James Lipton

James Lipton talks high-flyin in Alaska.

on Jan 28, 2008


Once again, I must begin my blog with gratitude to all of you who have gone to the time and trouble of reading my thoughts and, most important, responding to them with yours.

As I've moved into cyberspace, like Alice venturing warily through the looking glass, I've discovered its foremost virtue: It breaks through the television screen and brings us face to face. Since Inside the Actors Studio is in 84,000,000 homes in America and 125 countries around the world, the audience is a vast, mysterious, faceless crowd. Cyber-space pierces the darkness and shines a light on both of us: on me because the blog is, literally, a glimpse into my thinking, for whatever it's worth -- and is equally a forum for your thoughts, which are worth a great deal to those of us who launch each episode of Inside the Actors Studio on its voyage into uncharted waters.

Among the many responses to my last blog, I was moved by John Hewitt's modern-day version of "The Gift of the Magi," as, in his words, "On Christmas morning two copies of your book were revealed -- the one I'd bought her, and the one she'd bought me.... I read the final two chapters aloud to her as we drove home today, and when we got to the Martha Graham story, and the final poem, we were both weeping." That is, of course, music to an author's ears, as are all the other kind words about Inside Inside, like Karen Sucher's: "My son, Kevin, gave me a copy of your book for Christmas -- and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it"; and Susan Hopman's "Thanks for all the time and effort you put into making a great book.... It is now my favorite book, to be reread many times."

To Jane, I promise that, once the strike is over (I'm a member of the Writers Guild), we'll be back in our slot at 8 p.m. on Monday nights on Bravo with an exciting lineup of guests who have been waiting to come to our stage since the strike began. Wait till you see what we plan for our 200th episode!

To Tony in the UK: Our next DVD will be the storied Robin Williams episode -- with more than thirty minutes of his unique genius that's never been seen before, since time limitations in the original two-hour show meant leaving some gleaming treasures behind in the edit room. Many of you have remarked on the excerpts from the book that I've included in my blogs, so, with your indulgence, I'll conclude this blog with another. As those of you who have read the book know, it is a compendium of the heroes of my life -- and its passions, one of which is flying. Among the fifty photographs in the book, one is of a 1956 Aeronca, owned by Bob Curtis, "The Bald Eagle of the Yukon," which I flew across the Alaska Range in the dead of a northern winter, fulfilling a lifetime ambition to be, at least for a few days, a bush pilot like Curtis. Another photo, as its caption explains, is of "the cliff face off the wingtip in Rainy Pass, moments before the engine died."

Here, from the text of the book, is the solution to that ominous enigma:

The route I'd chosen was the Iditarod Trail, site of the annual Alaskan dogsled race that traverses the most formidable terrain in the state. To be frank, that was what attracted me to it. The Iditarod Trail begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome, and our flight plan called for making it through the Alaskan Range's notorious Rainy Pass in time to spend the night in the tiny gold-mining village of McGrath. With the brief Alaskan day ticking away, we arrived at the mountains; and as the pass loomed ahead, massive and formidable, so did the weather, turning, as it does in Alaska, or in any bush environment, on a dime. We were flying into the teeth of a snowstorm. The pass was treacherous in the best of conditions: a long, narrow corridor near the top of the range, with canyon walls of jagged ice, frequently no more than fifty feet off our wingtips on either side, and a five-thousand-foot drop below -- the whole environment vanishing completely in brief whiteouts as the snowfall intensified.