Life and career
Lipton was born in Łódź, Poland, the son of Rose and Abraham Lipton. He was brought to the United States in 1903 and settled in Chicago, Illinois. Lipton began working as a graphic artist and won an award for his illustration of a version of the Haggadah, a Passover prayer book. He also worked as a journalist, writing for the Jewish Daily Forward and working for a movie theater as a publicity director.
During the 1920s, he associated with Chicago writers Edgar Lee Masters, Sherwood Anderson, Harriet Monroe, Ben Hecht, and Carl Sandburg. Lipton later wrote for Atlantic Monthly, The Quarterly Review of Literature, and the Chicago Review. Lipton co-authored many mystery novels during the 1930 and 1940s. His other novels include Brother, The Laugh Is Bitter and In Secret Battle, as well as a poetry book, Rainbow at Midnight. His book, The Holy Barbarians (1959), linked Lipton to the Beats. He appeared in The Hypnotic Eye (1960) as "King of the Beatniks".
In the episode "Swan Song" on the show Gilmore Girls, Rory is showing Jess her copy of The Holy Barbarians by Lipton, and says that he is "the father of the guy that does those Actors Studio interviews on TV", to which Jess responds "It’s weird that a beatniky guy would have a conservative son like that."
Lipton's first wife was Dorothy Omansky. He next married Betty Weinberg, a teacher; their son is Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton. He was later married to author Craig Rice and Nettie Esther Brooks (from 1948 to 1975).
Lipton died in Los Angeles.