Rob Lowe: Brat Pack to Backpacks


Many young stars were rising in Hollywood during the 1980s. It was one of the most critical decades in movie production due to its switch from focusing on films directed at adults to tween and teen flicks.

The ’80s was an excellent decade for young movie fans. However, some movie stars, including Rob Lowe, had less fun, especially after journalist David Blum labeled them “The Brat Pack” in 1985.

Here’s how Rob Lowe went from being a Brat Packer to being a family man and changed how he was perceived in Hollywood.

The Humble Origins of the Lowes

The term “Hollywood Icon” didn’t always apply to Rob Lowe.

He was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 17, 1964, but spent most of his childhood living in Dayton, Ohio.

Related: The Brat Pack: Dissension in the Ranks

His dad was a lawyer, and his mom was a teacher.

When he was still a baby, he lost the ability to hear in one ear due to contracting the mumps, but that has never slowed him down.

Eventually, his younger brother, Chad Lowe, was born, and the family was seemingly complete.

Brothers Toast  - 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 4 Episode 15

Unfortunately, Rob was only four, and Chad was just an infant when the family unit fell apart.

Their parents divorced, and the boys stayed primarily with their mother.

She eventually found a new love interest.

Meanwhile, Rob was bitten by the acting bug at age 10, and young Chad was also interested in performing.

The two didn’t have many opportunities to act in Dayton, but after their mom remarried, they all relocated to Malibu, California.

Eventually, the boys started appearing on TV shows and in movies.

Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks in His Cool Shades

Rob started on the short-lived TV show A New Kind of Family (1979-1980) starring Eileen Brennan.

He appeared in all 11 series episodes.

It’s hard to say which brother had the better start on TV because Chad’s first series, Spencer (1984-1985), lasted for 14 episodes. However, he left the series halfway through and was replaced by Ross Harris.

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What is certain is that three years after A New Kind of Family ended, Rob got the first of several prominent roles playing Sodapop in the film The Outsiders (1983).

Meanwhile, Chad appeared in several movies before landing one of the roles for which he became most famous, that of Jesse McKenna on the series Life Goes On with Kellie Martin, who has since appeared in several Hallmark Mystery movies.

Life Goes On ran from 1989 to 1993, but Chad first appeared as a regular on it beginning in 1991.

St. Elmo's Fire Cast Shot From Brats

Rob Lowe Made a Big Hollywood Splash

The Outsiders, which also starred Patrick Swayze, later of Roadhouse, hit theaters, and Rob and his costars became instant hits.

After The Outsiders, he appeared in several films in quick succession, including Class (1983), Oxford Blues (1984), and St. Elmo’s Fire (1985).

Thanks to those, Rob didn’t take long to become a teen idol.

St Elmo’s Fire, in particular, helped truly skyrocket him to stardom, along with his costars.

It also led to his induction into one of the most iconic groups in Hollywood history, the Brat Pack.

Owen Takes Over the 126 - 9-1-1: Lone Star

When St. Elmo’s Fire premiered, I was only four years old, so I was too young to idolize Rob Lowe.

Instead, in the early 1990s, I became enamored with his brother Chad’s work on Life Goes On.

Nevertheless, I recall teens nationwide idolizing Rob for years and his image gracing teen magazine covers everywhere.

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Depending on their genders and sexual preferences, it seemed like every teen wanted to be Rob Lowe or date him, especially by the mid to late 1980s.

His good looks and charm made him famous quickly and kept his teen idol status firmly cemented, but there was another factor.

That factor was his unwilling membership in the Brat Pack.

Emilio Estevez for Disney+

The Initial Impact of the Brat Pack Label on Rob Lowe

The year was 1985, and reporter David Blum was keen to write a New York Magazine article, supposedly about Rob’s fellow The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire actor, Emilio Estevez.

Estevez agreed to the interview and invited Blum to the Hard Rock Cafe with himself, Rob Lowe, and Judd Nelson.

Nelson disliked Blum from the start and thought nothing good could come of the evening.

He had reason to be suspicious because Blum wrote about several stars, including many not present, in that article.

Blum also scathingly reviewed Nelson’s St. Elmo’s Fire performance and called the three men and others not present “The Brat Pack,” a nickname that has stuck with many of them ever since.

Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks Grins

Despite the overwhelmingly negative spin of Blum’s article, it didn’t paint Rob in the worst light.

