Born: August 30, 1946;

Died: May 11, 2019

Peggy Lipton, who has died aged 72, was an American actor, model and singer whose career was defined by two key roles. In The Mod Squad, which ran on US TV between 1968 and 1973, she was Julie Barnes, one of a trio of young undercover detectives operating amid the counterculture of the time; in 1970 she was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama for the part.

After a lengthy career break to raise children, which lasted until 1988, Lipton returned to acting and rapidly re-established herself in the public eye with the role of Double R Diner owner Norma Jennings in David Lynch’s cult television psychodrama, Twin Peaks. She appeared regularly throughout the first run of the show between 1990 and 1991, in the spin-off film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me in 1992, and the revived third series in 2017.

Born Margaret Ann Lipton in New York City to lawyer Harold Lipton and artist Ruth Benson, Lipton was raised in the WASPish Five Towns area of Long Island. As a teenager she felt like an outsider – a ‘changeling’, as she put it in her 2005 autobiography, Breathing Out, or a child given to the wrong family. A shy and nervous teen with a stutter, she lost herself in music and literature, reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar at 15 and fantasising about becoming an actor or a journalist.

Her parents facilitated her success from an early age, sending her to the Professional Children’s School in New York and arranging acting lessons and modelling jobs. Blonde and willowy, she was a Ford Model at 15 and signed, after the family moved to LA, to Universal Pictures. Much in demand for TV guest roles, she made her debut on sitcom The John Forsythe Show in 1965, aged 19, and did the circuit of popular shows of the time, including Bewitched, The Invaders and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

The Mod Squad made her a fashion icon and a star. The story of three rebellious and disaffected youngsters who were given a chance to go straight by fighting crime, the show was an early window on a world that much of adult America feared and distrusted. Over five years the series lost its bite but Lipton walked away from it with four Emmy and three Golden Globe nominations.

Her early promise wasn’t delivered upon until many years later. A media darling who reputedly had relationships with Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney – and who released a self-titled album in 1968 – she dabbled in drugs at the height of her fame and quit the business (notwithstanding a part in the revived TV movie, The Return of the Mod Squad, in 1979) upon marrying the music producer Quincy Jones in 1974. They separated in 1986 and divorced in 1990. Their children are the model and fashion designer Kidada Jones and the actor and filmmaker Rashida Jones, in whose 2016 series, Angie Tribeca, Lipton appeared in, playing Jones’ fictional mother.

Although Twin Peaks was by far her most high-profile role, she worked continuously for the final three decades of her life. Her most significant of relatively few film roles were the Kevin Costner vehicle, The Postman (1997) and the fashion industry expose, The Intern (2000), while Alias (2004) and Crash (2009) were two of the biggest TV series she appeared in. Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, she died of the disease fifteen years later.

David Pollock