It's not clear how many fans of the eternal Bravo (and later Ovation) series Inside the Actor's Studio (1994-2020) realized how advanced in years creator and host James Lipton was — he had an ageless, yet wizened, quality in his role as the ultimate actor whisperer.
Lipton, who died Monday at 93, was from 1994-2018 the perfect presenter, ruthlessly well-informed about the careers of his subjects and about what his enraptured, in-studio student actors wanted to know, as well as possessing a broad skill set as a former actor himself.
His show was so evergreen, it ran long enough to feature Bradley Cooper as both an audience member and a guest.
Born on September 19, 1926, in Detroit, Lipton lived a relatively hardscrabble existence, raised by poor, artistic Jewish parents, including his beat poet dad, Lawrence Lipton (1898-1975).
He was Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger's nephew on WXYZ in the '40s, wrote for soaps and was, for more than a decade, an actor on TV's The Guiding Light (1953-1963). He had other experience in early TV, including on the groundbreaking sitcom The Goldbergs (1954), and acted on Broadway (1951's The Autumn Garden) and in a limited number of films.
It was his varied work experience as an actor, writer and producer that pushed him, in 1994, to create a three-year educational program for actors at the New School in NYC, joining forces with the iconic Actors Studio. The program continued at Pace from 2006.
Inside the Actors Studio was an offshoot of the curriculum, but quickly became an international success by attracting top talent to discuss their lives and careers and, as befitting anything associated with the Actors Studio, their Method as actors.
Over time, the show has featured everyone who is or was anyone, including Barbra Streisand, Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, Jerry Lewis, Jessica Lange, John Travolta, Anthony Hopkins, Carol Burnett, Laurence Fishburne — and the list goes on.
The show's signature was Lipton's 10 rapid-fire questions after an extended interview. The questions:
(1) What is your favorite word?
(2) What is your least favorite word?
(3) What turns you on?
(4) What turns you off?
(5) What sound or noise do you love?
(6) What sound or noise do you hate?
(7) What is your favorite curse word?
(8) What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
(9) What profession would you not like to do?
(10) If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
A self-described atheist, Lipton perhaps had no answer to #10, but one might guess he would hear, "Take a bow."
Lipton was married to actress and fellow Detroiter Nina Foch (1924-2008) from 1954-1959, and is survived by his second wife, Kedakai Turner, to whom he had been wed since 1970. Turner was the model who posed as Miss Scarlet on the original edition of the board game Clue.