I have talked about the many accomplishments of Peggy Lipton's life here briefly before. Recently I picked up a copy of her memoir Breathing Out, hoping that there were even more great secrets about this beautiful sixties star than I knew before. As I read her account of her years growing up, I found out there were many more secrets about Ms. Lipton -- but too many of them were great ones. She was born into a wealthy, Jewish, Long Island family where she was sexually abused as a young girl. She began her modelling career at sixteen with the Ford Modelling Agency before moving out to Los Angeles in 1964 to sign a contract with Universal Studios. Like many children of abuse, she became promiscuous, sleeping with a string of musicians, actors, alcoholics, and married men. She was admittedly "rapaciously romantic." In 1966 she slept with Paul McCartney when he was in California on tour with the Beatles.
Soon after moving to LA, she wast cast as a schoolgirl in the sitcom "The John Forsythe Show" and the Civil War-set "Mosby's Marauders" where she played sister to Kurt Russell. In 1968 she was cast as the beautiful-but-troubled Julie Barnes in "The Mod Squad." Her role as the prettiest undercover cop of the Haight-Ashburty area cast Lipton in the real-life role as the hippie child role model to the greater America. With her long blonde hair, fresh face, and hip clothing, Lipton became both the image of the mod girl and the flower girl during the late sixties. During its five-year run, "The Mod Squad" nabbed Lipton four Golden Globe nominations and one win in 1971 for Best TV Actress in a Drama.
Her sudden celebrity introduced her to a whole new world of people. She had a brief singing career, and an even briefer dalliance with Sammy Davis Jr., who she also recorded a duet with. In addition to McCartney and Davis Jr., Lipton also had, erm, encounters with Keith Moon and Terence Stamp, who she experimented with drugs with. Also on the list was Elvis, who Lipton said "was a great kisser but that was about it." As a way to move past her need for drugs and men, Lipton looked toward religion for a solution. She became involved with Hinduism and Scientology, which she tried to persuade Elvis to join and is still involved with today.
While still with Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy met Quincy Jones in 1974, a then-married musician/producer who immediately fell in love with her. They wed later on that same year and Lipton went on a self-imposed retirement at Quincy's request in order to become a full-time mom to daughters Kidada and Rashida Jones. Their interracial marriage caused controversy for some. Lipton said that when out at night with her husband, they were often pulled over by the police because they assumed that a white woman who was in a car with a black man could only be either a prostitute or a kidnapping victim. Quincy and Peggy were married for sixteen years until their marriage fell apart in 1990. Their marriage had been strained since the late 80s following Quincy's increasingly-demanding career and her growing interest in her faith. After their divorce, Lipton said she struggled with deep depression and dehabilitating fatigue. She eventually found strength from her two daughters, her return to acting (she has had roles on "Twin Peaks" and "Alias"), and her guru Gurumayi. She has remained good friends with her ex-husband, even collaborating with him on Jones's book "Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones."
Her book ends on a more somber note as just before "Breathing Out" was going to press, Lipton was diagnosed with colon cancer. She has since undergone treatment and the cancer seems to be in remission.
I really enjoyed Lipton's autobiography and recommend it for anyone who enjoys a pleasant look back at California during the sixties and seventies. During Peggy's journey, she has met many famous people along the way, but never in her book does she make it seem like she's just name-dropping so that everyone knows how important she is. She could've been talking about Steve-the-homeless-man-she-met-on-the-street and it still would've been just as charming as when she talks about Kurt Russell.
The opening theme to the Mod Squad:
Singing a duet with former flame Sammy Davis Jr: