Rip Taylor, the flamboyant comedian known for over-the-top shtick, passed away Sunday in Los Angeles at age 84. Taylor's known and loved gimmicks included tossing confetti on audiences, sporting a large toupee and wild mustache, and performing oddball to over-the-top comedy routines. A versatile performer, Taylor was also known for voicing cartoons, performing comedy in nightclubs, and acting in live theater.
He was born Charles Elmer Taylor in 1935 in Washington DC and began performing comedy after time in Korea in the military. He developed a shtick where he would pretend to cry while begging the audience to laugh at his jokes, leading to people requesting the "crying comedian." Among those people was Ed Sullivan, who had Rip Taylor on his show on more than 20 occasions. Taylor also appeared in episodes of The Monkees, voiced cartoon characters, and guested on numerous game shows from The Gong Show to Hollywood Squares. He performed live theater with the likes of Judy Garland, and appeared in movies ranging from Wayne's World 2 and all three Jackass movies to Indecent Proposal, where he played Demi Moore's boss - without his toupee.
But one thing I remember about Rip Taylor and what captured his antics so well was a little-remembered show on TV called The $1.98 Beauty Show.
Hosted by Rip and produced by Chuck Barris (the "Gong Show" guy), the $1.98 Beauty Show was a parody of beauty contests, featuring six female contestants (Sandra Bernhard was a contestant at one point) as well as the occasional male dressed in drag, all competing for the title of "$1.98 Beauty Queen." The contest consisted of three rounds, where each contestant was judged by three celebrity panelists. The second round had each contestant showcasing their "abilities" in the talent portion, while Round 3 was a swimsuit competition, where emcee Taylor ushers the contenders on stage and the announcer Johnny Jacobs - who announced everything so many 1970s game shows - cracks jokes about their vital statistics and hobbies.
At the end of each show, Taylor announces the "$1.98 Beauty of The Week." That contestant is presented with a tacky plastic crown, rotten vegetables as a bouquet, and the coveted cash prize of $1.98, which Taylor dispensed from a coin holder on his belt.
Watch a full episode of The $1.98 Beauty Show here, complete with the intro, all contestants, and the winner receiving her bounty and prizes and walks while Rip spoofs Burt Parks from the Miss America pageants. And yes, kids, this was an actual show on television from 1978 to 1980!
Anyway, R.I.P., Rip. You were definitely one of a kind.