He is best known for being the host of Inside the Actors Studio show, but James Lipton has revealed a seedier side to his past.
The 86-year-old has revealed that he did a ‘roaring trade’ when he worked as a pimp for Parisian prostitutes in the 1950s.
The actor and writer, who had moved to France after the Second World War, said: ‘The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days.’
Lipton revealed his shady past in the underworld of war-torn Paris in an interview with Parade, to celebrate the 250th episode of Inside the Actors Studio.
He admitted to becoming a pimp after he ran out of money while living in the French capital in the 1950s.
‘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,’ he told Parade.
However, the actor, who has been married for 40 years, doesn’t believe people should pay for sex. ‘If you can’t earn it on your own, then you don’t deserve it,’ he said.
Lipton married Kedakai Turner nine months after meeting her at the ballet and ‘falling madly in love’.
The couple live in Mahattan, and Lipton, who has no plans to retire despite being 86, says the secret to his long marriage is ‘because Kedakai is a masterpiece’.
The actor, who resumes his role as warden Stefan Gentles in Arrested Development later this year, says he was introduced to the world of prostitution from a friend who had links to the Parisian underworld.
When he told the friend, who worked in the sex trade, that he had run out of money and would need to return to the U.S. she set up a meeting for him.
‘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,’ he said.
‘The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time.’
As well as being the pimp for his friend, the actor, whose first role was playing the Lone Ranger’s nephew in a radio show, represented ‘a whole bordello’, and says he did a ‘roaring business’ that enabled him to remain in Paris for another year.
‘Young women desperately needed money for various reasons. They were beautiful and young and extraordinary,’ Lipton said, adding: ‘There was no opprobrium because it was completely regulated. Every week they had to be inspected medically.’
And although Lipton remembers his pimp past ‘as a great year of my life’, he was keen to point out that his role was not to exploit the women, but to act as their agent.
After returning to the U.S. Lipton, who was born in Detroit, swapped pimping for a career in show business.
He has hosted Inside the Actors Studio, which is broadcast to 94 million homes in 125 countries, for 19 years.
The 250th episode, due to be broadcast on Wednesday by Bravo, will include interviews with Christopher Walken, Jay Leno, Robert De Niro and Barbara Walters.
‘The 250th is different from any show we’ve ever done,’ he told Parade. ‘We’re going to their homes, their workplaces.’
Guests on the popular show share their experiences and offer advice to students wanting to break into an acting career.
One of Lipton’s favorite moments in the show’s history was when a former student returned as a guest.
‘What I’ve waited for is that one of my graduated students has achieved so much that he walks out and sits down on that chair next to me,’ Lipton said.
‘It happened when Bradley Cooper walked out on that stage. We looked at each other and burst into tears. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.’
Inside The Actors Studio is on Bravo on Wednesday evening.