Anderson Cooper and his long-time friend Andy Cohen breezed into South Beach Miami last night for a free-wheeling gay chat. It wasn’t really about anything in particular, and since the whole Housewives thing on TV seems like an utter waste of a life to me I won’t even go there. All I can offer are a few snapshots of conversation to give you a flavor of the event.
Normally the audience questions at such an event would elicit more interesting information that an on-stage chat, but that was not the case here. The questions were largely concerned with inappropriate inquiries about Housewives, like who gets the most money, which one is the worst, and why Housewives of Miami is no longer on the air. Cohen deflected all these questions. Cooper was asked to describe Cohen with a series of words beginning with the letters badass. He deflected that one too, saying it was too complicated. Strike out the audience, a large number of whom came in after the 8pm showtime so things did not get started anywhere near on time. If they can’t show up by 8, close the doors.
Cooper gave a few insights into his early life. “My Mother took me to Studio 54 to see Grace Jones, and the next time I went I was with Michael Jackson. I was 11 years old and I didn’t know who he was. I saw him dance and told someone ‘I think he should pursue this.’” For those who don’t know, Cooper’s mother is the uber-rich Gloria Vanderbilt. Cooper is now doing a documentary about her amazing life still going strong at 91.
Tragedy struck early when Cooper lost his father. “Losing my dad at 10 was like resetting the clock to year zero. The world seemed to be a very dangerous place. I became obsessed with being independent. My brother committed suicide in front of my mother, and we were hounded by the press, so I know what it’s like to be on the other side and I keep that in mind when I am interviewing people who have suffered loss.”
“My Mom came from a very privileged background. The biggest thing growing up was to have people like Charlie Chaplin and Truman Capote over to the house. But I realized they were just as fucked up as anyone else,” so he did not try to pursue a typical career path.
“When I graduated college I had an arts major which means I had no actual skills. I spent four years studying Communism as a political system so when the Berlin Wall came down I was totally screwed.”
He faked a press badge and went off to cover stories in war zones for a few years before becoming a legit member of the press. Now we can see him nearly everyday on CNN. Cohen was trying to catch up with him at the beginning of the show, as they had not seen each other for 10 days. Cooper said he had been in Brazil, Switzerland, New York, Boston and now Miami in that period. He rarely stays still.
These days he interviews a lot of politicians, likening their persona to that of the Hall of Presidents at Disneyworld. He also mimicked their trademark thumb on fist routine when making a point to the TV camera. “No human actually does this,” he said.
Cohen’s obsession is very different from that of Cooper. “I was obsessed by pop culture,” he said, and he certainly found his calling in the show Watch What Happens Live. “The premise of the show is I want an unlikely group of people and then I ply them for information and gossip.” Cooper said “the parties you host are exactly like your show.”
Cohen had one word of caution for anyone who wants to get on one of his shows. “If you have a secret in your life and you go on reality TV, it’s going to come out.”
Naturally there was strong gay contingent at the event. Not only was it held in South Beach Miami (at the Fillmore or Jackie Gleason Theatre), but it featured two of the most notable gay personages on American TV. I thought all the talk of obsession for the evening was on stage but I was wrong. I asked an audience member afterwards of his impressions.
“I am obsessed with Anderson Cooper,” he said. Now that you’ve seen him in person, what do you think, I asked. “I want to see him every day. I think he’s gorgeous.”