.