weather icon Clear

Some of Rob Lowe’s best ‘Stories’ lead back to Las Vegas

Updated April 11, 2019 - 2:12 pm

The way Rob Lowe’s one-man show is being talked about as his first time performing in Las Vegas, it’s as though everyone has forgotten about his roles in the 1984 movie “Oxford Blues” and the CBS series “Dr. Vegas.”

“By the way, they forgot about those things the minute they came out,” the actor jokes.

The hits and misses of his four-decade Hollywood career form the backbone of “Stories I Only Tell My Friends: Live,” which Lowe will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Planet Hollywood Resort.

Old Vegas memories

Following his big-screen debut the year before as Sodapop Curtis in “The Outsiders,” “Oxford Blues” marked Lowe’s first film as a leading man. His Nick, a valet parker at the Dunes, sleeps with an older guest and is rewarded with a sports car and enough cash to follow his dream of enrolling at Oxford and joining the rowing team to win the heart of one Lady Victoria Wingate.

This was the sort of logic that really only made sense in the ’80s.

“I do remember so much about Old Vegas,” Lowe says of filming the movie’s opening scenes here. “I don’t think one casino in that movie exists anymore. I actually feel really fortunate that I was able to experience that era of Vegas before it was gone forever.”

‘The right choice’

Twenty years later, Lowe had left “The West Wing” and was torn between two new medical dramas. One was on CBS, which was riding high thanks to “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Survivor,” all of which were in the top 10. The other was on ABC, which was dying a slow ratings death.

Lowe chose the perceived stability of CBS and the lead role as a casino physician in “Dr. Vegas.” It barely lasted a month in the fall of 2004. The role on that ABC drama, “Grey’s Anatomy,” ultimately went to Patrick Dempsey.

“If you can’t embrace your mistakes, it’s going to be a long, painful life,” Lowe says of the decision.

“In all seriousness, it was a huge financial mistake, but I’m not at all sure it was a creative mistake or a lifestyle mistake — at all,” he reasons. Being locked into that role — Dempsey left the series in 2015 after 11 seasons — would have prevented him from taking on one of the highlights of his career. “Removing ‘Parks and Rec’ from my filmography is not worth whatever amount of money in residuals I would still be making from playing ‘The Handsome Doctor.’ ”

“I use it as a big punch line, and people love it in the show. And it is a good story,” Lowe continues. “But I really remember when ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ came out, and they started calling that character ‘McDreamy.’ I was like, ‘Mm hmm, yep, OK. I made the right choice.’ ”

A different kind of doctor

One of Lowe’s proudest — and strangest — moments as an actor came in another Las Vegas-based project. His flight was landing at McCarran for a weekend getaway when he received a text that director Steven Soderbergh wanted him for a role in “Behind the Candelabra.”

Lowe had been following the development of the 2013 HBO movie, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his much younger lover, Scott Thorson, just as a fan of Soderbergh. Once he was hired to portray plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, Lowe worked with the film’s makeup and hair departments to develop the character’s bizarre, pulled-tight look that was part latter-day Michael Jackson, part every California-based “Real Housewife” thrown into a blender.

“Will I be able to close my eyes?” Liberace asks after his face-lift. “Not entirely,” Startz cautions. “But this way you’ll always be able to see people’s expressions when they see how fabulous you look.”

Lowe had long been attracted to misfits and oddballs. He grew up watching the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” and would perform bits for his parents the next morning. He won his middle school talent competition by performing Dan Aykroyd’s Bass-O-Matic sketch.

“Then,” he says, “I got sucked into the leading man vortex.”

With the passage of time, though, he’s been able to drag his inner character actor out of storage.

“I love when I get to do true character work,” Lowe reveals. “When you look at ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ that’s me in ecstasy. That’s the ultimate of the ultimate for me.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)