James Lipton of “Inside The Actors’ Studio”: I Was a Pimp in Paris
On the occasion of his 250th episode of “Inside the Actors Studio,” the interview series he hosts on Bravo, James Lipton has broken his silence about his past, saying he ran “a whole bordello” in Paris. The host, seen this past weekend in Netflix’s “Arrested Development” revival, told Parade:
“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 rights of passage [sic], no question about it. It was a great year of my life.”
While Mr. Lipton tells Parade he does not believe in the sex trade (“I think if you can’t earn it on your own, then you don’t deserve it”), he defends his involvement at the time, in the aftermath of World War II.
“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.”
Mecs means guys in French. Da fellas, I’m guessing. But really, it must have a basis in the American slang term, mack. A guy who knows how to mack knows his way with women enough to make her turn tricks for him. Remember the blaxploitation film, The Mack? In French, a mack is a maquereau, or a man who is wearing a trenchcoat or a mackintosh raincoat. Think of the usual depictions of flashers: they wear trenchcoats, too.
Lipton doesn’t believe in the sex trade? Yeah, right. And I could have left that piece of information for my biographers or something to confirm.
He ran a bordello as a rite of passage? Was he in competition with the daddy-o who abandoned him and his mom in order to become a Beat poet?
The thing I am wondering is, who is he trying to impress now with this information? Is he flogging a book? (Apparently, this information has been a little above ground for at least six years, since an appearance on Conan’s show—possibly connected with the publication of Lipton’s memoir—when he was on NBC.) Is he trying to compete with the likes of guys like Richard Pryor, who was allegedly born in a bordello, or Snoop Dogg (who calls himself Snoop Lion these days, mixing his love of ganja with reggae), Miles Davis (who ran some women for his habit and whose birthday I refused to celebrate this weekend because like Pearl Cleage, I am still mad at Miles). Or worse, Huey Newton, who allegedly integrated the pimp mystique as head of the Black Panthers back in the day after viewing Superfly, which along with COINTELPRO, and their Maoist cult-of-personality, contributed to the downfall of the organization? Some gangsta.
Lipton claims that it was a woman who got him the job after his money ran out. He checked out with the French underworld thugs who were his bosses, or as he says, he would have been found floating face down in the Seine. His career as a pimp—or as he claims, a procurer— lasted exactly one year. However, one wonders what he’s been up to since with what he experienced. I mean, what is it that men admire about being a pimp or procurer of women? It may be liberating with some people, and some women do like that kind of life. However, let’s face it. It’s prostitution. It’s sex slavery to some degree. You can’t pretty it up no matter where it is, the United States or in Paris. Irma la Douce, Moulin Rouge, this was not. And if this was post-war Paris, it could be s a desperate and degrading way of making money to feed your kids and pay your rent waiting for your man to come home from war (if he ever made it). Many women probably never lived it down, trying to live a respectable life thereafter. but running into men and women who knew. So why bring it up in the first place?
Once in a while, I watch Lipton’s show, but I do not follow it very assiduously and not as assiduously as I did Sneak Previews, for example. Sometimes he and the interviewing gets pretty boring and also self-congratulatory. But there have been longer viewing stretches since he got that horrible dye job in his thinning hair and goatee. It’s the same sartorial overkill that I see with the likes of Tom Selleck, an actor I only got to appreciate after he left Magnum P.I. When Selleck got that new cop show on CBS, I knew I wasn’t going to watch it, not only because of the unabashed cop worship but even more so because of that dye job. I’d rather an older guy go gray or white haired than have to deal with a lousy dye job that shows him up as trying too damn hard to be down or younger or more virile than what they really are. And with Lipton, I think that it’s both. A stud he definitely is not. Ick. Creepsville. Waay too much information.
You can accuse me of being fastidious and a bit of a snob, albeit a feminist snob, but I could have done without Lipton’s re/admission.
- Actors Studio Dean James Lipton Was A Pimp In Paris (contactmusic.com)
- James Lipton Was a Pimp: Inside the Actor’s Studio Host Talks Prostitution Past in Paris (eonline.com)
- James Lipton Used to Be a Pimp in Paris (celebuzz.com)
- Former Pimp James Lipton Thinks People Shouldn’t Pay for Sex (jezebel.com)
- That Time James Lipton Was A Pimp Leads The Daily Links (buzzfeed.com)
- James Lipton Admits To Working As A Pimp (huffingtonpost.com)
- James Lipton: I was a pimp (sfgate.com)
- ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ host talks pimp past (marquee.blogs.cnn.com)
- James Lipton Pimp: Distinguished Host of ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ Details Involvement in Sex Industry in Paris (hngn.com)