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How Did James Lipton Die? 'Inside The Actor's Studio' Host Dead At 93

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How Did James Lipton Die? 'Inside the Actor's Studio' Host Dead At 93

Iconic television host James Lipton has died. The man who was known for his thoughtful questions and distinctive style on Inside The Actor's Studio passed away in New York City on March 2, 2002. He was 93 years old. 

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Lipton started acting as a child to bring in extra money to support his family after his father abandoned him. He considered going into law a a career for the sense of stability he craved but eventually realized that acting was what he loved most. After years of performing on television, he moved into writing and producing. In the 1990s, he achieved a dream when he founded the Actor's Studio Drama School, a three-year training program for actors. It was as dean of that school that he conceived of the idea of Inside The Actor's Studio, a show where he would interview accomplished actors about their craft and careers. 

He was married to Oscar nominated actress Nina Foch from 1954-1959.  In 1970, he married Kedakai Turner, probably best known as the inspiration for Miss Scarlet on the box for the board game Clue. They remained married until his death. He does not have any children.

How did James Lipton die? Plus, more details about his life.

1. Lipton grew up in Detroit.

James Lipton was born in Detroit in 1936, His father, Beat poet Lawrence Lipton, abandoned the family when Lipton was six years old. He started working as a copy boy and child actor to help support his mother Betty. He joined the Air Force during World War II after attending college for a year at Wayne State University. 

2. He considered going into law.

After his stint in the military, Lipton headed to New York with the idea of becoming a lawyer. He saw acting as a way to pay the bills while he went to law school. But he realized eventually that theatre was where his heart really was. 

"Stella Adler accepted me for her [drama] class," he recalled in an interview. "About five years later, I said to myself, 'Stop kidding. You don't want to be a lawyer. This is what you want to do.'"  


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Lipton hosted Inside The Actor's Studio. 

3. He worked in television in his early career. 

By the early 1950s, he was working in TV, doing roles on Pulitzer Prize PlayhouseArmstrong Circle Theatre and CBS Television Workshop. In 1951, he appeared in the original production of Lillian Hellman's The Autumn Garden, which would be his only Broadway appearance.

4. He was briefly a pimp.

Yes, you read that right. In the later 1950s, he had finished a film overseas and decided to stay in Europe for a while. While he was there, he got involved with a woman who had sex in front of other people for a living. 

"One night, I told her I had to go back to the United States," Lipton remembered. "She said, 'Why?' She said, 'You're broke, aren't you?' And I said, 'Well, yes.' She said, 'No problem, you'll be my mac.'" Mac was another term for pimp at the time and Lipton insisted that was a far less sleazy profession in post-war France than it is now. Bordellos were still legal at the time and sex workers were registered employees. "We did a roaring business," Lipton said of the experience. "It was a great time of my life."

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5. He returned to the US and to film and television.

Once Lipton came back to the United States, his focus was less on performing and more on writing. He worked his way up to head writer of the soap opera the Guiding Light, while also acting on the show and also wrote for Another World, The Best of Everything and Return to Peyton Place, among other shows. In addition, he produced events like Jimmy Carter's Inauguration gala and Bob Hope tv specials. 

6. He conceived the idea of Inside The Actor's Studio to share his love of the craft of acting.

Lipton had been dean of the Actor's Studio Drama Program, a program he created, for several years when he decided to try bringing actors there to talk to them in an interview format about their work. He proposed televising it as a way of archiving the stories of great actors and Bravo was interested. The result was one of the longest-running cable programs ever. He interviewed nearly 300 subjects, including Robin Williams, Paul Newman, Mike Meyers, Whoopi Goldberg, and Meryl Streep. 

He said that one of his finest moments on the show was when one of his students was 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. 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,” he remembered.

Lipton hosted the show from its inception until he retired in 2018. 

7. How did James Lipton die?

Lipton's wife confirmed that he had died at their home in New York after a battle with bladder cancer. He was 93 years old. "There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with," Kedekai Lipton said of her late husband. 

Our thoughts go out for his friends and family at this difficult time. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.