Charles Elmer Taylor Jr.
January 13, 1931
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Died||October 6, 2019 (aged 88)|
|Other names||Charles E. Taylor|
|Spouse(s)||Rusty Rowe (div.)|
Charles Elmer "Rip" Taylor Jr. (January 13, 1931 – October 6, 2019) was an American actor and comedian, known for his exuberance and flamboyant personality, including his wild moustache, toupee, and his habit of showering himself (and others) with confetti. The Hollywood Reporter called him "a television and nightclub mainstay for more than six decades" who made thousands of nightclub and television appearances.
Charles Elmer Taylor Jr. was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Elizabeth Sue Evans (1911–2000), a waitress and former government clerk, and Charles Elmer Taylor (died 1933), a musician. His father died when he was 2 years old. As described in his 2010 one-man show It Ain't All Confetti, Taylor had a tough childhood, which included being molested while in foster care and having to deal with bullies in school. As a teenager he attended Capitol Page School. Taylor worked as a congressional page before serving in the Korean War; he was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Although assigned to the Corps, he was sent to Special Services, the entertainment wing of the military, where he performed for the troops in Tokyo and Korea.
Taylor's career in show business began when he joined the U.S. Army, where he started performing stand-up in clubs and restaurants abroad while also performing for the troops. After his military service, and back in the U.S., he focused on a nightclub career. His mainstay material was "pantomiming records, his favorites were Yiddish folk songs and Spike Jones tunes." He said that ended one day when the record player broke, "I haven't shut up since." In the mid-1950s he worked the strip clubs all along the Eastern coast of the U.S. Although a lot of his material were jokes stolen from acts he saw in USO shows, his first signature piece would be to pretend to cry while begging the audience for laughs. He found he could get a bigger response that way. His bookings started to get more upscale and he played all over Miami Beach, Florida, which had become a winter destination for the wealthy. Taylor was also a mainstay in the summer playground of the wealthy in the Catskills Mountains. A booking agent from The Ed Sullivan Show attended his show one night. Taylor would spend a week's salary on champagne to get the audience boisterous. He first appeared on the show in 1961 and made about twenty appearances. Sullivan would forget his name, saying "Get me the crying comedian."
In addition to the Ed Sullivan Show, Taylor appeared on The Jackie Gleason Show in several guest appearances during the 1963–1964 season as "the crying comedian". Taylor's signature confetti tossing gag came from an appearance in the 1960s The Merv Griffin Show where he was bombing as a stand-up comedian. "I did props and I was 'The Prop Comedian.' I was dying like hell on Merv Griffin's show. The jokes were dumb, and I tore the five by eight cards, threw them up in the air and it became confetti," he recalled. "I knocked over his desk, walked up the aisle, went to Sardi's and said, 'Well, that's the end of my television career.' I went home that night. Their switchboard had lit up. They said, 'Get the guy that went crazy!'"
Taylor became somewhat of a fixture in Las Vegas. He was the opener for Eleanor Powell's dance-focused revue, and would go on to warm up audiences for headliners "Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ann-Margret, Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Laine, Judy Garland and The Kingston Trio". In the 1970s he won Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year three times.
He appeared in two 1968 episodes of The Monkees as well as having a cameo in their 1969 special 33+1⁄3 Revolutions per Monkee. He continued to work as a voice performer in the 1970s cartoon series Here Comes the Grump, as the title character, and in the second edition of The Addams Family cartoon series in 1992, as the voice of Uncle Fester.
Throughout the 1970s, Taylor was a frequent celebrity guest panelist on television game shows such as Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth, and The Gong Show, and substituted for Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game. He became a regular on Sid and Marty Krofft's Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, playing Sheldon, a sea-genie who lived in a conch shell. In addition, Taylor was also a regular on The Brady Bunch Hour, playing the role of neighbor/performer Jack Merrill. He also hosted a short-lived send-up of beauty pageants titled The $1.98 Beauty Show, created by Chuck Barris in 1978, producer/host of The Gong Show. Taylor appeared as a celebrity on the 1990 version of Match Game. In 1979, he was the voice of C.J. from the Hanna-Barbera television movie Scooby Goes Hollywood. Taylor's other appearances also include The Kids in the Hall; referred to as Uncle Rip by Buddy Cole, the show's most flamboyantly gay character. He also appeared as himself in the movie Wayne's World 2, one of the special guests invited to "WayneStock" after being visited in a dream by Jim Morrison. Taylor made "dozens of mayhem-filled appearances" on both The Tonight Show and The Mike Douglas Show.
