'Larry Sanders' Co-Star Linda Doucett Remembers Rip Torn: "He Was a Really Good Bad Boy"
Linda Doucett recalls how the actor, who died Tuesday at 88, was a beloved fixture on set — if sometimes a volatile one: "One day, the A.D. comes in and says, 'Rip's going crazy, he smashing stuff and has a gun!'"
When Rip Torn was suggested for the show, everybody was like, "You can’t hire Rip Torn! He’s a great actor but he’s volatile. You can’t work with him." But Garry [Shandling] called him in and they bonded. Rip read for the part — he normally never read for auditions — and there was no looking back.
He was a really good bad boy. I was never afraid of him — he was the kindest, sweetest man — but there were all these crazy stories about him, like how he once smashed [Norman] Mailer with a ball-peen hammer or how he got in a big fight with Dennis Hopper. But there was never anything like that on our set. He was never a bad guy.
I will say, though, that as the show got more and more critically acclaimed, Rip started counting lines. Clint Black was on the show at one point and they kept adding songs and Rip kept getting cut. Being a film actor, he wasn’t used to that and it really upset him. One day, we were in the writing room and the A.D. comes in and says, “Garry, Rip’s going crazy, he’s smashing stuff and has a gun!” Garry pauses and then says, “OK, send Linda in.” Everyone starts laughing, but he’s like, “Send Linda in, he won’t shoot her. We’ve got a show to tape.” So, I go in to talk Rip down and he’s the sweetest guy. He’s like, “Oh, sweetheart, of course I wouldn't shoot you.”
After I became the hostage negotiator, Rip was never a problem again. In fact, Rip started coming around to the Brentwood house where Garry and I lived. One day I was like, “Hey Garry, Rip’s at the gate.” We let him in and he goes, “Sorry to bother you, but I’m living at the beach in Malibu and there’s no dirt there, only sand. Can I plant some tomatoes in your garden?” We ended up giving him the gate code and he’d come over two or three times a week. It was the sweetest thing, he’d look like a mechanic from the 1950s wearing work clothes and an engineer hat. I swear, I never knew if it was him or the gardener or what.
There are two schools of acting. There are actors who want to win the scene, and then there are actors who are very giving and supportive. Rip was the supportive school. He supported you no matter what. One time I had a scene where I had to sing and I just couldn’t belt out a song. I’m just not used to that and my brain wasn’t getting it. I’d done five or six takes and I was really bad. So, Rip comes over and pulls out a snifter and he’s like, “Take a snort of this.” I looked at Garry and he’s like, “Sure, anything at this point.” I took a hit. I don’t know what it was, but I freaking sang like a bird.
Linda Doucett starred on The Larry Sanders Show as Darlene Chapinni from 1992-94.
July 11, 10 a.m.: Updated to clarify hammer incident above.