Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rob Lowe: Born of Trenton



TRENTON -- The movies and TV shows that made and kept him famous -- "The Outsiders" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and "The West Wing" and "Parks and Rec" and "Californication" -- never would have come to life had Rob Lowe's great-great-great-great-great grandfather killed George Washington here in Trenton like he was paid to do.

"You mean to tell me my five-times great-grandfather was trying to stick it to George Washington?"

Indeed, Rob, and other quotes and emotional details like that came to life in the recent episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" as the blue-eyed Ohioan learned how the patriarch of his mother's side stitched himself into the fabric of American history. It's a story that dates back to 1754 in Furstenburg, Germany, where Lowe's six-times great-grandparents gave birth to the youngest of their eight children, Johannes Christoph Oeste.

Many years and thousands of miles later in Lima, Ohio, Johannes Christoph Oeste was known as John Christopher East. He went from being a piece of meat outsourced by Germany to the Brits to kill George and his troops in Trenton to being an unsung hero who helped fund Washington's victory over the Red Coats; from being a Hessian prisoner of war who was vanquished to Newtown, Bucks County, where the old Newtowner women cursed his existence, to being a lost twenty-something German who chose to build a new life in Ohio based on the American ideals of freedom. It's a superb piece of storytelling with so many twists and turns, and 236 years later it left Lowe on the brink of tears as he read a letter inviting him to join the "National Society, Sons of the American Revolution."

Lowe traveled far and wide on NBC's dime to untangle fact from fiction. His interview inside the church where Johannes Christoph Oeste was baptized in 1754 -- "where it all began," Lowe said in a choked-up voice -- was one of the highlights of the episode, as was the segment filmed inside Trenton's Old Barracks.

Here is story of Rob Lowe's bond with Trenton: