Andy Cohen said it was Hurtful, but he had no regrets

The Washington Post

Lately, though, Cohen has been dealing with something he’s previously only had the good fortune to poke fun at: scandal.
There’s been a harassment lawsuit filed by two of his former Housewives stars alleging sexism on the set, among other charges.
Queer Eye put Bravo on the map, but Real Housewives took it to a new level.
At the time, Desperate Housewives was a huge hit on ABC; his big idea was to bring Desperate Housewives to life.
I remember a meeting where we talked about if we wound up killing the Real Housewives, what would the loss be?
I know that some feminist critics say it’s just a gay male conception of women, but you know what?
I love Gloria Steinem, but I don’t get the sense she’s watched a lot of Housewives, you know?
I mean, if someone’s got a Housewives tagline in their profile, chances are I’m going to swipe left!


On a chilly Sunday afternoon in April, Andy Cohen is seated on a park bench contemplating the highs and lows, but primarily the highs, of his nearly thirty-year career as a broadcaster. Sometimes a bystander smiles or timidly waves hello as they pass by. This, it soon becomes clear, is not an unusual occurrence for Cohen, 55, who appears to be something of an unofficial mayor of this downtown Manhattan neighborhood lined with townhouses and cobblestones, where he and his two children, Lucy, 2, and Benjamin, 5, have lived for 27 years. It appears that Andy Cohen is adored by all. Not everyone, but that will come up shortly. His mentor once told him he had “no charisma,” but he was an early 20-something who began his career in New York as a bright, driven network executive with aspirations of becoming a TV host. In addition to producing one of the most popular reality television series ever (the Housewives), he has hosted Bravo’s highly anticipated late-night talk show Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen for 15 years. Guests have included Mariah Carey and Hillary Clinton, who have responded to his shockingly direct questions. He manages two rowdy SiriusXM radio channels in addition to hosting two shows himself. His five best-selling books are, of course, all about himself. He also gets wasted on camera with his friend Anderson Cooper every New Year’s Eve, entertaining millions of CNN viewers worldwide.

The chatty Jewish gay child from St. Louis has come a long way. Louis, who proved to be far more charismatic than his previous supervisor had recognized. And none more than Cohen himself, who isn’t shy about how much he loves his celebrity, has been surprised and delighted by that rise. He shares the same Warholian fascination with celebrity as a certain other Andy, even though it occasionally complicates his dating life (he was banned from Grindr for “impersonating” Andy Cohen).

But Cohen has been dealing with scandal of late, something he was only fortunate enough to make fun of in the past.

Two of his former housewives stars have filed a harassment lawsuit, among other things, claiming sexism occurred on the set. Drug use, alcohol abuse, and even incidents of on-set racism have all been accused of.

Though you get the impression from his occasionally unusually reserved manner that it’s a topic he’d prefer not discuss anyway, Cohen is prevented by his attorneys from going too far into the specifics of these accusations. He nevertheless spends a few hours on this April afternoon sitting on a park bench, answering questions for the first time about the accusations, his love life, his choice to become a father, and what it means to be the only (openly) gay man on late-night television.

Since 18 years ago, you have produced Real Housewives. The culture as a whole has undergone significant change during that time. What has been the largest challenge and how have you adjusted?

It is not the same to produce a show about politically incorrect women in 2024 as it was in 2009. We decided to leave the 2009 incident where one of the kids called his brother a “fag” in the show and bring it up during the reunion episode. We saw it as a teaching moment when two brothers conversed in that way in 2009. You would bleep that word right away in 2024, and it would start a whole fracas. It would probably be someone on the show today who said, “You can’t say that word anymore.”. Then, on Twitter, the audience would go crazy. Over time, sensitivity has changed. Social media has a significant influence. These days, there’s not much space for subtlety. Nowadays, everyone has to adjust to the outrage culture in which we live.

Some critics have expressed dissatisfaction over Bravo’s and your perceived slowness in making certain adjustments. The first Black New York Housewife, Eboni Williams, claims she experienced systemic racism while filming the show.

Bravo has done a great job of making their shows more representative of the nation’s demographics, and while I can’t speak to her specific experience, I’m no longer in charge of programming decisions there. George Floyd was a key cultural figure who made us reevaluate every program we produced. Bravo mandated that its programming be more diverse. They had this show called Summer House, and it was basically a group of white people in the Hamptons. A group of white people tomcatting in Charleston was the essence of Southern Charm. They concluded that there needed to be greater representation across the dial after asking themselves, “Why are a lot of the shows so segregated?”. They succeeded in doing so.

