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Thursday, January 6, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Charles Kipps, Author, Emmy, Peabody and Humanitas Award Winning Producer, and Grammy-Nominated Record Producer with Seven Gold Records

Charles Kipps

This Mover and Shaker interview is sponsored by Hunter Dixon, available on Shop with Peachy!
Nothing could be finer than to be wearing Carolina in Manhattan; we love their blazer:

Born in New Jersey, Charles Kipps grew up Virginia. He attended Andrew Lewis High School where he played basketball and was the editor of the school literary magazine. While attending nearby Bridgewater College, he wrote entertainment and sports columns for the local Salem newspaper, The Times-Register. At age 19, he was the recipient of a Virginia Press Association Award for “excellence in sports writing.” Among his interview subjects were legendary New York Yankee Mickey Mantle. Since most major recording artists played the Roanoke Salem Civic Center as part of a national tour, Kipps seized the opportunity to conduct interviews with a variety of big name musicians including R&B icon Otis Redding.

In 1969, Kipps came across an R&B vocal group called The Presidents and, although he was only 21, convinced the group to let him represent them. Using contacts he had made while interviewing recording artists at the Roanoke Salem Civic Center, Kipps secured a recording contract for The Presidents. The result was a hit entitled 5-10-15-20-25 Years of Love, which climbed to the top of the charts and was nominated for a Grammy.

The producer of 5-10-15-20-25 Years of Love was Van McCoy, who at the time was working with various recording artists. Shortly after the song hit the charts, Kipps and McCoy formed McCoy-Kipps Productions and went on to produce records for Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Melba Moore, and former lead singer of the Temptations, David Ruffin. Kipps wrote Ruffin’s only post-Temptations hit, Walk Away From Love.

In 1975, Kipps moved to Manhattan. One night he stopped by a disco and witnessed an unusual dance that the club’s DJ referred to as the Latin Hustle. Kipps described the dance to McCoy, who was scheduled to record his own album the next morning. McCoy spent the night composing The Hustle, which soared to number one and spawned the disco era.

Despite his success in the record business, Kipps remained drawn to the written word. He began freelancing for publications such as the New York Times and Variety. In 1988, he was named features editor of Variety and wrote Out of Focus, a book about one tumultuous year at Columbia Pictures. Kipps left Variety in 1990 and continued to freelance.

In 1994, Kipps was hired as a staff writer for the NBC drama, the Cosby Mysteries. Then, in 1996, his second book was published. Entitled Cop Without A Badge, the book was a non-fiction account of a confidential informant who worked with the FBI, the DEA, and the NYPD.

In 1997, Kipps wrote Columbo: A Trace of Murder, which aired as a 25th Anniversary special. The following year he wrote and produced Exiled, the only Law & Order television movie ever made. Exiled starred Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan and garnered Kipps a Mystery Writer’s Association Edgar Award. Law & Order creator Dick Wolf has credited Exiled as having given him the idea for a Law & Order franchise.

In 1998, Kipps served as Executive Producer and show runner of Little Bill, an animated children’s show he developed with Bill Cosby for Nickelodeon. Kipps received an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Humanitas Award for the critically acclaimed series.

In 2002, Kipps and Cosby created and Executive Produced Fatherhood, an animated sitcom for Nickelodeon. The Cosby/Kipps writing/producing team next wrote Fat Albert: The Movie, which was released by Twentieth Century Fox in 2004.

Moving back to the cop genre in 2007, Kipps wrote for Law & Order: Criminal Intent and wrote and produced the indie filmFrame of Mind, about a police detective in New Jersey.

In 2008, Kipps signed with Scribner to write a series of mystery novels. The protagonist is Detective Conor Bard, a cop who would rather be a rock star. The first in the series, Hell’s Kitchen Homicide, was published September 2009. The second, Crystal Death, was published in 2010.

In May, 2009, Kipps’ book Cop Without A Badge, written 13 years before, was used as the plot line for the reality show, Real Housewives of New Jersey. Cop Without A Badge was re-issued by Simon & Schuster.

Currently, Kipps is working on several television and film projects as well as more Conor Bard Mysteries. We are so pleased to present him as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Charles Kipps for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan:  What did you feature in your high school literary magazine and what did you enjoy about it the most?
Charles Kipps: The Inkslinger was comprised of short stories and poems. I enjoyed reading the efforts of my fellow students. Some were wonderful. Others were...

Is basketball your favorite sport to write about since you played it? Why or why not and what other sports do you enjoy playing and writing about?
I’d rather play basketball than write about it. To me, it’s just not as exciting to write about as my two favorite sports -- football and boxing. Especially boxing, which is a one on one contest.

Do you follow the Manhattan sports teams and what do you think about them currently?
I’m a New Yorker so of course I follow the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, and Nets. But I’m really passionate about the Giants and Jets. Hockey? Sorry, but it’s not a sport I’m into. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been able to skate. As far as New York’s professional sports teams, I’m disappointed they aren’t all champions every year. Hey, this is New York. There’s no excuse.

Are you musical yourself or in that field are you exclusively a producer?
I’ve written about a hundred songs. The biggest hit I had as a songwriter was “Walk Away From Love,” which I wrote for David Ruffin. David was the lead singer of The Temptations and this was his biggest post-Temptations hit.

Do you still produce music?
Not at this time, although I wouldn’t rule it out. I recently co-wrote a song with Peter Criss, drummer and founding member of Kiss, for his solo album. It was called “It Doesn’t Get Better Than This.”

