Celebrities often talk about the odd jobs they had before they became famous, but it will be hard for any star to top James Lipton’s former profession. According to a May 28 report by Parade, the “Inside the Actors Studio” host recently opened up about working as a pimp in Paris.
The acting teacher grew up poor in Detroit, so he had to start working at a very young age. He joined the Air Force and later moved to New York to study law, but he fell in love with acting during a drama class. Somehow Lipton eventually ended up penniless in Paris during the 1950s, and he befriended a prostitute there. Here’s what he said about his pal helping him to become a pimp: “ When I ran out of money, I said, ‘I have to go home.’ She said, ‘No, you don’t. I’ll arrange for you.’ So 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.”
James Lipton comes off as being a bit stuffy and pretentious at times, so it’s not surprising that he felt the need to defend his former job by labeling prostitution “respectable.”
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.
Perhaps there’s a reason Lipton thinks that prostitution is respectable. It is a lot like acting — the poor girls have to pretend to be into a bunch of guys who they probably find completely repulsive.
Lipton also said that the Parisian prostitutes in his bordello, which he described as a “roaring business,” were “inspected medically” every week. So he was running a good, clean whorehouse. Lipton reminisced, “Young women desperately needed money for various reasons. They were beautiful and young and extraordinary. There was no opprobrium because it was completely regulated.” And he claims that pimps in Paris didn’t mistreat the prostitutes they represented. He went on to say, “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 rites of passage, no question about it. It was a great year of my life.” But then some jealous female authority figure just had to shut down the whorehouses. Lipton lamented, “The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time.”
It sounds like James Lipton needs to turn his life into a “Gigi”-style movie that glamorizes selling sex. He could call it “A Pimp in Paris.”
The Parade story is getting a lot of attention right now, but this isn’t the first time Lipton has talked about his former career. According to Gawker, he was also asked about his work during a 2007 interview with New York Magazine. After he was asked, “Were you really a pimp in Paris?” this is what he said: “I was. It came up once when I interviewed Julia Roberts, so I had to set the record straight. Even better was learning about Agamemnon from those shepherds in Mycenae. I still have that shepherd’s crook. Sometimes I pick it up and twirl it like a baton. Wood lasts.” It’s so easy to imagine James’ pimp look now — he’d be dressed like a colorful character from a Shakespeare play with tights and a delightfully large feather in his cap, and he’d jaunt down the streets of Paris while twirling his shepherd’s crook.
However, Gawker went on to point out that Lipton technically wasn’t a pimp — as he said, he was a mec, which is a guy who works for prostitutes, not over them. But He’s James freakin’ Lipton, the former acting teacher of Bradley Cooper. So if he wants to call himself a pimp, then he should be able to call himself a pimp.