James Lipton has been interviewing actors and directors for years, and while he’s been a conduit for us in learning so much about Hollywood performers, I’ve never known much about the guy himself. Those of you who saw him on “Arrested Development” may be flabbergasted by how short he is, for instance (see above). I didn’t know, for instance, that he used to write for soap operas, or what he provided the voice of Dan Reid in the 40’s radio version of “The Lone Ranger,” or that he was an actor, most notable for his role in 1953’s The Big Break. In fact, he was married to Oscar nominated actress Nina Foch (Spartacus). He was quite a looker back in the day, too.
But most of all, I didn’t know that Lipton used to be a goddamn pimp, until he admitted as much in an interview with Parade magazine.
Is it true you were a pimp in Paris in the 1950s? “I was. It was only a few years after the war. Paris was different then, still poor. Men couldn’t get jobs and, in the male chauvinist Paris of that time, the women couldn’t get work at all. It was perfectly respectable for them to go into le milieu.”
“Young women desperately needed money for various reasons. They were beautiful and young and extraordinary. There was no opprobrium because it was completely regulated. Every week they had to be inspected medically. The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time.”
How did your involvement come about? You became friends with one of the prostitutes in Paris?
“We became great friends. When I ran out of money, I said, ‘I have to go home.’ She said, ‘No, you don’t. I’ll arrange for you.’ So she arranged for me to do it. I had to be okayed by the underworld; otherwise they would’ve found me floating in the Seine.”
Did you represent more than one girl?
“Yes, a whole bordello. I represented them all, but her especially. I did a roaring business, and I was able to live for a year. The French mecs didn’t exploit women. They represented them, like agents. And they took a cut. That’s how I lived. I was going through my rites of passage, no question about it. It was a great year of my life.”
Do you think people should buy sex?
“I really don’t. I think if you can’t earn it on your own, then you don’t deserve it.”
What a life!. What. a. life.