Anderson Cooper comes to Miami for an intimate conversation

Anderson Cooper is one of the world’s most respected news journalists, having covered historic world events, including the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the death of Pope John Paul II and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as anchoring CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and being a correspondent on CBS’ 60 Minutes. But the Silver Fox, whom The New York Times calls “the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television,” has a playful side as well, as the audience will see Saturday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Cooper talked to Miami.com about his friendship with Andy Cohen, his decision to come out, how fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt being his mother affected his career, and when his hair began to turn white. What can we expect from this show?
It’s sort of like hanging out with us, and a peek behind the curtain at the news and also entertainment and reality. We thought that between us, we kind of span a wide range of stuff related to world events and pop culture. Are you and Andy close enough friends where you wouldn’t be afraid to ask each other anything?
Yeah. We both sort of know everything about each other, so nothing is off limits between us. And one of the dangerous things about doing these kinds of things is that whenever we’re on television together, we end up talking as we talk when we’re not on camera. It’s kind of fun for everybody else to see that, but it runs the risk of being very uncensored and very revealing. But that’s the fun of it, I think. A lot of what we’ll be doing in Miami — he won’t know in advance what I’m gonna be talking to him about, and I won’t know what he’s gonna talk to me about. It’ll be very impromptu, and every show will be different. When you were on Andy’s show Watch What Happens Live, it looked like you were having a blast. Was that fun, being able to let loose from your CNN persona?
Yeah, it’s nice to show the full range of what you do, and who you are and what you’re like when the cameras aren’t rolling and you’re not doing the news. Part of it is serious conversation, but a lot of it is really fun stuff, and it’s sort of like eavesdropping on two old friends who just happen to be in this business. It seems like Andy can get just about anybody to go on that show. What is it about that?
Yeah, there’s something about Andy where people really enjoy hanging out with him. He’s incredibly fun to be with, and that’s why he knows so many people. He’s the most social and gregarious guy I know. He’s out every single night, he knows more celebrities than I can even imagine meeting in a lifetime. He runs into people every single day, and his life is amazing with the bizarre encounters he has with celebrities. But I think Andy has this great ability. He can get away with asking questions that no one else can get away with asking. But you have the sense that he’s coming from a place of genuine interest and genuine enthusiasm. He often says that he’s not making fun of somebody, he’s having fun with them. And you really feel that when you’re with him. I mean, he asked Oprah if she had ever dipped her toe in the lady pond. And I didn’t even know what that meant for awhile, but I was like, “I can’t believe you asked that question of Oprah!” And she answered the question. It’s amazing to me that he gets people to say things, and that’s one of the things that we’ll be showing in Miami. What made you decide to come out a few years ago, and was it a difficult decision?
You know, I came out in high school, so I thought I’d already come out to my friends and family, and I was always very open at work. And the more well-known I became, it became clear to me that some people didn’t know, and I guess I started to feel that by me not saying something — I didn’t want to give the impression that there was anything I was uncomfortable with, or trying to conceal, because I wasn’t. I was living a very open life, and was seen around town, and so it just became a question of making sure people knew that there’s nothing that I’m not proud of and happy with. For a reporter, you don’t end up talking about yourself very much, and so it was strange to be in a position where people were very interested in my personal life, and I understand why that is. It seems amazing that in this day and age of social media that you would actually have the need to do that.
Yeah, well, I went to high school before there was Twitter and stuff, but everybody I knew, knew, and my partner owns gay bars in New York City, and I go to those bars. So I was never walking around with a pretend girlfriend or anything like that. I didn’t hear a lot of other reporters talking about who they were dating, but then it got to the point where not saying something seemed to be saying something. It doesn’t seem like it’s changed anything for you, at least professionally.
Yeah, I don’t think so. I think in many ways being gay has made me a better reporter, it’s made me a better person, it’s made me somebody who’s more empathetic and more understanding of what other people face on a daily basis, and I think it’s given me a vantage point on the world and society that’s really valuable. And I think it’s a great blessing, frankly. It’s funny, actually, Andy and I, how we got to know each other, somebody tried to set us up on a blind date, and we never actually even went on a date. We had a phone conversation, and we both determined that there’s no way that this is a good idea. I was like, “I don’t think so. You’re a little too enthusiastic for me.” And I think Andy thought I was too, I don’t know what, but we ended up becoming very good friends. Did that conversation lead to you becoming friends. Is that how it started?
You know, I don’t think so. We had a conversation and it sort of went nowhere, and then it was a little bit later on that we actually met. And over the years we’d run into each other. He was working at CBS News and I was traveling overseas a lot. So it took awhile before we were living in the same city, and then we’ve just become very close in the last five or 10 years. We travel together, we hang out together, and that’s something fun for people to see onstage — that chemistry we have when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Was the fact that your mother is Gloria Vanderbilt more of an obstacle or a boon at the start of your career?

I don’t think it was a boon, because I never really told anybody. I didn’t really want anybody to know, the same way I didn’t talk about my personal life. I really wanted to just be known for the work I was doing. And for the first couple of years, I never mentioned her anywhere, and it wasn’t anything anyone ever mentioned to me. I basically struggled to get a job in news. I couldn’t get hired at the networks because there were hiring freezes going on. So I had to make a fake press pass and go overseas, and go to wars by myself. And that’s how I got a job. So I wouldn’t have minded some help, but there really wasn’t much help to be had. When did your hair turn silver, and were you blond as a child?
[Laughs] I had brown hair as a kid, and I started going gray when I was about 21. And it started with a spot of silver right in the front, and I thought maybe I’d been hit in the head with a hockey puck or something. And then it just started spreading throughout my early 20s, and by the time I was 27, I was salt-and-pepper, and now it’s basically all salt, which is really depressing. I still think in my mind that there’s some pepper there, but sadly it’s not to be. In my mind, I still think I have brown hair, so every time I look in the mirror, I’m like, “Who’s this old man looking back at me?”

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