By Mark Consuelos
PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEPHAN W??RTH | July 29, 2011 | People
Shirt, Theory ($195). 46 Newtown Lane, East Hampton; theory.com. Bathing suit, Vilebrequin ($170). 42 Jobs Lane, Southampton; vilebrequin.com. Flip-flops, Havaianas ($18). Scoop Beach, 51 Newtown Lane, East Hampton; scoopnyc.com. Watch, Cohen’s own
Every weekend in the Hamptons I drive by a little house on Noyac Bay and honk my horn. Why? Because inside that house lives a Good Time Charlie. An affable, sociable, pleasure-loving man who goes by the name Andy Cohen. After I honk, I wait for an acknowledgment that usually comes in a phone call or text that says “good morning” or “I just got up.” We both agree that honking while you drive by someone’s house is a very Midwestern thing to do (where we’re both from).
Anyone who knows Andy—and all of his fans who watch him on his show—will agree that if you are at a party, the person you want to be seated next to is him. He is hysterical and can talk to anyone about anything. He always has a story of what happened the night before or, even better, what should have happened the night before. And he always leaves you wanting more.
But getting more Andy time is harder and harder these days. He has a juggernaut of a talk show and is in charge of some the biggest hit shows on Bravo. He is also a philanthropist: He is on the board of Friends In Deed, which provides emotional and spiritual support for all those affected by lifethreatening illness. He is also an active member and supporter of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the synagogue for people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions. And whatever little time he has left, he spends it playing Angry Birds.
My wife and I met him five years ago, and we feel like we have been lifelong friends. (I have met some of his actual lifelong friends and am extremely jealous.) When I was asked to interview him for this cover, I was very intimidated by the task, because I wanted it to live up to how he would do it. He is whip-smart; he is funny as hell; he has a superior BS detector. All of this makes the interview extremely daunting. And to top it off, I am running late...
MARK CONSUELOS: Your show Watch What Happens: Live is ridiculously successful—you recently celebrated its 100th episode. What do you think it is about the show that everyone connects to?
ANDY COHEN: I think it is just the weird combinations of people. You have Sandra Bernhard and Sonja Morgan on, and Nacho Figueras—actually, it was a little bit of a Hamptons fest. You don’t know what is going to happen. I think it is a Fellini movie mixed with Wayne’s World.
MC: I have been on your show a few times, and it is so much fun. I think alcohol plays a small part in that, actually. I think Kelly said that alcohol could be your cohost.
AC: Alcohol could be my cohost, but I am not looking for a cohost.
MC: No, I don’t think you need one. The alcohol does help to make people a little loose. Which guest has gotten the loosest?
AC: There was one time when Bethenny Frankel turned to me during a commercial break and said, “I am trashed.” And Ricki Lake was very drunk. Then we had Regina King and Jackée Harry—that was the most famous, that became something. I got off the air and said, “That show was terrible”; I really felt like it was bad, but they were really into it, the ratings were high, and the fans loved it.
MC: What you are doing right now is rare. I don’t think it has really ever happened before, where you are straddling this network executive role while hosting a late-night talk show. Which do you find a bigger challenge? Is this part of your evil plan to take over television?
AC: I find my day job more challenging than my hosting job; I find that just a pleasure. I feel like I am hanging out with people that I know or have wanted to know, and everybody is invited to my party. And I love throwing parties. My day job is complex and complicated, and although I feel like I am good at producing television, it is challenging.
MC: Would you want to host five nights a week?
AC: You know, somewhere in my mind, I would love to, but it would mean that I would have to make some kind of a Sophie’s Choice because this job that I have is a 12-hour-a-day job. By the way, Bravo has not asked me to do this five nights a week; I just want to be a good solider.
MC: You have had some big celebrities on your show, but who would be your ultimate get?
AC: Michelle Obama. There is an election [coming next year]—maybe we should start working on this now. And Madonna. You know I am a huge Madonna fan.
MC: Is it true you went on a date with Madonna?
AC: It is. I didn’t get laid at the end of the night, so I don’t know if you could really consider it a date...
|Shirt ($68) and jeans ($150), J.Crew-at-the-Beach. 14Main St., East Hampton; jcrew.com. Boat shoes, Sperry Top-Sider ($85). Jildor Shoes, 30 Jobs Lane,Southampton; jildorshoes.com. Watch, Cohen’s own|
MC: Was that a bucket list item?
AC: Yes, that was total bucket list. And then Diana Ross, because I have been a huge fan forever. Then, I think, a lot of the older divas—legend ladies like Cher or Bette Midler, you know, people that are on the Mount Rushmore of gay life. But then also, I like an unlikely person like Sarah Palin. I love someone to come on and have people say, “Oh my God, why is that person on this show?” I remember once when you and Kelly came on, and Ralph Fiennes came on to accept my Mazel of the Week as Lord Voldemort. I know that a lot of people were like “What the f--- was Ralph Fiennes doing in the Bravo Clubhouse?” I like that.
MC: Another thing about your show I love is how you play all those games. Can we play a game? Okay, burning building, you can only save one person...
AC: Who am I with?
MC: Donny or Marie?