Sexual harassment has been the subject of complaints from Caroline Manzo and Brandi Glanville. And Leah McSweeney revealed to Vanity Fair that producers desperate for ratings hid alcohol bottles on the set and undermined her sobriety. Are these singular grievances indicative of a more significant issue?

I’m afraid I’m not allowed to discuss some of these. Regarding the alcohol, I’ll just point out that Countess Luann [de Lesseps] and many other sober individuals are featured on the show. For the duration of the show, there are people who have never had a drink. Jill Zarin. Kandi Burris. Just the occasional glass of champagne will be consumed by Heather Dubrow. Of course, some people do drink. Many people don’t drink at all. Nobody is ever coerced by us to perform tasks. On set, though, nobody is surreptitiously concealing liquor bottles. That is absurd. We have shown a lot of support for people’s recovery.

Bravo would not, however, be the first network to add drama with alcohol.

Have you seen Ramona Singer on a Tuesday at 1 p.m.? We don’t need to fabricate drama. me. Ever find yourself in the company of Lisa Rinna at noon? Lisa Rinna doesn’t require a glass of rosé to tell you exactly how she feels. Margaret Josephs is a truth-seeker everywhere she goes and she only drinks Diet Coke. The reunions are filmed starting at six in the morning, and I doubt Teresa Giudice would claim that drinking red wine was the reason behind her table-flipping incident. M. For the love of God!

Reality star unionization is currently being called for, and your old friend Bethenny Frankel is leading the charge. By sharing their lives with the cameras, the Housewives have brought Bravo millions of dollars. Don’t they deserve to be compensated on par with actors?

About that, I could talk for ages. However, I must clarify that I am speaking in my capacity as an independent producer. It’s not Bravo voicing this. This is how I see it. One season or less is all that 90 percent of the reality stars on shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor, and Below Deck have. Furthermore, acting is a full-time job. Becoming a reality star doesn’t require education. Most reality stars work at other jobs. In addition to being designers, they run bars. They’re medical professionals. According to my understanding, Bravo pays its employees through a buyout model, whereby they are acquired for a show that has specific distribution options, and the longer an employee works there, the more they are paid. Furthermore, long-term employees often earn very high salaries. You’re not selected for the Real Housewives, you see. You can’t decide whether you want to be on the show and whether you think it will benefit you more than anything else. You want exposure and are attempting to launch a business and a music career. You then decide to take a long-term approach and may use the show’s exposure to your advantage by exploring other profitable options. And a large number of them really do.

Some of your critics were people you were close to. Bethenny became a multimillionaire thanks in part to Bravo. Have any of the criticisms you’ve received hurt you in any way? Do you have any regrets about the way you handled anything?

You see, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. Everyone riding the same ride together is something I value. After working at the network for 20 years, I’m really proud of the close relationships I’ve formed. I’m incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished and of all the people who have contributed. Though there will always be a few who have complaints, I believe that the majority of those involved with these shows have been extremely appreciative of the platform. Naturally, being a target isn’t enjoyable. It is therefore painful. However, I don’t regret how I handled anything. Everything that occurs in your life, in my opinion, influences what occurs next. That’s my perspective on everything. I live every day with confidence knowing the reality and my own behavior. Enormous numbers of people are fervently committed to this brand. It’s a tonic that supports them as they overcome hardships and barriers in their lives. I was completely astounded to see 35,000 screaming fans from all over the world when I went on stage at BravoCon. Everything made sense to me after having such a profound experience.

Many were taken aback by your decision to miss BravoCon this year, especially considering its success. Why does that exist?

This is a huge task to pull together; last year, there were about 150 or 160 Bravo stars there in addition to 30,000 people, hundreds of moderators, and members of the press. It took a lot of work to produce five Watch What Happens Live episodes in front of 2,000 viewers. And after it was over, I seem to have told [NBCU chairman] Frances Berwick that perhaps we ought to postpone it until the following year or wait until a year and a half. In that sense, it will be more memorable. It was only nine months after we had completed it that the desired space became available. And it seemed prematurely. However, Bravo made the decision in the end, not me. In addition, the choice was made eight months prior. It was only announced a few weeks ago, and people immediately connected it to the recent events. However, it was unrelated to that at all.

Apart from the current controversies, has everything in your life ended up the way you had imagined it would at the beginning?

Nope. This was beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s been an extremely peculiar experience. I mean, I love TV, and I’ve wanted to be on the air since I was a kid. In 1990, I worked as a desk assistant at New York City’s CBS This Morning. I was incredibly nervous about appearing on the show, but I looked terrible.

