LOS ANGELES — When an earnest but sometimes inept talk-show host took to public-access television in 1978 with a celebrity name-dropping show, it seemed incongruous that Skip E. Lowe would outlast every other TV host from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno.
For one thing, his show aired on the kind of cable channels that carry school-board meetings. For another, many of his guests were faded stars people weren’t sure were still alive.
But the ever-ebullient, sometimes befuddled Mr. Lowe, 85, who died Monday of complications from emphysema, did just that.
He filmed “Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood” for 36 years, broadcasting it on cable-TV outlets in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. He filmed the last one just two weeks ago.
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“He loved show business, and the fact that the show was public access, that didn’t bother him at all. He was on television,” said his agent, Alan Eichler, adding: “He never gave up thinking something big was going to happen.”
The result: the former child actor attracted a cult following in the cities where his show aired, including some of the entertainers he couldn’t get on camera.
Martin Short acknowledged he based his unctuous, often bumbling Jiminy Glick character partly on Mr. Lowe, and Harry Shearer profiled Mr. Lowe for a 1998 New York Times Magazine story headlined, “Ineptness Has Its Virtues.”
As the years passed, Mr. Lowe managed to corral a few big names, even if some had dropped off the Hollywood A List by the time they did the show. Among them: Milton Berle, Marlon Brando, Shelley Winters and Mickey Rooney. Guests would generally reminisce about their careers, with Mr. Lowe often interrupting to interject comments.
Sometimes he’d get so enthused he’d make infamous goofs, such as when he asked a guest: “Marilyn Monroe went back with Joe DiMaggio after she committed suicide, didn’t she?”
There were also somewhat askew comments, as in his assessment of Winters in a 2001 Los Angeles Times interview: “This is a very strong lady who’s filled with compassion for everyone in the world. Comparable, really, to Eleanor Roosevelt — only Shelley can act.”
When Mr. Lowe couldn’t get an A-lister for the show, which was the vast majority of the time, he would sometimes settle for a relative, such as Dodd Darin (son of Bobby) or Jacqueline Stallone (mother of Sylvester).
Mr. Lowe, who was never paid, believed he influenced interviewers who did. “Charlie Rose is my favorite, but, honey, you have to understand, I was doing it way before him,” he said in the Times interview. “Of course, he’s much more intelligent than I am, and he does his homework more than I do.”
The lack of homework was evident in his interview with actress Kate McGregor-Stewart of the ABC drama “Scandal.” He asked her to tell him about the show, adding: “I’ve never seen it.”
It was all fodder for Short, who performed the unctuous Jiminy Glick in a fat suit on Comedy Central and other venues. He interviewed current celebrities — the kind Mr. Lowe could not get for his show — complete with interruptions and a dearth of information. “You’re a stand-up comedian, I was told,” Glick said to Ellen DeGeneres.
Mr. Lowe was not a fan of Glick at first. “He thought he was being ridiculed,” Eichler said, “but he ended up thinking it was funny.”
“Yes, I make mistakes,” Mr. Lowe once said. “But my audiences like that I’m not so perfect. The thing is, I’m genuinely interested in what my guests are saying.”
Born Sammy Labella in Greenville, Miss., and raised in Rockford, Ill., Mr. Lowe recalled being bullied as a child because of his effeminate manner and penchant for wanting to entertain people. His mother moved him to Hollywood in hopes of getting him in the movies.
He landed several small parts as a child actor before growing up to be a song-and-dance man and master of ceremonies, performing in venues that ranged from nightclubs to strip joints.
He was never paid for his public-access show, but made a living in later years booking entertainers at restaurants around Los Angeles.
He wrote two memoirs, “The Boy With the Betty Grable Legs,” published in 2001, and “Hollywood Gomorrah,” published this year.
Material from the Los Angeles Times is included in this report.