AC: Marie, because she is a lady.
MC: Boat capsizes, you only have one life vest—Madonna or Gaga?
AC: Oh, Madonna; Madonna started it. I love these questions.
MC: Whom would you rather save, Joe Gorga or Joe Giudice from Real Housewives of New Jersey or Mauricio Umansky from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?
AC: Wow, this is a real brain twister. I would like to say Joe Gorga, but I am going to say Mauricio.
MC: Let’s talk Housewives—the show is great. If you had to keep only one of them, which is your favorite?
AC: I can’t! It is usually whichever one I am watching rough cuts of. Right now I am watching Jersey and New York, but they each bring me a different form of love. The Atlanta ladies just make me laugh my ass off. Beverly Hills, I just feel draped in cashmere. New Jersey, I love the way it is shot, the storytelling and the music; I think they do a brilliant job, and I love the construction of that show. New York, I just love these women and it entertains me—these glam New York women fighting about why people didn’t RSVP to their party; I think it represents this slice of New York life that makes me smile. Miami, I am so in love with Mama Elsa [Patton], I cannot even handle it. And Orange County is Knots Landing, and I feel like there is some real-life drama that happens with those women.
MC: These women have become celebrities, and with some really thriving business. Which one has surprised you the most?
AC: You know, Bethenny didn’t surprise me because I think she is so driven, but Teresa [Giudice] has a New York Times best-selling cookbook called Skinny Italian, and she has another one called Fabulicious. She really took me by surprise. Give it up to Teresa.
MC: Let’s talk Hamptons. How many years have you been coming out here?
AC: I have lived in New York City for 22 years; August 15 is my 22nd anniversary. I first came out here to visit some friends—Jonathan Alter, the great political writer, and his wife, Emily Lazar, who was my colleague at CBS News—and they had a house in Wainscott. I would come and stay with them when I was young—22, 23, 24. Then a couple of friends and I rented a house on Noyac Bay, and that is where I have been for the past 16 or 17 years, in the same house. This house has a lot of stories to tell.
MC: What is your morning ritual out here?
AC: I have some tea. I live on the water, so I go outside and I just breathe, maybe go deep with a couple pals on the phone, have a little catch-up time. I have a friend in California, Lynn, who wakes up really early, and she and I always have a nice little chat. And then I like to get a little exercise on Noyac Bay, or our trainer Will comes over and we box together.
MC: You are in good shape. Have you always been that way, or is it because you are on camera?
AC: No, it was just a confluence [of certain events]. My show had been on the air about a year and I started to really see the whiskey [in] my face and I was like, “You are a carb-faced, whiskey-faced, bloated man. You have got to get your ass in gear.” So I got my ass in gear with Will Torres.
MC: Does it bother you when I honk my horn at you as I drive by?
AC: I love it. It makes me feel hugged, basically. I have a couple of other friends who claim to do it, but you are the only one who actually does.
MC: What is your favorite lunch scenario out East? Break it down.
AC: We have some mutual friends, the Perskys on Shelter Island, and I love eating over there. Bill makes the most fantastic Chinese chicken salad, with some rosé. I love a Hamptons cold lunch with a light salad, some rosé and some homemade peppermint ice cream sprinkled with some M&M’s. I have been venturing into Sag Harbor and having some LT Burgers, and I love Estia’s Little Kitchen for brunch. But to me, nothing beats a Sam’s Bar & Restaurant pizza—that is my dinner spot. That and The Palm are my two go-tos; there is nothing like summer on the porch at The Palm. All winter my favorite thing to do was to come out here alone and go to Sam’s, sit at the counter and have a glass of wine and eat a pizza.
MC: Tell me about your Buddha.
AC: My Buddha! It is so funny you should ask me, because the Perskys gave [it] to me for my birthday about four years ago. It has been here on my deck, guarding my house and providing good energy. Last July my Buddha was taken; I felt violated, and so on my show—I have a Mazel of the Week and a Jackhole of the Week—I made the Jackhole of the Week the person who stole my Buddha from my house in Sag Harbor. I mean, what kind of bad karma is that—stealing a Buddha? So cut to October: I am here at the house, I look outside, and I am like, “Holy f---balls, the Buddha is back.” I do not even care who returned the Buddha; I am just so happy the Buddha is back.
MC: In the Hamptons, there are two gears—you can do the social scene or hang out with your friends. Which one do you do?
AC: I go out to dinner with friends, I love a house party, I love a lunch. Nothing makes me happier than time on the beach; that is my thing. I wish someone would get their ass in gear and make a bar where homosexuals could congregate, because that would be a place that I would go, a gay bar. There certainly is no shortage of gay people.
MC: I am going to give you a definition and I want you to tell me if you think this sums you up...
AC: This is the best interview I have ever experienced.
MC: Are you an affable, sociable, pleasure-loving man?
AC: Am I an affable, sociable, pleasure-loving man? Yes, I think so.
MC: That is the definition of a good-time Charlie.
AC: Yes, I am a good-time Charlie. All I really want to do is have fun.
Styling by Rebecca Malinsky
Grooming by Caroline Blanchard using CSL and American Crew