What Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert Did Upon Turning 18 That Signaled They ‘Were Moving Into the Fast Lane’

A New Kind of Family‘s Rob Lowe and Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert started dating when they were 17. They were one of Hollywood’s hottest young couples in the ’80s. At the beginning of their relationship, both Lowe and Gilbert were pretty innocent. They were living at home and still considered child actors. Then, they turned 18 and everything changed.

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

Rob Lowe starred in ‘The Outsiders’

Around when Lowe turned 18, his career took off. He was cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s big-screen adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders, and became a star. When the movie came out, Lowe couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. And, according to Gilbert, he also couldn’t go anywhere without being hit on.

“No matter where we went, they stuffed their phone numbers into Rob’s pockets,” wrote Gilbert in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “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.”

Melissa Gilbert turned 18 and moved out of her mother’s house (14 feet away)

While Lowe was experiencing new heights of fame, Gilbert was experiencing new heights of freedom. When she turned 18, she moved out of her childhood bedroom into her mother’s guest house.

“That seemed like a big jump,” she wrote.

Gilbert also suddenly came into the money she’d been earning as a child star.

Magazines reported my salary at thirty thousand dollars per episode,” she wrote. “Despite my ignorance of the business side of my career, I knew that over twenty-two episodes (a full season), that added up to a pretty good sum of money.”

So, upon her 18th birthday, Gilbert was suddenly introduced to a new luxurious lifestyle.

How Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe celebrated turning 18 and entering ‘the fast lane’

Gilbert and Lowe celebrated their newfound fame and freedom by buying cars. Lowe traded his beat-up Mazda 626 for a new Mustang GT.

“It was the first big thing he bought himself,” wrote Gilbert.

And the Little House actor bought herself a “souped-up convertible Toyota Celica at a charity auction.”

Rob Lowe In 'Oxford Blues'
Rob Lowe In ‘Oxford Blues’ | MGM-UA/Getty Images

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“Rob and I couldn’t have been happier,” wrote Gilbert. “We thought those silly cars changed our lives. We did drive many miles to see each other between Encino and Point Dume, but those cars were symbolic of a change that was taking place whether or not we knew it or liked it. We were moving into the fast lane.”

It was a new chapter for Lowe and Gilbert.

“We were nervous,” she wrote. “We were giddy, too. Having money, freedom, and fame was new to both of us. It was like a fast, powerful car itself, and we had to learn how to handle it.”