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Rob Lowe Says Warren Beatty Had an Affair With His Girlfriend When He Was 18

He wrote about his friendship with the infamous ladies' man in his memoir.

As a teen growing up in Malibu, Rob Lowe palled around with neighbors like Emilio Estevez and Sean Penn before he began his own Hollywood ascent through commercials and television. It wasn't long before he was cast in 1993's The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and dating one of the most famous young actors of the time, Melissa Gilbert, star of Little House on the Prairie. But as he recounted in his 2015 memoir Love Life, the young actor still took his lumps in those early years, including the time a 45-year-old Warren Beatty let it drop that he had also been seeing Lowe's girlfriend—right under the younger actor's nose. Read on to find out more.

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Lowe admired "master Hollywood ladies' man" Beatty.

Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty in 1976
Richard Nairin/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In his memoir, Lowe describes looking up to Hollywood greats like Beatty, who he described as "the embodiment of what a former matinée idol could achieve: from pretty to profound," following the 1981 Oscar-winning historical drama Reds, which the older star co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in. Although Lowe noted that Beatty's legendary way with women had put even Jack Nicholson to shame and crowned him "the master Hollywood ladies' man," he was surprisingly chill when the "young, successful actress" he was dating became friends with the older actor, frequently inviting Lowe to join her on her visits to his Mulholland Drive estate. "To my stupidity, I always said no," he writes, adding that he preferred hanging on the beach in Malibu rather than traveling to "the sweatbox of the Valley."

Beatty lived up to the hype.

Warren Beatty at the Academy Awards in 1982
Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On the night Lowe finally did join his unnamed girlfriend on one of her visits, Beatty led the couple through an atmosphere of "understated glamour," past his Best Director Oscar, and to his private movie theater. "Padding around barefoot, in jeans and a crisp, white shirt, the whole scene would have made Mother Teresa want to bang him," the Brat Pack star wrote in his memoir. Eating ice cream in the actor's kitchen later, Beatty's companion for the double date (who Lowe said he "recognized as a semi-regular on WKRP in Cincinnatti") told Lowe he reminded her of a young Beatty. "It's true," the Reds director confirmed. "I started young like you and was dating an actress more famous than I was, just like you." The actor he was referring to? His Splendor in the Grass costar Natalie Wood—to whom Beatty compared Lowe's girlfriend.

"I remember thinking, there it is," Lowe wrote. "The lay down hand. The line that would turn any young actress into his concubine for life."

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Beatty slyly revealed something about himself and Lowe's girlfriend.

Rob Lowe in 1985
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The older actor continued to reflect on his past with Wood, sharing an eye-opening anecdote about her relationship with the older Frank Sinatra.

'It's funny,' he continued," Lowe recalled in his book, as reported by "'Natalie was always getting asked by Frank Sinatra to come up to his house and lay by the pool. I never paid much attention to it, but years later, just a few years before Natalie died, I asked her, 'Hey, we're both adults now, what exactly were you doing all those days at Sinatra's?'"

"'And she looked me right in the eyes and said: "Oh Warren, what do you think we were doing? We were [expletive]" Isn't that funny?' He smiled at me, shaking his head at the memory," Lowe continued.

Putting two and two together, Lowe turned to his "ashen-faced" girlfriend, who was unable to make eye contact. "And the penny dropped," he wrote.

Gilbert and Lowe dated throughout the '80s.

Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert in 1985
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Although he didn't name his then-girlfriend in the anecdote, Lowe began seeing Gilbert—who starred in the role originated by Wood in the 1981 TV remake of Splendor in the Grass—after they met on "a beautiful day late in the summer of 1981," per her 2009 memoir Prairie Girl. They went on to date for about six years, per a 2021 interview she gave to Access Hollywood.

Both stars have admitted in their respective memoirs that infidelity plagued the relationship, and during a June 1984 episode of The Tonight Show, Lowe was grilled by Joan Rivers after she spotted him at Spago with a woman other than Gilbert. He brushed the incident off as "not me at my best" and told Rivers that Gilbert was "no saint herself."

For her part, the Little House star wrote in her memoir that (like Sinatra and Wood, allegedly), the older Beatty had first approached her when she was a teen. She also wrote that during an early breakup with Lowe, it was the Heaven Can Wait star's advice to ride it out and move on if necessary the helped her get through the rough patch.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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