Did someone really tell you not to go into show business?

Indeed, one of my mentors at the beginning said to me, “You lack charisma and have wall-eye eyes.”. I moved to New York after graduating from college in Boston. But I understood that I would never be able to get a job here as an on-air host. I then started working at CBS News as a producer. I rose to prominence behind the camera rather quickly; at CBS News, I was the youngest producer, handling significant segments for 48 Hours and the morning program. I was mostly done trying to be in front of the camera by that point. However, I would still put myself out there to become a VJ or similar.

Would you have quit to become a VJ instead of continuing with CBS?

Oh my God, in a flash! Recall that period of MTV history, along with John Norris and Kennedy. VJs were huge back then!

You were cast aside by CBS in 2000 so that Barry Diller could take over as Trio’s head of programming. He hired you, but why?

I was friendly with Barry. He observed that I went out every night and believed that I had a keen sense of social cues. Diller saw that I had a high and low sensibility, so he wanted Trio, the new arts channel, to be very high and low. The documentary series Brilliant But Canceled was, I believe, the most popular project we produced there. After that, Trio itself turned out to be excellent but was canceled. As Universal and NBC merged, it was first absorbed into USA TV and subsequently into Universal. And after a few years, I was at Bravo.

Bravo gained popularity through Queer Eye, but Real Housewives elevated it to a new plane. How did the show take place?

It began when we saw this video of Scott Dunlop’s Orange County neighbors, who works in advertising. His big idea was to bring Desperate Housewives to life, as the show was at the time a huge hit on ABC. There was no better location than Orange County for it. Rich women who were bored. Their boobs were larger and they had big, blond hair. Vicki Gunvalson was one of the women who had a grotto in her backyard. However, Scott’s concept may have been somewhat less grounded in reality. We intended it to be a documentary about the friendships among these women.

When did you realize that it would be a big hit?

In fact, it took some time. We came dangerously close to canceling the first season. Our hired production crew would tell us about all the amazing scenes they were getting on tape, but when we saw them, they were just… not that impressive. We had invested $400,000 by that point, so we decided to move forward despite discussing what would happen if we ended up killing the Real Housewives.

What’s the secret behind the show?

It’s human nature to judge others. It’s that easy. This has a moral component since you witness people acting morally or immorally. Individuals enjoy passing judgment and watching others receive their due or retribution. It’s somewhat Warholian, and I believe this has a democratic component as well. To get your fifteen minutes, you can arrive from any location. Being a star doesn’t require having any specific talent. I consider these Housewives to be my own wack pack because I adore Howard Stern and his wack pack. It’s difficult to look away, even during the show’s most embarrassing scenes.

Perhaps the gayest sitcom on network television is Real Housewives. Is that what you had in mind all along?

There’s undoubtedly a very gay element to the show, characterized by arched eyebrows. And there’s also a lot of gays who work there! Bravo is a network for women and gay men, mostly run by women and gay men, and we each bring different perspectives to the table. We gays adore our divas. We honor powerful women. Our shows’ female cast members are, in my opinion, incredible. Gay men value women of all ages, but particularly those over 45. Unlike many other places, being a superstar at Housewives does not depend on your age. However, female producers offer distinct storylines and sensibilities of their own. Because it can be about women finding their voice, their power, or their sexuality, I believe it to be a truly feminist show.

A show about feminists? Really?

On Watch What Happens Live, I actually had a debate with Gloria Steinem about it. She compared Housewives to a minstrel show for women! I know some feminist critics claim it’s simply a gay man’s idea of women, but they’re wrong! If you look at Luann, Sonja [Morgan], and even Ramona [Singer], you’ll see that they went through divorces and ultimately came to terms with their sexuality. Others experience trauma and gain a great deal of empowerment. I love Gloria Steinem, but I don’t get the sense she’s watched a lot of Housewives, you know?

You have to be managing hundreds of Housewives by now. Which among them best embodies the ideal of the show?

Porsha Williams from Atlanta is a prime illustration. She is witty. She’s forthcoming. She is a person you support. She has experienced success and failure, and she is frightened. You kind of follow her around because she seems to have it all. It’s also possible that Brynn [Whitfield] from The New York Housewives becomes that. Judge Tamara on the O. B. An additional excellent example is Kyle Richards.

Apparently, Bette Midler was auditioning to be a housewife in Beverly Hills. Which celebrities would you really like to cast?

Tori Spelling has expressed her desire to be on the show quite a bit. She would undoubtedly add a lot of drama, but for some reason we’ve never really had a serious discussion about her. The presence of stars on the show actually causes me to feel conflicted. I was adamantly opposed to Lisa Rinna trying out for Beverly Hills’ first season. It made complete sense when she arrived, even though she was already well-known.

