Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor

At the height of his career, actor Rob Lowe made a videotape of himself having sex with a teenage girl and a young woman he met at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Lowe’s career suffered, but only temporarily, after the tape was made public.

Summary of Event

On Saturday, July 16, 1988, Rob Lowe, a successful and popular motion-picture actor, arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, to attend the Democratic National Convention. He was part of a delegation of three dozen people from the entertainment industry invited by California assemblyman Tom Hayden to help the Michael Dukakis Presidential campaigns, U.S.;1988
Presidential campaigns, U.S.;Michael Dukakis[Dukakis] presidential campaign. While most of the delegates were producers and directors, the most visible were actors Lowe, Judd Nelson, Alec Baldwin, Charlie Sheen, and Ally Sheedy. [kw]Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor (July 18, 1988)
[kw]Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor, Actor Rob (July 18, 1988)
[kw]Sex with a Minor, Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His (July 18, 1988)
Lowe, Rob
Parsons, Jan
Siebert, Tara
Video evidence;and Rob Lowe[Lowe]
Lowe, Rob
Parsons, Jan
Siebert, Tara
Video evidence;and Rob Lowe[Lowe]
[g]United States;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Sex crimes;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Communications and media;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Drugs;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Public morals;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Popular culture;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
[c]Hollywood;July 18, 1988: Actor Rob Lowe Videotapes His Sexual Encounter with a Minor[02360]
Slaton, Lewis

Then at the height of his acting career, Lowe was a member of the so-called brat pack—a group of young actors including Estevez, Emilio Emilio Estevez, Nelson, Judd Judd Nelson, and Moore, Demi Demi Moore—who appeared together in films. He was best known for his roles in St. Elmo’s Fire, The Outsiders, and About Last Night, among others. Off camera, Lowe also was involved with drugs, alcohol, and heavy partying.

Rob Lowe in 1988.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

On Sunday, July 17, Lowe went to Club Rio, a hip rock club that catered to a diverse crowd. Part of Atlanta’s underground scene, the club brought well-known underground rock acts to its stage. Also in attendance that evening were sixteen-year-old Jan Parsons and twenty-five-year-old Tara Siebert, coworkers at SuperHair, a salon that catered to the cutting edge and the underground scene. In addition to being coworkers, the two were lovers. Even though Club Rio was a twenty-one-and-over club, Parsons nevertheless was admitted.

The club was packed that evening. Lowe was in attendance with friends, including actors Justine Bateman and Baldwin. Drinking and drugs were prevalent, not uncommon at Club Rio. The actors were congregated in the VIP room. Susan Sullivan, the club’s publicity director, informed Parsons and Siebert that Lowe was among the celebrity guests partying in the VIP room. Parsons was excited to meet him, so Sullivan arranged for them to gain entry into the VIP room.

Parsons and Siebert were introduced to an intoxicated Lowe. They three left the club in a taxicab during the early morning hours of July 18 and went to Lowe’s room at the Atlanta Hilton and Towers. It was in his hotel room that Lowe filmed himself having sex with the two young women. After Lowe passed out, Parsons and Siebert took two hundred dollars from his wallet, grabbed a bottle of pills, and then left with the videotape. In the days that followed they told their friends about the sexual encounter and played the videotape at private parties. Within a day, copies of the tape were circulated and its content was the subject of conversation at parties in the underground scene.

Consequently, Parsons’s brother, Ashley Parsons, found a copy of the tape in his sister’s bedroom, watched it, and promptly told their mother, Lena Parsons. News of the tape reached the media after Lena Parsons filed a personal-injury lawsuit against Lowe in August, 1989. In the lawsuit, Lena Parsons’s alleged that she suffered emotional stress upon seeing Lowe seduce her daughter, a minor. A brief excerpt of the tape aired on WAGA-TV shortly after the lawsuit was made public. One day later, WAGA was offered ten thousand dollars for the tape by a nationally syndicated television show. The airing of the tape on WAGA brought print and broadcast media to Atlanta, and stories were carried in a wide range of publications. Lowe became the punch line for several late-night talk-show hosts. In Atlanta, reporters staked out Club Rio and Jan Parsons’s home and school.

In no time the tryst became public. However, the taped scene with Parsons and Siebert was not included on some circulated copies. Instead, many of the copies had a scene recorded earlier in Paris, France, and was on Lowe’s original tape. This scene showed Lowe and a male friend having sex with a woman. Many viewers had the impression that this scene was the one made in Atlanta with Parsons and Siebert. In truth, few people actually saw that portion of the tape.

In July, 1989, Judge G. Ernest Tidwell, dismissed portions of Lena Parsons’s personal-injury civil lawsuit, claiming that under Georgia law, the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the defendant intentionally inflicted emotional distress on a minor. Lowe eventually arranged a plea deal with the Fulton County district attorney on the sexual misconduct charge and performed twenty hours of community service. He also made an out-of-court settlement with Lena Parsons. Shortly thereafter, he entered rehabilitation for alcohol, drug, and sex addiction in Phoenix, Arizona.


A twenty-minute segment of the first portion of the videotape that became commercially available (the scene filmed in Paris) transformed into the first so-called celebrity sex tape. Other actors and musicians have since been caught up in their own sex-tape controversies.

Lewis Slaton, Fulton County district attorney, investigated the circumstances of the making of the tape and indicated that if charges were filed against Lowe (for the sexual exploitation of a minor), the young actor could receive a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Lewis faced severe criticism when it was revealed he was given a copy of the videotape as early as August, 1988, but had taken no action. He had made several conflicting statements about the day his office received the tape and finally admitted that he indeed received the tape in August, 1988, but decided to hold it; he declined to say why. Media reports alleged that Lewis, a Democrat, had a political reason for holding the tape: to prevent a criminal investigation into behavior by a Democratic National Convention delegate—Lowe—prior to the national election, which would have hurt the Dukakis campaign.

Lowe refused to be interviewed after the incident. His publicists worked hard to mend the damage, but his public image was tarnished, for a time. The actor continued to have problems with alcohol and drugs. While he continued to work as well, he was no longer an A-list star. He was dropped as a subject in several teenage film magazines, on whose covers he had regularly appeared. In 1991, he married makeup artist Sheryl Berkoff. The 1992 film Wayne’s World is considered his comeback as an actor. In 1994 he landed a significant role in the Stephen King film The Stand. He also appeared in the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and in the television series The West Wing and Brothers and Sisters. As part of his addiction recovery, and in an attempt to confront the scandal, he addressed his behaviors during two appearances on Saturday Night Live, where he mocked himself. Lowe, Rob
Parsons, Jan
Siebert, Tara
Video evidence;and Rob Lowe[Lowe]

Further Reading

  • Carter, Bill. Details, May, 2004. A thorough, detailed biographical magazine article on Rob Lowe’s life from childhood, to his early years of acting, to later accomplishments as an actor.
  • DePaulo, Lisa. “Lowe Down and Dirty.” George, September, 1999. Magazine article about Rob Lowe. The sex-tape scandal is mentioned prominently.
  • Parish, James Robert. Hollywood Bad Boys: Loud, Fast, and Out of Control. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2002. A revealing collection of biographies of Hollywood male celebrities, including Rob Lowe, who are known for extremes of behavior.
  • _______. The Hollywood Book of Scandals: The Shocking, Often Disgraceful Deeds and Affairs of More than One Hundred American Movie and TV Idols. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Includes the chapter “Rob Lowe: Surviving His Candid Camera Escapade,” which explores the sex-tape scandal and the scandal’s aftermath.
  • Sager, Mike. “Rob Lowe’s Girl Trouble.” Rolling Stone, August 24, 1989. A popular-magazine article that covers the sex-tape case. Gives background on Parsons and Siebert and provides an overview of the case as it was happening at the time.

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