The Hollywood Reporter delivered the sad, very un-celebratory news that the campy confetti-tossing ball of joy known as Rip Taylor has died at the age of 84. Rip’s publicist confirmed the news yesterday that he passed. No cause of death was given, but Rip’s publicist said that he had a seizure and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. This also means that we now live in a world completely devoid of legendary Rips, as Rip Torn left us only three months ago.
Rip was born Charles Elmer Taylor Jr., and got his start in the US Army entertaining troops in Tokyo and Korea. He started working nightclub and strip clubs, where he would lip sync to records. Eventually he developed his first signature act, which was crying on stage, and thus he became known as The Crying Comedian. After playing a show in the Catskills and dropping his own cash to get the audience drunk and loose on champagne, he was booked on The Ed Sullivan Show. During an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show, he started bombing, thought “Fuck it,” tore up some 5×8 index cards, and threw them in the air. From then on, his favorite gag would be to throw confetti into the audience, and he became the self-appointed King of Confetti.
If you’ve ever seen a single clip of Rip Taylor, then you know he was also famous for his high-energy delivery, and enthusiastic squealing. Oh, and he could work the hell out of a butterscotch-colored hair piece. He is survived by his longtime partner Robert Fortney.
Throughout his 50+ year career, Rip landed tons of TV and movie gigs, sometimes playing a character, and sometimes playing himself. His credits include The Monkees, Wayne’s World 2, Home Alone 2, Indecent Proposal, Life with Bonnie, and provided his voice to animated series like The Addams Family, Garfield & Friends, and the Duck Tales movie. He also played Alice’s love interest on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, and now I need to go back and re-watch that to see how many kitchen-based double-entendres he and Alice made. And for a younger generation, Rip is the guy who closed out all three Jackass movies with his signature confetti.
But even though it wouldn’t be a stretch to describe Rip as flamboyant, and the fact that he wasn’t exactly hiding his sexuality or his partner Robert, he was never really out-out. THR reports that in 2008, when an author referred to Rip as “openly gay,” Rip fired back that he didn’t know him, and that it wasn’t any of his business to describe him as such.
Something I learned from the many tributes today is that Rip hosted a beauty pageant in the 1970s called The $1.98 Beauty Show, in which three celebrity judges crowned the winner with a gaudy crown, a bouquet of wilting vegetables, and a cash prize of $1.98 in loose change.
Rest in Peace, Rip. Or rather, rest in a big pile of ripped pieces of paper, while getting presented with your own crown and vegetables.