Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton were celebrating their third year of unwedded bliss last August in their accustomed cool style. Quincy, jazz artist extraordinaire and composer of more than 50 film scores, had just learned that his orchestra’s sophisticated new album, Body Heat, was selling like pop-rock bubble gum. Peggy, happily sprung from her five-year stretch as the blond teenycopper on ABC’s Mod Squad, was playing housewife and nursing their 5-month-old daughter, Kidada. Then, in a terrifying moment, Quincy suddenly collapsed on the bedroom floor of their Los Angeles house. “I felt as if the back of my head had been taken off with a shotgun blast,” he recalls.
Two blood vessels in Jones’s brain had popped, and for six days he wavered near death, unaware even of his own name. “If you don’t want to live, it’s so easy to go,” he says. “But all I could think was, ‘God, I’m not ready yet.’ ” Brain surgeons operated, discovered an even more dangerous aneurism, and scheduled a second operation in eight weeks with the warning that even if he survived, permanent paralysis was a possibility. Quincy remembers having “to sign papers about what to do with the body. For a few weeks I went crazy with money.”
But sanely, too, during this period he finally got a divorce from his second wife (Swedish model Eula Andersson), and the next day Quincy and Peggy were married in the garden of her parents’ Beverly Hills home. Then followed the perfect wedding gifts. Body Heat went gold and, like 30 of Quincy’s previous records and albums, was nominated for a Grammy. Most important, his seven-and-a-half-hour second operation was a success. “The doctor told me that they sawed off my skull and put it on the table,” he marvels. “Then they put it back on with six metal clips.”
Otherwise, the 42-year-old Jones is all but completely recovered. Though he suffers some memory lapses, Quincy has cut a new album, and this week he and his latest band launch a two-month concert tour in San Francisco. Joining them will be Peggy, who hasn’t performed since the Mods made their last collar in 1973, and Kidada (her name means “Little Sister” in Swahili). Peggy likes to sing along with Quincy’s group in a voice he describes as “smoky, but needs work.” The first time she tried it in Japan, she says, “I was more nervous than I had ever been in my whole life.”
She is talking about 28 years. Her father, a prosperous Jewish lawyer, set up her first modeling jobs in New York, where they then lived. Her mother, a rather driven artist, encouraged her to take acting lessons. And with that kind of pressure, Peggy developed a cover-girl smile—and a stammer that still lingers when she’s nervous. When the Liptons moved to L.A., Peggy worked as a movie usherette before acting in TV dramas like Bewitched. She evolved into what she calls “a Topanga Canyon hippie,” living on cottage cheese and rice cakes and drifting from meditation to yoga, until 1968. That was when Mod’s youth-smitten producers picked her wounded-canary looks for the female hipster of the three-agent squad. “I enjoyed it, but I didn’t realize how violent Mod Squad was,” she says now. “When it was over, I was so happy I couldn’t wait.”
Quincy bloomed just as rapidly as Peggy. One of a carpenter’s nine kids, he grew up near Seattle, where he started a gospel quartet at the age of 13 and was blowing trumpet and writing songs with buddy Ray Charles (who though only two years older is still referred to by Jones as “the guru”). Quincy’s composing for the Seattle University band won him a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee School of Music, and he also studied in Paris with the master teacher Nadia Boulanger. As arranger-writer-trumpeter, he was a formative music figure, touring the world, playing the White House, working with the great bands of the time—Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie and a 30-piece orchestra of his own that included flutes and flugelhorns. Then, in 1961, after getting into a bind with the IRS, Quincy alienated the purists but made back his bundle in Hollywood by pioneering the first jazz soundtracks for such movies as In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night and The Getaway.
Quincy met Peggy in 1969 in the Bahamas on a sailboat chartered by a mutual friend. “I thought he was adorable,” she says, “but there was no point in getting excited.” Two years later, after dating the likes of Ryan O’Neal and Elvis Presley, Peggy was tipped that Quincy had just split with his wife. She pumped a model friend, Quincy’s oldest daughter, Jolie, about her chances, and “Jolie called back and said I was definitely in the top ten.” (“But you had a bullet, baby,” Quincy now quips in record-trade lingo for a fast-rising hit.)
The next time Quincy ate at Jolie’s, guess who came to dinner? “Jolie was cooking corned beef hash,” remembers the then horrified Peggy, still a health-food freak. “But I said to myself, ‘If I’m going to spend the rest of my life with him, I’m just going to have to give up vegetarianism.’ ” She also had to take up cooking because, says Quincy chauvinistically, “she couldn’t even manage cornflakes, and I don’t believe in a woman who can’t cook.” Within a month Quincy moved in with her, though he insists that “if we hadn’t ordered food in, we would have starved.”
Peggy still talks wistfully of resuming her fledgling musical career but admits that “after two years of laying back and being a mother I’m not sure.” For 10 months she was “hooked” on breast-feeding her daughter, whom she plans to send to Montessori classes at 2½ and then to UCLA’s experimental grammar school. “If there was a public school where she wouldn’t be the only black or mixed kid,” she continues, “I would do that.”
Jones, more frenetic, has been working 18 or 19 hours a day finishing his album. “I can’t do those 24-hour days anymore,” he finds, but he isn’t complaining. He knows what Stevie Wonder, recently recovered from his near-fatal auto crash, meant when he called and asked, “You saw the high ground, didn’t you?” Says Jones: “I feel blessed.”