Have you been surprised by any hidden Bravo fans?

Julia Roberts, Steven Soderbergh. Every now and then, Jonah Hill sends me fan letters. Jennifer Liu. We encountered mob action when we attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I adore that everyone at SNL finds it endearing. Playing my own role on Saturday Night Live’s “Housewives Reunion Show” has been one of the best experiences of my professional life. That sketch included every notable female SNL star. I still recall thinking, “Oh my God, this is too soon for this to happen,” when it happened ten years ago. I will never be able to perform any better!”.

Many were taken aback when you left your position as a Bravo executive to become the host of Watch What Happens Live. Not many people have taken such a big step. Was the transition challenging?

Everything unfolded gradually. It was a lot of fun when I first started hosting an online show on Bravo . tv following Top Chef. It just evolved with time. I used to get paid $50 or $100 per episode. However, as the show gained popularity, they made the decision to go live. My first TV episode sticks in my memory. At midnight, it went live, and I wasn’t anxious. I felt as though I had been preparing for it for years when I went into the bathroom and said to myself, “Dude, why aren’t you nervous?”. However, that changed after a few years. I’m a really self-assured person. Generally speaking, I think that I’m always making progress with the decisions I make. It was partly criticism I was receiving from people on the internet, but I was like, “Who do you think you are? You’re not a comedian, why do you think you can host this show?”.

For that show, you’ve got a ton of big stars booked. Exist any that you simply cannot land?

Of course, Madonna, but at this point I’ve given up on her. Perhaps one day she’ll change her mind. She called me a “troublemaking queen” at a recent concert because she’s been slagged on my show. So I texted her a five-minute montage of me saying positive shit about her, so perhaps she got the message. Publicists view me as a risky stop on their clients’ press tour because I have the ability to ask anything, but I am a troublemaking queen (I own that). I also do. However, some find that fascinating. Which could be the reason for Mariah Carey’s frequent return, or J. Or individuals who seek media attention. They are aware that I will visit that place.

Were there any visitors who didn’t find the place enjoyable?

Among them is Debra Winger. I asked her to order her favorite on-screen kisses from worst to best. She replied, “I don’t remember.”. It was twenty years ago when they kissed. “I would still remember Robert Redford’s appearance, scent, and taste if we had shared a kiss twenty years ago,” I remarked. She didn’t play, though. I later learned that she wasn’t overly happy with the encounter. Dolly Parton and Oprah are willing, though. Having visited three times, Hillary Clinton is a big fan. She said, “Ted Cruz,” right away, when I asked her who the biggest jerk in the Senate. “.

Watch What Happens Live has been popular, but despite this, it has never received a late-night Emmy nomination. Will that alter this year, in your opinion?

Having been in this business for 15 years, my team and I firmly believe that people will see the differences in our approach from other late-night shows, including our high-low sensibility and ability to get people to talk about topics they wouldn’t talk about otherwise. I tell my people they’re wasting their time, but they insist that this year is going to be the one for them. Perhaps I’ve grown jaded. However, I don’t believe that Emmy voters regard it as realistic or serious at all. I am not sure. It’s not in their box, in my opinion, and it may never be. Their preconceived notions about late-night television are set in stone. Nevertheless, my team keeps going; in May, I have an Emmy event with Molly Shannon. However, thank you for it. Both of us would really like it to happen, so I respect their desire for it to. But in the end, I just want to be able to continue doing the show. What am I getting at?

After you began on Bravo, the nation’s divisions have widened significantly. Has it changed the way your shows are presented?

People detest politics, so we try to avoid talking about them. They seek our help in order to get away. Both blue and red states have Housewives. Additionally, a great deal of ire is directed towards Housewives who support Trump by blue-state supporters. However, let it go; this is America. I’m more concerned for myself on the radio show because some days I go in and my passionate dislike of Donald Trump can overtake me. However, people aren’t here to listen to my political opinions. To be completely honest, I use my platform primarily in my roles as a gay father and American. That’s the lens through which I view politics. Since I’m the only gay person on late-night television, I believe that to be extremely significant.

Absolutely. Howard Stern calls you America’s “Top Gay. “.

I don’t take that lightly either. John Mayer said, “I have unintentionally become a gay best friend to people who have never had a gay best friend,” when he gave me my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It touched me deeply. Several mothers have approached me during book signings and said, “My son and I watched your show for years, and when he came out of the closet, having you meant a lot to us.”. “.

