As the unofficial king of Bravo, Andy Cohen’s media universe consists of his long running talk show Watch What Happens Live (now in its 17th season), acting as mastermind of the popular Real Housewives franchise (including a recently announced iteration from Dubai), a namesake station on SiriusXM radio and his very own book imprint.
It’s through the latter that the multi-hyphenate recently released his new book Glitter Every Day: 365 Quotes From Women I Love, which features inspirational boosters, fun catchphrases, snide asides and wild comments for each day of the year. It shines a spotlight on a plethora of famous ladies — Dolly Parton, Kamala Harris, Cher and his very own Housewives – complete with commentary from the author himself.
Cohen spoke to Billboard about some of the book’s standout quotes, his fandom for the Grateful Dead and that one time he bottled Lady Gaga’s pee.
Your book features quotes that range from Beyonce talking about the salads at McDonald’s, to inspiring ones from Eleanor Roosevelt, your Housewives and Whitney Houston. It’s all very random but makes perfect sense. How’d the idea come about?
Hoda Kotb has done a bunch of quote-a-day books and I was trying to think during the pandemic of something fun to do and what my next book would be. I thought, what if I did my own spin on a quote-a-day book? Her quotes are always very uplifting and mine here are uplifting, thought-provoking, very funny and random, occasionally ridiculous.
So in the spirit of Watch What Happens Live, I’m going to read some quotes from your book back to you and you’ll have to talk to me about them in a portion of the interview I’m calling: Andy Quotin’.
I love it.
Okay, our first quote comes courtesy of Adele: “My career isn’t my life, it’s my hobby.” Is that true for you? Do you consider your career your life or a hobby?
That’s a good question. I wouldn’t consider it a hobby, because it is so much a part of my life. But I think especially as I have now had a child my career has reframed itself as number two in my life. But it was definitely number one in my life for a long time.
When you look at your schedule, has your workload gotten lighter since you became a dad? From the show, the Housewives, your show on Sirius XM, you seem insanely busy.
I have a Sirius music channel [Andy Cohen’s Kiki Lounge], too.
How do you have the time in the day?
I do have downtime. This morning I was on the radio, then I came home and sat with (my son) Ben for a half hour and we had lunch. Then I went to a business lunch, I came home and he’s about to wake up from his nap. I’ll hang out with him for a half hour, work out, be home for a couple of hours and then go do my show. So usually I’m in and out all day as I’m in between all of my jobs. It’s actually really great because everything I do has a different timeframe and it allows me more freedom than you’d imagine, and more ability to see him during various points of the day.
This next quote is from Lady Gaga: “I have an interesting mind, but I want to smell like a slut, to be honest.” I know there’s some context behind this. What’s the story?
I tell in the book that when Lady Gaga was on Watch What Happens Live, she peed in our trash can and we turned it into perfume. It’s on the set behind me in the clubhouse, which I absolutely love.
I guess what I’m wondering is: why is Lady Gaga peeing in your trash can?
Listen, there are a lot of questions. Why am I turning it into perfume?
Honestly, I could potentially understand that. But was the bathroom closed? Occupied?
I think the bathroom was too far for her and she just thought, “You know what…” I don’t know. She’s a rock star. She’s Lady Gaga. She can do whatever she wants.
Do you think Lady Gaga does something like that because she thinks it’ll make a great story, or was that during a time in her life and career when she said, “I’m going to do whatever I want and I’m gonna pee right here.”
I think she was in a different phase of her life. She was promoting Artpop, she had 50 pounds of hair on her head and her top was made of mermaid seashells. I think she was at a very free moment in her life and career, and that’s the mode she was in. She’s Lady Gaga and she can pee in my trash can any day she wants. I don’t question it.
Amen. I know you’ve probably seen a ton of concerts and shows in your life and are invited backstage, because who wouldn’t want Andy Cohen to come backstage? Can you tell me about your most memorable backstage experience at a show? You’re invited backstage, you venture back there, what happens?
That’s a really good question… I think for me ultimately, and I’ve had some really memorable backstage moments at a lot of shows, but I’ve gone on the road with Dead & Company a lot because I’m a big Deadhead and John Mayer’s a really close friend of mine. But there was a run of shows they did in California and I was with John, and I got in the middle of some inner-band drama with some of the other members of the Dead. It was like, of course this happened. Here they are, the Real Housewives of the Grateful Dead and here I am stirring it all up. It was really just fun. Looking back at myself in high school in the ’80s sleeping in a parking lot for three nights in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin for three nights or at Red Rock, then I jump forward and now I’m here backstage in Mountain View, California in the thick of it with the gals. It was just an amazing kind of flash-forward that really spoke to what I’m doing in my life, too.
Okay, the preface to my next question is that I’m gay, so I’m asking this out of love and not judgment. Well, maybe a little bit of judgment. I don’t know many other gay men who are as obsessed with the Grateful Dead as you are. How did you get into them? Aren’t we supposed to be into divas?
