Acclaimed actress Peggy Lipton died on May 11 at the age of 72. Lipton garnered respect at an early age for her role on the hit television series The Mod Squad and in later life on Twin Peaks.
Family members announced the cause of death as colon cancer, which Lipton had been battling since 2004. “She made her journey peacefully with her daughters and nieces by her side. We feel so lucky for every moment we spent with her,” her family said in a public statement.
Here’s what you need to know about Peggy Lipton’s incredible life and career.
1. Lipton Got Her Start as a Ford Model
Lipton’s career in the limelight started at the age of 15 in New York where she was encouraged by her father to take acting lessons and meet with Eileen Ford, head of the famous Ford Modeling Agency. Ford took one look at Lipton and told her to “cut your hair, lose 10 pounds, get rid of your pimples and come back to me.” Lipton took her advice and went on to have a successful modeling career.
A few years later, the family moved to Los Angeles where Lipton transitioned into to acting. She soon found word on hit television shows including Bewitched, Mr. Novak, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Virginian.
In addition to modeling and acting, Lipton was an accomplished singer. In 1968 she recorded a cover of Laura Nyro’s classic song “Stony End.” She’s also credited as co-writing the Frank Sinatra song “L.A. is my Lady.”
2. Lipton Was Only 18 When She Found Fame as the Iconic Julie Barnes on “The Mod Squad”
Lipton was an overnight sensation in the hit ABC series The Mod Squad. The police drama, which ran from 1968-1973, centered around three young adults coming from troubled backgrounds, who’d been given the option of working as undercover detectives in lieu of going to jail. The three kids were mentored for undercover work by police Captain Adam Greer, played by Tige Andrews.
The show featured 18-year-old Lipton as Julie Barnes, a teen runaway and vagrant, Michael Cole as Pete Cochran, a wealthy young man nabbed for car theft and Clarence Williams III as Lincoln “Linc” Hayes, arrested for taking part in the Watts riots in Los Angeles. The Mod Squad gave each character equal prominence and showed the interracial undercover team working as a team to fight crime.
The Mod Squad was groundbreaking for its time, dealing with controversial issues including racism, child abuse, domestic violence, drugs, and the Vietnam War. Lipton won a Golden Globe for her performance as Julie Barnes and was nominated for four Emmys. Lipton and the show’s other cast members reprised their roles in 1979’s made-for-television movie The Return of the Mod Squad.
3. Lipton Was Married to Famed Music Producer Quincy Jones & her Children are Actresses Kidada and Rashida Jones
Lipton married famed Quincy Jones on September 14, 1974. For more than six decades Jones has found success as a musician, composer and producer. The couple had two daughters, Kidada and Rashida. “I knew he was The One the moment I met him,” she told Next Tribe. The union was Lipton’s first marriage and Jones’ third. Their interracial relationship was considered taboo at the time. “It was the 1970s and still not that acceptable for them to be together,” Rashida said in a 2013 radio interview with Bob Rivers.
Lipton admitted that she was “burned out” on acting after The Mod Squad and was ready to settle down with Jones and start a family. “My mother was a career woman who wasn’t home enough. I never wanted my children to have that yearning,” she explained to The Deseret News.
The couple’s two daughters, Kidada and Rashida Jones have found fame in their own right. Kidada, 45, is a well-known actress, model, and fashion designer. Rashida, 43, is best known for her roles on the mockumentary sitcoms, The Office and Parks and Recreation.
Lipton and Jones divorced in 1990, with the Associated Press reporting that Lipton had cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the break-up. Rashida revealed in a September 2018 interview with EW that Lipton and Jones remained friends after their divorce. “My parents are so close, and that really makes it easier, because it all comes from a place of love,” she said.
4. Lipton Found Renewed Fame in the 1990s on the Cult Classic Twin Peaks
After her divorce from Jones, Lipton returned to television in 1990 to act in the quirky series Twin Peaks. Lipton played Norma Jennings, owner of the Double R Diner. Twin Peaks only ran for two seasons but developed a substantial cult following.
The show was set in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, where lead character, FBI agent Dale Cooper, attempted to solve the mysterious death of local homecoming queen Laura Palmer. The more Cooper discovered about Laura Palmer, the more he realized that most everyone in the small town was a suspect.
During one red carpet interview, Lipton recalled how she went to producer and writer David Lynch’s office to audition for the role of Norma Jennings. “I went into his office and he cast me right there,” she said, adding, “it’s what he saw in me, for that part at that time.” Lipton went on to say it was “the most fun” acting job she’d ever had.
Lipton admitted to The Deseret News that the show’s story was definitely peculiar. “I don’t think there is a plot line. It’s like life. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.” Lipton was cast in the show’s subsequent movies, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces.
5. Lipton Authored the Book Breathing Out
In 2007, Lipton published her autobiography, Breathing Out. The book delved into Lipton’s childhood in Long Island, her rise to fame as well as her romances with Sir Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley and her future husband Quincy Jones.
The book also explored Lipton’s hardships, including being molested by an uncle while growing up. In Breathing Out, Lipton candidly discussed her battle with depression, her return to acting, her search for spirituality at an Indian ashram and her fight against cancer. “Writing the book emotionally saved me during my treatment, It was all I let myself focus on: sitting on the floor, cutting and pasting the pages,” she said.