A lot of people have been speculating about your friendship with Mayer. It seems unlikely for a straight rock star and a gay TV personality to be in a close platonic relationship.

Really, I love John Mayer, and he loves me, so let them speculate. But people don’t know what category to put that in because we’re so loving toward one another. They believe we are having sexual relations, which is definitely not the case.

Due to your apparent differences, your friendship with Anderson Cooper is equally fascinating. He appears to be amused and shocked by you on TV. And in private, is he the same way?

We’re like Gallant and Goofus, you know, from the old Highlights magazine? Evidently, he is Gallant and I am Goofus. I believe he’s frequently perplexed by the dramas I get involved in. “What the hell are you doing?” he’ll ask me on the phone, but we really have a lot in common. I always turn to him for advice, and he never fails to hit the mark.

Along with Kelly Ripa, Jimmy Fallon, and Sarah Jessica Parker, you’re close. What ordinary people do you know?

Of course! The other night, I went to a Seder with my oldest friends—girls I went to school with from back in the day. One is Ben’s godmother, whom I got to know in seventh grade. The other was the first person I ever came out to while studying abroad in London. Those are the people I hang out with, including Dave, my college roommate.

You once claimed that since you were seven years old, you have been getting ready to become famous. Has it fulfilled your expectations as much as you anticipated?

Nobody loves being famous more than I do, according to Anderson’s constant assertions. As a gift, in my opinion. I live in a big city like New York City, where everyone calls me by name and says hello. I walk my dog three or four times a day, and every time I go, people say, “Hey, Andy!” How awesome is that? I am personally connected to my audience. Since they are familiar with me, they feel as though they know me. My demeanor when appearing on television and radio is essentially the same as when I am in person. However, there’s still a part of me that finds it hard to believe I can make reservations at upscale restaurants. It’s unbelievable that I got into the Met Ball!

You must be single, right? How does a celebrity meet people?

Grindr, Tinder, Scruff, Hinge, Raya, and all the other apps are on my phone.

How does that suit your needs now?

I was removed from Grindr once after someone reported me for being someone else. Others say things like “Nice try. However, occasionally everything will work out. “Why are you sending me pictures of Andy Cohen?”.

Are you concerned that, as a result of your fame, people may want hook up with you?

I don’t usually have a lot of affinity for Bravo when it comes to the people I swipe right on Hinge and Tinder. Just random guys, that’s all. It’s almost a given that I will swipe left on a profile that has the Housewives slogan in it. To me, though, being a single father is what makes dating strange—not being famous. One evening, a guy I was dating said, “There’s an elephant in the room here.”. ” And I thought he meant that I have two kids. He responded, “No, it’s because you’re famous.”. “Wow, that’s something I never think about,” was my first thought.

What factors led you to choose to be a single parent?

Parenthood has always been my dream. I knew I’d be good at it. However, the city, the media, the celebrities, and everything else about New York captivated me when I first arrived. And all of that is wonderful to me. I live in New York and I love the media. I’m a huge celebrity fan. I had an amazing experience. I used to go to parties in the Hamptons and cruise around on yachts with Barry and other people. I eventually began to feel lonely during the holidays as I began to ask myself, “Is this what I’m going to do for the rest of my life? Is this all there is for me?”. I would return to my hometown of St. Louis for Thanksgiving, and I noticed that many of my friends from high school had either moved away or had a large family. And so I began to question my place in the world. As much as I enjoy the party, I don’t want to be the last man standing. After I turned 49, I started dating a 20-year-old who had no desire to get married or have children. I then decided it was time for me to move on. If I am going to become a parent, it must be now.

You mentioned that you get tired of hearing yourself talk, so have you ever considered retiring or doing something different?

I’m growing bored with myself. Neither Bravo nor Watch What Happens Live are growing old to me. I still find it to be a lot of fun. For a different reason, every fucking show is entertaining. When I spoke with Jennifer Tilly last night about her encounter with King Charles, she said, “I could tell he was totally into me.”. She answers, “He was checking me out. How could you tell?” I ask. “.

It’s difficult to think of you separate from the network since you’ve evolved into such an embodiment of it. Without Andy Cohen, what would Bravo be? And vice versa for Andy Cohen?

Bravo is the one you should speak with regarding the first section. I enjoy working there, so hopefully they’ll keep me on staff for a while. But in the end, everyone can be replaced. I love doing the shows, but I’ll be okay if it all vanishes tomorrow for whatever reason. I’m a successful radio host at Sirius, and I’ve written books. I am capable of a great deal of things. I also realize that I will never be alone now that I have a family.

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