Native Detroiter James Lipton has died at 93. Lipton died at his home in Manhattan from bladder cancer. His wife, Kedakai Mercedes Lipton said in a written statement, “His work was his passion, loved what he did and all the people he worked with. He empowered people to do their best, and hopefully, his spirit, curiosity and passion will live on.”
Lipton became world famous for developing the show, Inside the Actors Studio. He hosted the long-running cable series on the Bravo Network and had a distinctive style. As a youth, the celebrated content creator played the Lone Ranger’s nephew on the radio.
Inside the Actors Studio was created in 1994 to serve as a master class for the students of the Actors Studio Drama School. He hosted until 2018. With 277 episodes produced and nearly 300 guests, including many Oscar and Emmy awardees, performers shared the secrets of their craft with Lipton and his audience of students. Paul Newman was his initial guest.
A consummate wordsmith and lover of language, he always wanted to go to law school. His intricately constructed questions gave him a special style of delivery. He was always well-prepared with his trademark stack of blue note-cards in front of him.
Inside the Actors Studio was the culmination of a lengthy career for Lipton that began in radio and included stints as an actor, scriptwriter, choreographer, lyricist, author, and producer. He was most proud of his accomplishments as an academic.
According to Lipton, no actor ever turned down an appearance on the show. Lipton interviewed such luminaries as Marlon Brando, Glenn Close, Johnny Depp, Sally Fields, Meryl Streep, Burt Reynolds, Will Smith, Robin Williams, Betty White and Tom Hanks. The A-list goes on and on.
Louis James Lipton was born on Sept. 19, 1926, in Detroit. His mother, Betty, was an educator. His father, Lawrence, was a columnist for The Jewish Daily Forward. When he was six his father left the household and the family became impoverished.
As a teenager, Lipton began working as a copy boy for The Detroit Times. Before graduating from Detroit Central High School in 1944, he landed the role of Dan Reid, the nephew of the Lone Ranger, on The Lone Ranger show. That was WXYZ’s nationally syndicated and immensely popular radio program of that time.
Lipton started college at Wayne State University in Detroit. After doing a short stint in the Air Force during the last days of World War II, he headed to New York with aims of becoming a lawyer. Acting got in the way. To perfect his craft, Lipton took additional classes at New York University.
In 1951, Lipton began landing parts on television shows. After spending some time in Paris,
Lipton returned to New York to resume his acting career. He eventually found more success as a writer. While appearing on The Guiding Light, he worked his way up to head writer. Throughout the next two decades, he served as head writer for Another World, The Best of Everything and Return to Peyton Place.
In 1974 he also shared an Emmy nomination for best writing in a drama for The Doctors.
He produced many television specials starting with Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration Gala in 1977. He was also very close with Bob Hope and produced some of his specials. In addition, he scripted four of the Bob Hope entertainment TV specials. Lipton’s writing efforts included the screenplay for the movie, Mirrors.
He shared some 18 Emmy nominations for Inside the Actors Studio with his fellow team of producers and directors. In 2004, he retired as dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, taking on the position of dean emeritus at the Actors Studio Drama School at New York City’s Pace University.
Versions of Lipton turned up in current pop-culture as he was featured in the very widely successful animated series, the Simpsons and Family Guy. His voice also can also be heard in the 2008 animated full-feature Bolt and in the 2008 animated feature Igor.
The recipient of an honorary Ph.D. in 2002 from Wayne State’s School of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, he was also named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by Republic of France. In 2016, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Daytime Emmys and a Critics’ Choice Award for best reality show host.