Celebrities | Pop Culture | 80s
The True Story Behind The Celebrity Sex Tape Scandal That Started It All
Rob Lowe's first sex tape involving two young women is notoriously known to be the first-ever sex tape scandal in Hollywood.
While the "Lowe's tape" itself was shocking enough to raise eyebrows, it was the fact that the young actor broke the law that set off a media firestorm.
Lowe was a rising film star in his early twenties and inadvertently earned the title in the exclusive group known as the Hollywood Brat Pack, a nickname given to young actors who starred in coming-of-age films in the 1980s.
His dashing looks helped him star in critically acclaimed movies like The Outsiders, St. Elmo's Fire, and About Last Night.
Lowe was propelled into the limelight at only 24, but he wanted to be known for more than just being an actor.
What came next for the former “bad boy” was something he would have never foreseen.
The making of a sex tape
As a political junkie, he went to Atlanta, Georgia to campaign for Democratic party frontrunner Michael Dukakis at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.
But as a young star in the '80s influenced by parties, sex, and alcohol, he couldn't dissuade himself from taking a night off for some shenanigans.
He spent the night at a bash hosted by CNN founder Ted Turner, then went to the hip Club Rio on Luckie Street with Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson.
He left the nightclub with his hands full - literally. Two young women agreed to be videotaped having sex with him in his suite at the Atlanta Hilton & Towers.
The pornographic home video first featured him having sex with 16-year-old Jan Parsons, before he moved on to have sex with 22-year-old Tara Siebert.
“I was introduced to Jan, and she introduced me to her friend Tara. They both seemed like nice enough people to me," Lowe remembered of that night.
For Lowe it was going fine and dandy until he popped into the bathroom. The girls rushed to steal his money and took the videotape, which contained a short recording that would change the actor’s life.
The release of the tapes
It was inevitable that a sex tape featuring a widely popular Brat Pack member would blow up.
By the summer of 1989, the Los Angeles Times reported that "copies of the tapes have slipped out of Atlanta and are in wide circulation around the country.”
Porn magazine editor Al Goldstein also aired a portion of the tape on his "Midnight Blue" program that aired on Manhattan's Channel J cable station.
That's when things went awry for the dashing star. He was unaware that Parsons was an underage girl at a nightclub.
Parsons's mom defended her teenage daughter and launched a civil lawsuit against Lowe for allegedly using his celebrity status to entice her daughter into making a sex tape.
Ultimately, Lowe was not prosecuted and agreed to do 20 hours of community service in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio to avoid criminal charges.
“What kind of a career does he really have (to harm)?” an executive of a Hollywood publicity firm commented on the scandal. “He is not a major star … I would think the fact that he is getting this attention will probably just make him better known to people. If it had been a gay film, it would have been a (career) killer.”
Dale Kinsella, the actor's attorney, defended the actor at the time.
"He is an extraordinarily good-looking kid. He's personable, warm and nice. You can just see how this person could attract every good and bad aspect of society."
The actor was at an all-time-low once the sex tape had been seen by millions across the U.S. He recalled that his phone stopped ringing, aside from getting calls from former co-star Jodie Foster and producer Don Simpson.
The paparazzi were camped outside his home while he drank the nights away.
“This is how I knew I was in some serious trouble: I turned on the television and I led the evening news with Tom Brokaw,” Lowe wrote in his 2011 memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, "The second story literally was Tiananmen Square.”
Contrary to popular belief at the time, Lowe's career wasn't about to bottom out, but rather was about to be rekindled into something new, and what made this transition so simple was his attitude towards it.
“I’ve learned the importance of admitting when you have made a mistake, when you have been wrong or made bad judgments,” he said. “And I learned that you must accept the consequences of your actions. That’s part of being the man that I want to be.”
Despite all the negative criticism, Lowe has admitted that the sex tape scandal was the "greatest thing that ever happened" to him.
Of course, once the scandal broke it wasn't smooth sailing for the up-and-coming actor, but he did become one of the most talked-about celebrities in the '80s and early '90s.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he said, "What it ends up doing is accelerating my alcohol [addiction] to where I finally get sober. I have been able to have the rest of my life that I'm so blessed with, which is now 20 years of sobriety.”
Now, the pornographic home video recording from the ‘80s is considered to be one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes.
He’s also become the trailblazer for other celebrities to gain notoriety, such as former celebrity couples Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and Kim Kardashian and Ray J.