In 1990, he voiced the genie in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Taylor appeared uncredited on a December 1994 edition of WWF Monday Night Raw. He assisted another wrestler and they pushed Jeff Jarrett.
In 1997, Taylor appeared in a segment on the show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. He played the role of Elmo Middleton in the segment "The Man in the Model T". Also in 1997, he appeared as himself on the sitcom Brotherly Love in the episode "Easy Come Easy Go". He also portrayed Chief Undersecretary Wartle in the graphical adventure game Zork: Grand Inquisitor in 1997. In 2003, Taylor also appeared as himself on Will & Grace. In 2005, he appeared as himself on an episode of George Lopez. Taylor guest-starred as chef "Rappin' Rip" in four episodes of Life with Bonnie. He guest starred in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody episode "Loosely Ballroom" as Leo. He is also in some episodes of The Emperor's New School as the voice of the Royal Record Keeper. He was also in the Jetix animated series Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!. He made a special guest appearance at the end of the 1,000th episode of G4's video game review show X-Play. He made a guest appearance on a 2012 episode of The Aquabats! Super Show!, where he played a genie reminiscent of his character on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
In 1995, Taylor performed the intro for the Bloodhound Gang's Use Your Fingers album. In the early 2000s, Johnny Knoxville asked Taylor to be in the film Jackass: The Movie (2002). and in the final scene, he wielded a pistol that, when fired, released a sign that read "The End."[a] He did the same thing at the ending of Jackass Number Two, and Jackass 3D. In the credits of the 2005 remake of The Dukes of Hazzard, Taylor shows up in the blooper reel.
Taylor made occasional appearances in movies, usually in broad comedies like The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) and the R-rated Deep Throat parody Chatterbox (1977). In Cheech & Chong's Things Are Tough All Over (1982), he picks them up in the middle of nowhere driving a convertible full of props. He then proceeds to drive them to Las Vegas and telling jokes the whole way and moving Chong to tears from laughter (and, later, tears because he won't stop). In Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) a funeral service turns into a celebrity roast when guest Rip Taylor shows up to "honor" the deceased. In 1992, Taylor appeared in Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992) as Captain Kiddle and in Wayne's World 2. In 1993's Indecent Proposal, he appeared as Demi Moore's boss, Mr. Langford.
Taylor's first big live show was in 1966, when he went on a tour with Judy Garland and Eleanor Powell in Las Vegas. In 1981, Taylor appeared on Broadway when he replaced Mickey Rooney in the burlesque-themed musical comedy Sugar Babies. He was a frequent co-star with Debbie Reynolds in her live shows in Las Vegas; Reno, Nevada; and Lake Tahoe. Taylor performed frequently in Atlantic City as well. In 2010, he appeared in the one-man show It Ain't All Confetti in North Hollywood, where he shared personal stories about his life and career.
In 2005, Taylor appeared as the grand marshal of the Washington, D.C., Capital Pride parade. When Taylor had been referred to as "openly gay" in a 2009 interview for "Ask the Flying Monkey", Brent Hartinger recalled receiving an email from Taylor stating, "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." Taylor was married for a number of years to Las Vegas showgirl Rusty Rowe, whom he divorced in the early 1960s.
Taylor was a close personal friend of entertainer Liberace. Taylor cut the ribbon at the Las Vegas estate auction of Liberace's belongings and personal effects in 1988.
According to his publicist, the time of Taylor's death he was in a long-term relationship with Robert Fortney.
Taylor died on October 6, 2019, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, having been hospitalized after suffering an epileptic seizure the week prior. His death certificate listed heart failure as a contributing cause. While Taylor often gave his birth year as 1935, his death certificate and census records confirmed he was born in 1931. His ashes were scattered at sea in Hawaii.