“The most beautiful face,” as Blum called him when comparing him to the rest of Blum’s appointed Brat Pack members, left the bar shortly after midnight to go home to his girlfriend.

Although Blum did mention the men tossing back drinks and ogling young women, that was hardly the image of a brat but rather more of a young Hollywood hunk blowing off steam who knew when to call it a night.

Related: 21 Sexy Shirtless Men of TV

Yet, the nickname did affect him and everyone else mentioned in the article because the public latched onto it almost immediately.

As one of the so-called brats, Rob suddenly found himself a member of a club he didn’t ask to join.

He also found he was being encouraged to distance himself from his fellow Brat Packers, both those mentioned in the article and those added to the list by the public later.

Chris Traeger is Literally Crying - Parks and Recreation

Rob Lowe and the Sex Tape Scandal Recovery

Despite avoiding the worst of the negative impact of the “Brat Pack” label for a few years, Rob Lowe suddenly found himself in the middle of a sex tape scandal in 1988.

Back when VHS tapes were still a thing, it was typical for consenting adults to videotape their sexual encounters.

The issue Rob had was that he was in Atlanta, Georgia, one evening and supposedly thought he was taking two consenting adult women back to his hotel room for a fun time.

Unfortunately for him, like a plot out of Law & Order: SVU, one turned out to be underage. Then, they both conspired to take the tape from his room and later leak it to the media.

Upon finding out one of the girls was underage, Rob spoke to the girl’s parents and reached a settlement agreement that kept him out of jail.

Chris Traeger Thinks Pawnee is Literally the Greatest Town - Parks and Recreation

In a 2019 People interview and several others over the years, Rob has opened up about that sex tape scandal.

Although the scandal was far from enjoyable, he has always maintained that he is glad it happened.

It caused him to take a hard look at his life, which included drug use at the time.

Related: The Brat Pack: Dissension in the Ranks

By 1990, within two years of the incident, he had gotten clean and sober.

As of 2024, he remains sober and is even the face of healthy living in commercials for the Atkins dieting plan.

Owen Strand Looking Serious - 9-1-1: Lone Star

His transformation from an indulgent young adult to a sober actor taking his life seriously paid off.

He married Sheryl Berkoff in 1991.

They had a son, Matthew, in 1993 and another, John Owen, in 1995.

Within a few more years, he had gone from Brat Pack to loading backpacks and packing school lunches for his kids.

To this day, he remains a devoted family man.

Owen Saves a Baby From a Tree - 9-1-1: Lone Star

Rob Lowe’s More Recent Professional Successes

In a weird way, the need to focus on getting his life together and the switch over to family life probably helped him handle the Brat Pack stigma better than some of his fellow actors from our favorite 1980s flicks, like Andrew McCarthy, who struggled with the label for years.

In a trailer for the 2024 Brats documentary, the two are seen reminiscing about their Brat Pack days, and Rob is seen giggling about what was a very stressful time for many of them.

Related: The Brat Pack Movie Explosion of the 1980s

It also didn’t hurt that Rob appeared in another wildly popular movie in 1992, Wayne’s World, which seemed to revitalize his career quickly.

Since then, he has remained a busy actor, racking up over 100 on-screen credits.

Owen Strand Examines Himself in the Mirror - 9-1-1: Lone Star

Rob’s portrayal of Sam Seaborn on The West Wing (1999-2006) opposite Martin Sheen, dad of fellow Brat Packer Emilio Estevez, garnered him a whole new group of fans, myself included.

Beginning in 2006, he also had long back-to-back stints on Brothers & Sisters and Parks & Recreation. The latter ended in 2015.

Today, he is known for playing Owen Strand on 9-1-1: Lonestar, the fifth season of which will begin airing in the fall of 2024.

Chad Lowe also guest-starred on the show alongside his brother.

Aside from that, Rob recently hosted the first season of the game show The Floor, which Fox has renewed for two more seasons.

Rob Lowe Hosts The Floor - Tall

From Brat Pack to backpacks and beyond, he has proven he has both true character and Hollywood staying power.

Do you have a favorite Rob Lowe role from his Brat Pack days?

What do you think about how he handled the Brat Pack moniker?

Comment below and tell us all about it.

We’d love your thoughts on one of Hollywood’s eternally hot hunks.

Jessica Kosinski is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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