You probably know James Lipton from his Inside the Actors Studio interviews. If not, then maybe from Will Ferrell's parody of Inside the Actors Studio on Saturday Night Live. Or, maybe, you know Lipton as Warden Stefan Gentles on Arrested Development.
Lipton has mounted a career for himself as a writer, composer, professor, and dean emeritus. But all of that has come after his life as a Parisian pimp. After the end of World War II, Lipton needed work and had befriended a young prostitute in Paris. She arranged for him to "represent" a bordello full of working girls.
Is it true you were a pimp in Paris in the 1950s?
“I was. 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.”
“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.”
How did your involvement come about? You became friends with one of the prostitutes in Paris?
“We became great friends. 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.”
Did you represent more than one girl?
“Yes, a whole bordello. I represented them all, but her especially. I did a roaring business, and I was able to live for a year. 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 rites of passage, no question about it. It was a great year of my life.”
Do you think people should buy sex?
“I really don’t. I think if you can’t earn it on your own, then you don’t deserve it.”
Parade has more on Lipton, including the time that Bradley Cooper made him cry. [Parade]