10.23.2007

James Lipton's Pimp Hand Is Strong


Via Gawker, James Lipton reveals to New York Magazine that he was a pimp in Paris as a young tough. Here are some key excerpts:

The oddest part of the book is perhaps your time in Paris and Greece. Were you really a pimp in Paris?
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. [A follow-up with Lipton’s assistant clarified his role in the world of French prostitution: He was a “mec”—a guy who works for the prostitutes—not a pimp.]
During your time in Paris, it is also rumored that you became quite adept at Parkour. Is this the case?
Yes. Parkour, also l'art du d├ęplacement or Free Running, is the only way I can truly unwind. I believe that athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism, unlike some people, who merely reduce it to karate and friendship. I also believe in efficiency in all things, but especially efficiency in mvoement. You will notice that during Inside the Actors Studio, I sit quite still. I am conserving energy, and after the show I then unleash it upon the urban space that is my New York City. Once, after Jackie Chan and I finished up his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, we threw off our confining clothes, donned full body Lycra suits, and hurtled ourselves out the 4th floor window. I slid down a drainage pipe with him on my back. We hit the concrete road and it felt like rubber. I sprang up and over the fence with Jackie in hot pursuit and leaped for the fire escape in one fluid motion. We made it to the top of the building and swooped from roof to roof. I have never felt so free. And while Jackie is not a practitioner of Parkour, he more than held his own with me. Did you know that I choreographed that chase scene at the beginning of Casino Royale? I did.
Not many people know about your side career in songwriting. Tell us more.
(chuckles) I have for too long kept this part of my life under wraps. In the mid-90s I worked with a promising young female artist named Joan Osborne and after a long night of passionate lovemaking, the lyrics came to me after I gave her a particularly explosive orgasm and she said, sighing deeply, "James, are you God? Because I think you made me see him." No, my dear, I answered, and then it hit me, I started singing as if I had known the words all my life: "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? A man who licks your clitoris? A stranger on the bus, trying to find his way home?" We both knew we had a hit on our hands, but we toned it down for the American public. And by that I mean I took out the part about the clitoris. Other songs of which I am particularly proud include "Damn, I wish I was your lover," which I included in a poem to Sophie B. Hawkins literally minutes before the judge issued the restraining order, as well as "Shame on a N---" that Ol' Dirty Bastard performed. I based that on a run-in with some Morroccans during my days as a French pimp.

What was your greatest role?
Ahh...that's an easy one. As a practitioner and teacher of The Method, I beleive that to break character is the ultimate sin. You have heard of those people who shake a famous person's hand and swear to never wash their hand again? That is how I look at each character that I have played. I am a palimpset of the American theatre and cinema. These layers glisten upon me like scented oil.

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