James Lipton, he of the most pompous interview show in the universe, Inside the Actor’s Studio, has decided to celebrate that franchise’s 250th episode by cheerily revealing that he worked as a pimp in Paris in the 1950’s. This was apparently legal there and then, and Lipton, he tells us, was out of a job, so why not earn your money by recruiting desperate women into accepting cash to have sex with strangers, and take a cut of their proceeds for your trouble?
“I had to be okayed by the underworld; otherwise they would’ve found me floating in the Seine.The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time.”
Oh…you mean there was a time when dealing with organized crime was good? There was a time when it was admirable to trap innocent young waifs into the sex trade because of their poverty? To facilitate adultery and infidelity? To tell women who they had to have sex with, and accept a percentage of their fees for doing so? There was a time when doing all of this didn’t mean you were an exploitive, venal, amoral, low life?
I don’t think so. I don’t think there has ever been such a time, no matter what France may think.
Lipton apparently has chosen now to reveal how deplorable his character is—all these years, and we just thought he was an insufferable but harmless old gasbag—because he thinks it will garner publicity for his show, and that American values and regard for decency have sunk so hopelessly low that most people will think his revelation is cute. Maybe he’s right.
I have no respect for pimps, however, nor those who consort with pimps…even old, pompous pimps who now swear that they don’t think people should pay for sex…especially when they are in the process of refusing to express the slightest regret, contrition or shame about their post-war activities, as if shuffling young girls off to debase themselves by giving oral sex to sailors was no different than selling magazine subscriptions.
Now, it is true that character and values have little to do with the entertainment field or performing arts, which is why that industry’s ethics are approximately on par with those of Colombian drug lords. Two factors disqualify Lipton from any dispensation, however. One is that he is also a teacher, and though he is not teaching decency or ethics, all teachers are role models. When an 86-year-old man who is also a role model blithely waxes nostalgic about the good old days when he skimmed francs from the pitiful wages of a 15-year-old girl in his stable she just earned by giving a rim-job to Smelly Maurice, he loses me forever—you may make your own judgments.
The second is that while I long ago realized that if I was to enjoy the arts at all, the personal lives and conduct of the artists had to be ignored, there are limits. I will not seek out Frank Sinatra performances, because kissing the rings of Mafia dons crosses the line for me. I stopped watching Woody Allen movies or laughing at his witticisms after he cheated on his crypto-wife to have sex with their crypto-adopted daughter, whom he later married. And I would rather tear out my eyes than watch any film directed by the proud child-rapist Roman Polanski. All of these artists, unlike Lipton, have given quite a bit that is sublime and indispensable to the world via their talents, and James Lipton is hardly in their class. Wherever that line is—I suspect I would still love Richard Rogers’ music if I learned he was a pimp, just as Charlie Chaplin’s fondness for Communism and little girls doesn’t quite stop me from enjoying his artistry (though it’s close)—James Lipton isn’t talented, entertaining or essential enough to make me forget he was a pimp.
To hell with him.
Pointer: Other Bill (Thanks!)
Facts: Daily Mail