05/28/2013 at 05:00 PM EDT
James Lipton usually doles out the questions on his popular show Inside the Actors Studio
– but ask him a few and you may get some unexpected answers.
What was his most unusual job, for instance?
In a new interview, Lipton, 86, reveals that in the 1950s, shortly after the war, he was a pimp in Paris.
"Men couldn't get jobs, and in the male chauvinist Paris of that time, the women couldn't get work at all," he explained to Parade.com
. "It was perfectly respectable for them to go into le milieu."
Lipton reveals that he was initially a friend of a prostitute who later ended up getting him into the business.
"When I ran out of money, I said, 'I have to go home,'" he says. "She said, 'No, you don't. I'll arrange for you.' So she arranged for me to do it. I had to be okayed by the underworld, otherwise they would've found me floating in the Seine."
Of that era, Lipton says, "Young women desperately needed money for various reasons. They were beautiful and young and extraordinary. There was no opprobrium because it was completely regulated. Every week they had to be inspected medically. The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time."
Despite his interesting past, Lipton does not currently support paying for sex, saying, "I think if you can't earn it on your own, then you don't deserve it."
Having come a long way since his Paris days, Lipton approaches the 250th episode of his successful 19-year series on May 29. Looking back, he says Marlon Brando is the one person he wished didn't turn him down for an interview on his show.
"He was reclusive in the last years of his life," Lipton says. "He said, 'I'm never going to do your show. The [Actors] Studio
's always taking credit for me. I was trained by Stella Adler.' I said, 'So was I. Come on. We'll talk about Stella.' I've had a pretty good roster of guests without Marlon."