Low-budget talk-show host Skip E. Lowe dies at 85

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 26, 2014 3:04 AM
Low-budget talk-show host Skip E. Lowe dies at 85

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When an earnest but sometimes inept talk-show host took to public-access television in 1978 with a celebrity name-dropping show, it seemed incongruous that Skip E. Lowe would somehow outlast every other TV host from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno.

For one thing, his show aired on the kind of cable channels that carry school board meetings. For another, many of his guests were faded stars people weren't sure were still alive.

But the former child actor, who died Monday at age 85 of complications of emphysema, did just that.

Lowe filmed "Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood" for 36 years, broadcasting it on cable TV outlets in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. He filmed the last one just two weeks ago.

"He loved show business, and the fact that the show was public access, that didn't bother him at all. He was on television," his agent, Alan Eichler, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The result: Lowe assembled a cult following of fans in the cities where his show aired, including some of the entertainers he couldn't get on camera.

Martin Short acknowledged he based his unctuous, often bumbling Jiminy Glick character partly on Lowe, and Harry Shearer profiled Lowe for a 1998 New York Times Magazine story headlined, "Ineptness Has Its Virtues."

As the years passed, Lowe did manage to corral a few big names, even if some had dropped off the Hollywood A List by the time they did the show. Among them: Milton Berle, Marlon Brando, Shelley Winters and Mickey Rooney. Others included 1940s child star Gloria Jean; Sylvester Stallone's mother; Brando's son; and countless character actors.

Not that he always arrived prepared for the interviews. He once asked Kate McGregor-Stewart of the ABC drama "Scandal" to tell him about her show, adding, "I've never seen it."

"Yes, I make mistakes," he once told the Los Angeles Times. "But my audiences like that I'm not so perfect. The thing is, I'm genuinely interested in what my guests are saying."

Born Sammy Labella in Greenville, Mississippi, and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Lowe recalled being badly bullied as a child because of his effeminate manner and penchant for wanting to entertain people. His mother moved him to Hollywood in hopes of getting him in the movies.

He landed several small parts as a child actor before growing up to be a song-and-dance man and master of ceremonies, performing in venues that ranged from nightclubs to strip joints.

He was never paid for his public access show, but made a living in later years booking entertainers at restaurants around LA.

He wrote two memoirs, "The Boy With the Betty Grable Legs," published in 2001, and "Hollywood Gomorrah," published earlier this year.