Rob Lowe still has the looks of a pinup poster boy at 53. The actor who continues to keep his career perennial and pumping ahead, playing roles that carry him to the highest levels in the "West Wing" to buckets of chicken wings for KFC, is never afraid of self-deprecation and he doesn't forget to stay grateful to the author who sparked his hope and hot box office receipts from the film adaptation of her book, “The Outsiders.” S.E. Hinton has built a life and her own loyal following from the pages she began writing in high school, and that book endures today as required reading on many high school English lists.

Beyond their professional connection, Rob Lowe and S.E. Hinton have much affection for each other, and the story that still touches youth today.

New life from a last train

Rob Lowe had lots of fun watching a screening of “The Outsiders” with Serena Altschul for “Sunday Morning” on CBS, praising the “handsome” Matt Dillon, and remembering that Tom Cruise had a fake tooth that came out after a rumble. Besides Lowe, Dillon, and Cruise, the film brought Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane to the forefront as stars, and each made films that reflected the culture of the day. The direction by Francis Ford Coppola didn’t go unnoticed, either. For Rob Lowe, however, the significance of his place in the story putting the “Greasers” against the “Socs” (Socials) cannot be overstated.

“I wouldn't be an actor,” insists the star, if not for the last-hope casting, “that was the last train leaving the station.” The engines have kept Rob Lowe and S.E. Hinton relevant and rolling all these decades later, and the story still has meaning because the adolescent “striving for the next chapter” of life will always find an audience.

Rob Lowe has a son in college now and still revels in the fact that pre-teen girls still yell out “Sodapop,” naming his character, to the 53-year-old dad. Susan Eloise Hinton is 68 now, and can still pick out the places where the cliques of kids in her own Tulsa high school hung out. Most of “The Outsiders” was completed in her junior year of high school, and the 40 pages typed, single-spaced, are now considered an American masterwork, but didn't earn her English credits.

She earned a D in creative writing that year. “The Outsiders” still draws enthusiastic book signings as it celebrates its 50th year, and has sold more than 10 million copies since its 1967 publication.

Feminine intuition

S.E. Hinton was instructed, more than advised, to keep her name in initials by her publisher, who could never imagine that the novel of boys’ coming-of-age would find acceptance from a female author. When the time came to commit the story to film, Rob Lowe praised that the author’s touch was more than appreciated. “He embraced us. She made us feel safe,” recalls Lowe, looking back through older eyes. She also was a buffer between the young cast, and the director with high expectations.

For her part, Hinton understands that “The Outsiders” has become something of a beginning level manual for young girls in understanding male behavior, and she confesses that she would never have the nerve to write the same words today. Rob Lowe has words of thanks for her presence and those words, “thanks for being a mom when we all needed one.” The words of “The Outsiders” still speak to the yearnings of any youthful generation.