After ‘The Outsiders,’ Melissa Gilbert Couldn’t ‘Ignore’ Rob Lowe’s Cheating Anymore—’My Antennae Went Up’

When Francis Ford Coppola’s big-screen adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders, came out, Rob Lowe’s life changed. He was catapulted into stardom. And, as a result, his girlfriend’s, Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert, life changed as well.

Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert during "Ghostbusters" Los Angeles Premiere at Avco Theaters in Westwood, California
Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Rob Lowe would frequently call Melissa Gilbert while filming ‘The Outsiders’

Right away, there was a lot of drama offscreen while filming The Outsiders. The movie showcased the tensions between two groups of boys from different parts of a small town: the greasers and the South Side Socs (the rich kids). Coppola took an immersive approach. And Lowe told Gilbert about everything (well, almost everything).

“From the time they arrived, Francis created tension among the actors playing the Socs and the greasers,” wrote Gilbert in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “The Socs were put up in a nice hotel and provided trailers with dressing rooms, while the others stayed in a place that was significantly more downscale and were made to change clothes in whatever public restroom was available.”

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Eventually, one of the executive producers, Gray Fredrickson, told Coppola: “Francis, you fat-f*ck pasta chef, these kids need dressing rooms!”

In addition to receiving calls about the filming environment, Lowe would also frequently call Gilbert while intoxicated with his cast mates and talk about the different hijinks they got up to, like putting bubble bath in the town’s fountain.

When Rob Lowe returned home from filming ‘The Outsiders’

Lowe was away for four months filming The Outsiders in Tulsa. When he returned, he and Gilbert took a moment to get back to the way they had been before he’d left.

“But we were really happy to see each other and be back together again,” she wrote. “I didn’t know what he did or who he did while he was gone, but it didn’t have any bearing because he was home and he was mine.”

Upon Lowe’s return, the couple was aware of the buzz surrounding The Outsiders, but they had no idea just how much the movie “would change [their] lives.”

When Melissa Gilbert’s ‘antennae went up’ to Rob Lowe’s infidelity

Even though the movie had wrapped, there was a lot of post-production work to do.

“One day a couple girls showed up at the studio to see Rob, and he was uncomfortable,” wrote Gilbert. “He stammered a surprised hello until they got the message he didn’t want to see them.”

It was during this interaction when Gilbert started to clue into how her relationship with Lowe had changed.

“My antennae went up, and I made catty comments,” she wrote. “I didn’t directly ask if he had slept with either or both of them; I didn’t want to know. It was still easy to ignore. But that would change pretty quickly.”

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When The Outsiders hit theaters, the attention Lowe started to receive from women couldn’t be ignored.

“No matter where we went, they stuffed their phone numbers into Rob’s pockets,” wrote Gilbert. “These were not girls my age with a crush on him. Grown women, including major celebrities, hit on him. They were very direct and frequently very graphic about what they wanted and were willing to do for him.”

And so the tone of the next chapter of Lowe and Gilbert’s relationship was set. The actors got engaged in 1986 but split up before getting married.