Long before Paris Hilton, Pam and Tommy, and Kim Kardashian, Rob Lowe was involved with a sex tape scandal of his own. In 1988, the then-24-year-old Brat Packer filmed his hook-up with 16-year-old Jan Parsons and her 22-year-old female friend; the pair took home the footage, which was made public the following year when Parsons’ estranged mother filed a civil suit against the actor.
The encounter took place in Georgia — just before the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, which Lowe was attending in support of presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
Despite Parsons’ age, it was not considered illegal because the state’s age of consent at the time was 14. Lowe, who denied seducing the teen and claimed to have not known her actual age, settled the case and agreed to perform community service.
Lowe’s career suffered significant blowback at the time, though he went on to rehabilitate his image thanks to shows like The West Wing and Parks and Recreation.
Now, some 30 years after the racy footage — which also included a second tryst with a model and Lowe’s male friend — leaked, the 55-year-old actor is calling it “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Got me sober, sober got me married,” he explained in an interview with Jess Cagle for Sirius XM.
“I’ve been married 29 years and I have two great sons. I don’t think any of that happens without going through that scandal.”
Lowe also joked that he “invented” the sex tape, adding, “The problem was, I didn’t make any money off of it like everybody does. I was too stupid.”
He also spoke of the importance of being transparent about his past — but some critics say he overstepped the mark, and accused him of making light about an incident involving a teen girl.
@RobLowe reflects on the infamous #scandal that changed his life: 'It got me sober'. Very glad you are #sober . Very sad you don’t wish to #apologize to the 16 year old #girl https://t.co/zrvCzZxnzi via @USATODAY— Heather McGowan (@heathermcgowan) October 23, 2019
She was underage if Im not mistaken. So creepy. He is cringeworthy and disgusting.— Harrison (@Harrison588) October 23, 2019
Also The Talk just showed a clip of Rob Lowe talking about his "sex tape scandal" as the best thing to happen to him ... and failed to show part where he says his regret is not making money off it. HE WAS 24. SHE WAS 16. pic.twitter.com/gATchTHSl6— Laura Winn (@SacThriftChick) October 23, 2019
Rob Lowe... really?? A sex tape with an underage teen is the best thing to ever happen to you?? https://t.co/vOs5uJ4jTy— Perez Hilton (@PerezHilton) October 23, 2019
I think a lot about how Rob Lowe was fortunate that this all came out before MeToo existed. https://t.co/dBZrWd3SPQ— Tess Malone (@temalone) October 23, 2019
The fact that Rob Lowe's regret isn't that he had sex with a 16 year old is repulsive. https://t.co/pAd39131oT— Mya Everis (@EverisMya) October 22, 2019
imagine being Rob Lowe, seeing the MeToo movement play out all around you and thinking, "this is my moment" https://t.co/Lrn68tzDJH— 🏴ⒶWKS 🏴☠️ 😷☂️ (@neuralculture) October 22, 2019
And he regrets not making money off it!— Mockingbird (@amockingbird) October 22, 2019
Lowe’s interview comes three years after comedians joked about his sex tape scandal and Parsons’s age during his 2016 Comedy Central roast.
“Rob Lowe defies age … restrictions,” comedian Nikki Glaser quipped. “You look like you are sculpted. You put the statue in statutory rape.”
“I had such a crush on Rob as a little girl,” she added. “If only I knew that’s when I would have had my best shot.”
“Rob Lowe. Or as the girls in the sex tape said, ‘Rob, no,’” joked roaster Jeffrey Ross.