After I have stopped grinning, after the buzz of today has waned, here's, I think, what I will remember about Rob Lowe at Hay. Yes, the blue eyes. Of course. But it was the honesty that I didn't expect.
'I walk out and you guys laugh and I feel great, and I don't know what that's about,' he said.
I don't know either, but there was something winsome about his admitting that, straight up. It made me sit up and listen. (Okay, I was already sitting up and listening pretty closely.) It made me identify with him on some level: I was also the equivalent of the nerdy kid in school who didn't get picked for the soccer team.
He talked about how his fame gives him a sense of communicating, of being heard, of control, all of which were lacking from his childhood. He talked, too, about the freedom of being sober and how he no longer worries what other people think of him, and that freedom is what enables him to be funny.
He mentioned his love of literature and language, passed on to him by his mother; he talked too of his crafting his book. I was a little skeptical about his having written it himself, but I no longer am, and now I get to feel a kinship with him as I do with all other authors. Oh, to be in a room with him and get to chat about all of this stuff at length.
He talked, too, about the hurt he felt as a young man when he saw a star he admired throw away a lollipop he had passed on to him - the contempt it showed. I knew then that I would see a different attitude, a willingness to engage with his fans, that I haven't really seen in any of the four other West Wingers that I've met (or failed to meet) so far. I was right: he was gracious, and fun. He posed for cameras; at the book signing, he joked, he winked, he made eye contact.
And he was also realistic about what adulation often is: he knows somewhere deep inside him that that adulation can't be all about him, or who he is, or his work. Often it's objectification - young people, especially, using him, in some way, to work through their own issues. Things like that show a depth of thought that I hadn't necessarily expected to see in him.
Predictably, I also loved what he said about us West Wing fans: he said that in the end, the actors were just in it, but the show belongs to us now, that it's part of us. I think on some level that shows a special kind of humility, of being willing to give a gift and let go of it. I was suitably impressed.