If you look at the quote book, I am! I’m so into them. But I’m a hippie at heart and always have been. I got into them in high school. There’s a freedom that’s associated with being a Deadhead that lines up with also being gay. There’s a sense of a total freedom of expression and brotherhood that’s out there when you’re in the crowd dancing with the Dead. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there. And there is a group I think on Instagram and Facebook called Queer Deadheads who I’ve met on the road.
How old were you when you came out?
I was 20.
Borrowing a quote from Oprah from your book to ask my next question: “Were you silent or were you silenced?”
I was silenced. I was silenced by the culture around me and the norms of society, very much. I came out junior year of college.
From Glitter Every Day, I’m going to quote the great Joni Mitchell: “I don’t like being too looked up at or too looked down on. I prefer meeting in the middle to being worshiped or spat out.” So Andy, is there anyone you met who you worshiped and afterwards you looked down on them as a result of that encounter?
Good question. Not really… There’s one diva in particular that I won’t mention because I love her so much. There are a couple divas who I love and respect and lionize who I’ve met at various moments who have been completely dismissive and bitchy and who I have appreciated that from because it’s what I believe is their character. It doesn’t take away from who they are as performers, or where they stand in the universe of pop culture. It’s like, good! You’re supposed to be horrible. You’re this person.
What about people you thought were going to be nice and weren’t?
It’s more so that the person you thought was going to be horrible and they weren’t.
Is there anyone who has a persona of being nice, and then you met them off-camera and they were mean? Like, a celebrity we would all think is a sweetheart?
Oh, my God. So many. Usually when people are labeled America’s nicest person or sweetest person, we all know the stories. It repeats all the time.
You’re the king of getting tea from celebrities. But I’m wondering: is there something you know that the whole world doesn’t and you’re just waiting for it to drop or leak or be announced? I don’t want to know what that thing is, but do you have big celebrity juice in mind that Deuxmoi would go crazy over?
Oh, my God. So much. I’ve actually evolved. People think that I’m just blabby, blabby, blabby. But the truth is that I’m an absolute vault. People tell me things that I know they don’t want repeated and I will not repeat them. I’m very good at keeping secrets.
Don’t tell me what you’re thinking, but do you have tea in mind that would be mind-blowing for people?
I think so, yeah. There are a few (stories).
Speaking of mindblowing: do you have a favorite drag queen?
I’ve been a fan of Lady Bunny since I moved to New York. I used to be at every Wigstock. I used to see all of her one-woman shows. She used to do a Christmas play I would see. Lady Bunny DJed at my 30th birthday party, my 35th, and my 40th birthday party. She’s definitely one of my favorites.
Let’s quote Mariah Carey next: “I don’t count years, but I definitely rebuke them. I have anniversaries, not birthdays, because I celebrate life, darling.” Do you feel the same way? Now that you’re in your fifties, are you living the life you imagined when you were in your twenties or thirties?
I never thought about what my life would be like in my fifties just like right now I’m not thinking about what my life would be like in my sixties. The idea of growing older is always kind of scarier than the reality of it. But listen, my life is great, I’m thrilled with it and it’s everything I could have wanted, especially now that I have a son. I don’t think I would have dreamed this would be my life, because it’s pretty damn good. But I am an optimist. I think I always wanted to be happy and just build on whatever I was doing. It sounds Pollyannaish, but it’s true.
You’re a gay man in the public eye who has a kid and a successful career. I think that you, Anderson Cooper and Ricky Martin are role models for gay men when it comes to parenting. Many times your name comes up, like, “Well, Andy Cohen has a kid.”
That makes me feel good. When I came out to my mom she felt like she had to mourn the loss of the idea of me having a family. At the time it was so unheard of. It was 1988. Even 10 years ago, I’d say ‘What if I had a kid’ and she’d say, ‘Andy, you’re not having a kid. It’s not happening.’ It’s so great that they now have this relationship with them that we all thought was not going to happen and then now it happened.
For our last dance, I’m going to quote Donna Summer from Glitter Every Day: “It was not a question of whether or not I would be successful, it was a matter of time.” Did you have that thought when you were working behind the camera working in the trenches at CBS and cutting your teeth in the industry? Did you take it day by day or did you have grand plans for yourself?
Both. I’m an optimist (like I said), so I thought it was going to turn out well. At every stage of my career I’ve been very happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not someone who’s been looking over my shoulder the whole time or wanting the next thing or a bigger job. Everything happened at the right time, so I’ve been able to enjoy everything. When I was a desk assistant at CBS I thought I was very successful because I couldn’t believe that I had gotten that job. I was from St. Louis, my family was in the food business, I had no connections in television and got it on my own. I thought, like, ‘I’m working at CBS News in New York. This is awesome.’ I think what happens to people is that they stay doing one thing too long and then they think maybe they missed their time, they should be bigger, they get jealous. But I was always pretty comfortable and secure in doing what I was doing.