Tell us about the disco era in Manhattan please. It's before our time!
Before your time? That’s too bad. It was a wonderful period in New York. And it wasn’t all about Studio 54, where I found myself frequently because I was in the music business. I preferred to hang out in restaurants and bars. There was a bar called Possible 20 where top musicians of the era gathered. (Possible 20 referred to the way recording sessions were booked -- three hours with a possible twenty minutes overtime.) Another spot I liked was Buffalo Roadhouse. It was in the Village. No sign out front. If you didn’t know where you were going, you’d never find it. Great burgers. And then there was an Upper Westside restaurant, Shelter. And Hobeau’s, a fish joint. Schezuan East for Chinese food. Monk’s Inn for it’s dimly lit room, a bottle of red wine, and a platter of boursin cheese and apples. Plus, the Seventies wasn’t all bellbottoms and tie dyed T-shirts. Halston, Ralph Lauren, and other designers started their careers in the Seventies. Sorry, Peachy, you totally missed it. New York will never have that energy again.

What have you enjoyed writing the most and why, both in terms of articles and books.
I’ve heard my songs on the radio, watched my TV episodes on the small screen and my films on the big screen, and had articles with my byline on the front page, but nothing compares to holding a book that I’ve written in my hands. Maybe that’s because I’m out there by myself. No musicians, no singers, no cameras, no actors. Kind of like a trapeze artist working without a net.

Is there really a Fat Albert sandwich or a Coal's Steakhouse?
The Fat Albert sandwich doesn’t exist as such. However, it’s fashioned after the sandwiches we used to order in the studio when we did sessions in the Seventies. We’d add as many different ingredients as would fit between two slices of bread. They were great sandwiches. Although most of the restaurants in “Hell’s Kitchen Homicide” do, in fact, exist, Coals does not. That’s because a mob sitdown took place there. And real restaurants don’t have mob sitdowns. Capisce?

We are so delighted to hear that you will speak to your character Conor about switching from Ketel One to Star Vodka and maybe even try The Peachy Deegan at Swifty's. What did he think of our idea?
Well, Conor is forty-two and he’s been drinking Ketel One for awhile. But he told me he’s not averse to trying something new. However, he’s a little concerned about the peach part of the cocktail since he doesn’t even use vermouth in his martinis. I think he’ll come around, though, and give a Peachy Deegan a try. Actually, what he said was, he wouldn’t mind giving Peachy Deegan a try but he wasn’t sure about the drink. And he said he’d stop by Swifty’s one night.

When does Crystal Death come out?
“Crystal Death” was published September 2010.

Are you currently doing anything on television?
My book “Cop Without A Badge” is headed to television as a weekly dramatic series. And I’ve got several other projects in the works for 2011 but I can’t talk about them right now. Ask me again in March.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Elaine Kaufman of Elaine’s Restaurant. Everything I have done in film, television, and books can be traced back to introductions Elaine made. Whenever I went to the restaurant she always sat me down with people in the entertainment industry who could further my career. She passed away last December. It was a huge loss for me.

What are you proudest of and why?
I’m proudest of the fact that I came to New York when I was twenty-two, staked a claim in the greatest city in the world, and more than three decades later I’m still here.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen. But I am looking forward to directing a film someday soon.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize...just kidding. I have an Emmy, an Edgar (Mystery Writers of America), a Humanitas, and a Peabody. Also, I have seven gold records.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Times Square. Yes, I know it’s full of tourists but unlike many neighborhoods in the city that have totally lost their identity over the years, there’s still an echo of old New York energy pulsating through the neon lights at the Crossroads of the World.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
It used to be Coliseum Books. Now it’s the Apple Store. How times have changed.

What is your favorite drink?
Ketel One...sorry, Star Vodka, straight up, twist, no vermouth.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Is Swifty’s the right answer?

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
“Time and Again” by Jack Finney. If you live in Manhattan and you haven’t read this book, you should move to Cleveland.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
Empire Kipps Building? No? Okay, I’d love to have a street in Midtown named after me. Forty-Eighth Street would become Kipps Way. That would be perfect.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Jogging the six mile loop around Central Park.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Walk to almost anyplace I need to be. Drink all night and not worry about driving home. Find virtually anything you want somewhere in the city.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Attending Broadway shows and concerts in Central Park.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Not enough. But I do my best to mentor aspiring writers and musicians.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Nightlife in New York is underrated and overrated. It’s underrated because people tend to think of Manhattan nightlife in terms of trendy clubs when, in fact, there are countless off-the-beaten-path joints populated with an amazing cross section of true New Yorkers you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s overrated because people tend to think of New York nightlife in terms of trendy clubs when, in fact, most of these clubs are populated by patrons you’ll not only find in Manhattan clubs but at any club anywhere in the world.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Nightlight. The wonderful thing about Manhattan is that you don’t have to actually do anything because you know you can if you really want to. (As opposed to say, Point Barrow, Alaska where you’re in for the night at about six-thirty.) So Nightlight tells me what I could be doing because I live in Manhattan.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I think, by now, they already know more than they ever wanted to. I mean, after all these questions there’s nothing much to add. Except that I’m probably the biggest writer in the business -- I’m six feet eight inches tall. That’s two meters three centimeters for European readers.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
The best way to contact me is through my website: There’s an email button if anyone would like to email me.

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