RIP Rip

Camp comic Rip Taylor dies, aged 84

Rip Taylor
Rip Taylor (Photo: Angela Taylor, licensed via CC-by-SA-3.0)

The US comic and actor Rip Taylor had died, aged 84. He died yesterday in Beverley Hills, West Hollywood, according to his publicist, Harlan Boll.

Taylor was a US TV and comedy club regular for more than six decades. Born in Washington DC, he served in the Korean War. It was during his time in the army that he began his stand-up career, playing in clubs abroad.

He got his big break after being invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. One of Taylor’s trademarks was pretending to cry whilst pleading with the audience to laugh, and Sullivan named him the “crying comedian.”

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Countless further appearances followed on TV, including The Jackie Gleason Show, movies such as Wayne’s World 2, and on Jackass in the mid-90s. He toured with Judy Garland in the 1960s and frequently appeared with Debbie Reynolds during her Las Vegas shows.

He was popular as a voice actor, and also occasionally took more serious roles: he played Demi Moore’s boss in the 1993 movie, Indecent Proposal.

Taylor was known for his flamboyant style, large mustache, toupees and showering his audiences with confetti. Like his friend, Liberace, he maintained a silence around his private life. Early in his career, he married a showgirl named Rusty Rowe, but they divorced a short time later.

In later life, many assumed he was gay, even if he never said so. In 2005, Taylor was one of the Grand Marshals of the Washington DC Pride Parade.

However, in 2008, when described as “openly gay” by the author Brent Hartinger, he reacted with annoyance. Hartinger recalls receiving a message from Taylor saying, “You don’t know me to summarize I am openly gay. I don’t know you’re not an open heroin user. You see how that works? Think before you write.”

Reporting his death, Boll says Taylor is survived by his longtime partner, Robert Fortney.

Among those to pay tribute to Taylor was Billy Eichner.

“RIP, Rip,” tweeted Eichner. “I can’t imagine how much bullshit you had to deal with in an industry that decided it was finally cool to be a gay man in comedy, like, a year ago. Nevertheless you ignored all that and delighted people for decades. RIP.”