James Lipton, Interviewer Who Let Stars Shine, Dies at 93


James Lipton, who plumbed the dramatic arts by way of perceptive, principally admiring interviews with superstar actors as host of the Bravo tv collection “Inside the Actors Studio,” died on Monday at his dwelling in Manhattan. He was 93.

The trigger was bladder most cancers, his spouse, Kedakai Mercedes Lipton, stated.

Mr. Lipton was a educated interviewer who targeted on craft whereas avoiding gossip, successful the belief of his well-known friends in addition to a world viewers.

During his 23-season run as host — he left the present when it moved from Bravo to Ovation TV in 2019 — “Inside the Actors Studio” turned a coveted cease for writers, administrators and performers, who would give a few of their longest and most unguarded interviews to Mr. Lipton.

His method was sympathetic — fawning, to some, and sometimes lampooned — however the components labored, and among the many 275 or so stars he interviewed have been a number of the brightest: Paul Newman, Alec Baldwin, Neil Simon, Sally Field, Dennis Hopper and Sidney Lumet, to call a couple of — they usually got here alongside in simply the primary season.

His affiliation with the Actors Studio started in 1992, when he was invited to watch a session of that storied and unique workshop for actors, writers and administrators. At the time, its existence was threatened as a result of it had no regular revenue; membership was by invitation solely, and attendance was free.

Mr. Lipton brokered an answer: the creation of a grasp of effective arts program whose tuition would assist the Actors Studio. The program started in 1994 in partnership with the New School in Manhattan, with Mr. Lipton appearing as chairman and later as dean. The program moved to Pace University, additionally in Manhattan, 12 years later.

“Inside the Actors Studio” additionally had its debut in 1994. Mr. Lipton conceived the televised classes as seminars for the New School’s drama college students. But he additionally acknowledged the potential for advertising and struck a cope with the fledgling Bravo cable channel to air the episodes.

The format was unorthodox and low-budget. Mr. Lipton sat throughout from his friends at a easy desk on an unadorned stage. He flipped by way of questions written out on blue be aware playing cards. And he saved the dialogue on an mental airplane.

Early on, Mr. Lipton’s mother plied him with books, instilling in him a love of language and the arts, particularly theater.

He won his first professional acting job in the 1940s, when the live radio program “The Long Ranger” cast him as the voice of Dan Reid, nephew of that Western’s intrepid title character. Still, as a young man, Mr. Lipton, shied away from immediately pursuing a career in theater, having associated the arts with his delinquent father. Instead, he enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit determined to be a lawyer.

A stint in the Air Force cut those studies short, and he eventually headed to New York, where he was enrolled for a time at Columbia University. In need of an income, he sought out acting jobs.

He trained with the prominent acting instructor Stella Adler and, later, with Harold Clurman and Robert Lewis, but more often than not he appeared in failed productions or in limited engagements that could hardly catapult him to stardom.

There was one exception: For about a decade, until 1962, Mr. Lipton portrayed Dr. Dick Grant — the surgeon with the golden hands — on the soap opera “Guiding Light.”

He fared better as a writer. His work included scripts for the soap operas “Another World,” “The Edge of Night” and “Guiding Light”; the book and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Sherry!” (1967); the novel “Mirrors” (1981); and the made-for-television movie “Copacabana” (1985). He also tried his hand at nonfiction, writing “An Exaltation of Larks” (1968), a popular book that explained the etymology of terms like “a pride of lions.”

Mr. Lipton found his niche midway through his career, when he became a producer. In 1977, he produced President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala, the first ever to be televised. He produced a dozen star-studded birthday specials for the comedian Bob Hope. Other galas followed, all regarded as successes.

Mr. Lipton was also one of the most castigated talk-show hosts on television. Critics described him variously as pompous, sycophantic, unctuous, oleaginous and obsequious.

While his manner reassured his guests, it also provided grist to comedians.

On television, he was lampooned relentlessly by Will Ferrell on “Saturday Night Live.” A cartoon version of him was murdered on “The Simpsons.” And he was targeted by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen on the abrasive HBO comedy “Da Ali G Show.”

Mr. Lipton responded to the attention good-naturedly. He invited Mr. Ferrell to appear as a guest on “Inside the Actors Studio.” He provided the voice for the cartoon version of himself on “The Simpsons.” And he noted all of the comedians’ antics in his memoir, “Inside Inside,” which was published in 2007.

Mr. Lipton was married to Shirley Blanc and then to the actress Nina Foch, from 1954 to 1958, when they divorced. In 1970 he married the model Kedakai Turner, who was often present in his show’s television audience, and who, in what became a running joke on the show, forbade him to get a tattoo. She is his only immediate survivor.

Mr. Lipton portrayed himself in youth as something of a scoundrel. He alluded to numerous romantic conquests and recounted a period of months that he spent in Paris earning a living as a “mec” — or pimp — for a young prostitute.

His image on “Inside the Actors Studio” was far more staid. Famously, he completed each episode by asking his guests a series of questions employed, among others, by the French television host Bernard Pivot. He answered the questions himself only once, in an appearance on Mr. Pivot’s show. His answers, in part, were:

Q. What is your favorite curse word?

A. Jesus Christ!

Q. What is the profession you wouldn’t have wanted to practice?

A. Executioner.

Q. If God exists, what would you like to hear him say after your death?

A. You see, Jim, you were wrong. I exist. But you may come in anyway.

Julia Carmel contributed reporting.



Source link Nytimes.com

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