Inspiration can often be found at unexpected times, in unexpected places. While on a walk in a familiar neighborhood. In the kitchen cooking dinner. Or while watching a talk show, on Bravo.
I don’t recall the first time I ever saw Inside the Actors Studio, I just know I was instantly hooked. The essence of your interviews was not to approach your guest as a celebrity – like 98% of talk shows do – but to treat them as an artist, allowing the students in the audience and the viewers at home a chance to discover the depth to the craft of acting. It was an original approach, immensely educational and enlightening.
For me, it was also inspirational. Nothing inspires me to do my best and forge ahead more than seeing someone do what they do well. It doesn’t matter if they are an artist, a craftsman, or a trades-person. I get just as fired-up watching a carpenter build a covered deck and lay a flawless stone patio in my backyard as I do seeing Baryshnikov’s opening routine in White Nights.
Fame is in no way a measure of skill. I’ve known many a musician in my life; fine artists the rest of the world may never know. I have wonderful memories of them performing in basement clubs and biker dives – performances that encouraged me to pursue my own endeavors; memories that still get me through difficult times and keep me writing when I feel no one believes in me. Because the golden carrot should never be about fame and riches, it should be about doing good work. If only to share with a few.
And good work you did, Mr. Lipton. You practiced what you preached. Writer. Actor. Dancer and choreographer. Producer. Finally, creator of the Actor’s Studio in New York – a unique educational venue that would become a degree-granting graduate level program. From that, of course, emerged Inside the Actor’s Studio, the unique, and inspiring, non-credit class where accomplished actors, directors, and writers were interviewed by yourself and your students.
I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve often imagined myself as a guest before you. (After having had several of my novels adapted into successful motion pictures, of course.) I’ve even pretended to answer the questionnaire you derived from French journalist and interviewer Bernard Pivot which you gave your guests at the end of the interview:
What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia.
What is your least favorite word? No.
What turns you on? Good conversation.
What turns you off? Whining.
What sound or noise do you love? Wind blowing through the trees. (Well, that’s what my answer used to be. Now it’s become – My son’s laughter.)
What sound or noise do you hate? Transistor radios.
What’s your favorite curse word? Fuck.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Musician.
What profession would you not like to do? Doctor.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? See? I knew you could do it.
Thank you, Mr. Lipton.