James Lipton died of bladder cancer on Monday, March 2. The Inside the Actors Studio host was 93 years old; he retired from hosting the show in 2018 after 22 seasons and over 250 episodes. He leaves behind a wife named Kedakai Turner Lipton and an ex-wife named Nina Foch, but he didn’t have any children.
Here’s what you need to know about his family.
1. Lipton Didn’t Have Kids
Despite having two marriages, Lipton never had any children. He hasn’t spoken publicly about why, but he did have a tumultuous relationship with his own father, beat poet Lawrence Lipton. Growing up poor in Detroit, Lipton told Parade in 2013 that he had a job at a very young age after his father left their family.
“I always had to work, from the age of 13. When my father left, we had nothing,” said Lipton.
In another interview, this one with the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002, reporter Murray Dubin observed that Lipton “[didn’t] want to talk” about his father, that the subject didn’t “interest him.” All Lipton did offer was that he rarely saw his father when he was growing up.
“My parents broke up when I was 6,” Lipton said. “I saw him when I was 12 and again when I was 20.”
2. Lipton’s mother Was Betty Weinberg
Lipton was born on September 19, 1926, to Betty Weinberg and the aforementioned Lawrence Lipton; he was their only child. Weinberg was a teacher and a librarian in the Detroit area, and she always told James that his father taught him to read before he was 2 years old. After his father left, Lipton held various jobs, including a newspaper copy boy, an actor in a theater and a job in radio.
According to the Boston Globe, Lipton and his mother moved to New York in 1950 so that Lipton could pursue the study of law. But he actually started working in local theaters as a way to earn extra money and his acting career took off. He told Parade that his desire to be a lawyer stemmed from wanting to provide more ability for his mother than his father had given her.
“I was going to be a lawyer because that was as far away from my father’s lunacy that I could imagine. He was nuts. He abandoned us. I was afraid of being like that,” said Lipton, adding, “I came to New York after the Air Force to get the law degree. But I thought, ‘I’d better take some acting classes if I’m going to earn a living so I can be a lawyer.’ Stella Adler accepted me for her [drama] class. 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.’”
Weinberg passed away in New York City in 1988 at the age of 96.
3. Lipton’s Father Was Married Four or Five Times
Lawrence Lipton was born in Poland in 1989 and came to America with his mother, Rose, and two siblings; his father had come previously and sent for the family after he had saved enough money, according to the University of Southern California library archival profile. His own father died when Lawrence was just 14 years old, which caused Lawrence to go to work at a young age to help provide for his family.
He would later write that his father’s death “forced [him] to fight a running battle against time for my education (time stolen from sleep, from play, from work — and consequently from food very often), and lacking the kind of life continuity and integrated personality that gives a man a firm sense of purpose and direction.”
As an adult, reports vary as to how many times Lawrence was married. The Boston Globe says it was five times but does not name any wives except Lipton’s mother. The USC library archive names just four wives.
Lawrence married his first wife, Dorothy Omansky, in the early 1920s; she died just a few years later. He then married Betty Weinberg and they produced James Lipton, who was Lawrence’s only son. After leaving Betty and James, Lawrence was married to Georgiana Randolph Craig, who was his writing partner in the 1930s and 1940s. Then in 1948, Lawrence married Nettie Esther Brooks; they were married until his death in 1975.
4. James Lipton’s First Wife Was Actress Nina Foch
From 1954 to 1959, Lipton was married to actress Nina Foch (real name Nina Consuelo Maud Fock) who was born in the Netherlands but moved to New York as a young girl. She was best known for her Oscar-nominated Best Supporting Actress role from the 1954 film Executive Suite alongside Wiliam Holden and Barbara Stanwyck and her Emmy-nominated supporting actress role on Lou Grant.
She also had credits in A Song to Remember, An American in Paris, Scaramouche, The Ten Commandments, Columbo, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, the Mod Squad, Dharma & Greg and NCIS.
Foch also taught for 40 years at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her “Directing the Actor” course was quite popular and included students who would go on to be accomplished directors: Amy Heckerling, Marshall Herskovitz, Randal Kleiser, and Ed Zwick, according to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.
Foch went on to marry two more times, to Dennis de Brito in 1959 and Michael Dewell in 1967. She had one son, Dirk, with her second husband. Foch passed away from myelodysplasia in 2008.
5. Lipton’s Second Wife Is Kedakai Turner
In his 2013 Parade interview, Lipton named his “greatest achievement” as “marrying Kedakai and revealed that he met Turner at the ballet, where it was love at first sight. They were married just nine months later.
I took one look at her and I fell madly in love. I called her the next day and asked her to have dinner with me. Nine months later we were married,” said Lipton, adding that the reason they’ve had such a successful marriage is that “Kedakai is a masterpiece.”
In the same interview, Lipton was asked the famous question he always posed to his interview subjects: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
“I want Him to say, ‘You see, Jim, you were wrong. I exist. But you may come in anyway.'”