Is Anderson Cooper the new King of All Media? The CNN host (Anderson Cooper 360) and newly anointed 60 Minutes correspondent is now an author, having written the candid book Dispatches From the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival (out May 23). But deep down, Cooper, who turns 39 on June 3, is just an obsessed American Idol fan like the rest of us.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you manage to write this book at the same time as doing your nightly show?
ANDERSON COOPER: Logistically, it was kind of a nightmare. I would write from about 9 a.m. until about 1 in the afternoon, with a few interruptions to do conference calls and help on the show. Then I’d go into work around 1, work all day until midnight, and then I’d go home and write from 12:30 until about 2:30 a.m. So every waking moment I was working. I’ve been trying to catch back up on the sleep.
Do you feel like the work you do can actually have an impact on current events?
A lot of times you feel like you’re shouting into a wind tunnel, especially if you’re overseas in Africa. That’s a very strange feeling, to repeatedly see these sorts of terrible things and see that nothing really changes. Every now and then you get a feeling that something can change. I’ve gone through periods where I thought what I was doing was making a difference, and then I’ve gone through periods where I thought it doesn’t matter at all. But whichever one is true, I do think there’s still value in showing up and continuing to at least talk about these things that a lot of people don’t talk about and honor the suffering and the sacrifices that are being made.
How do you go about keeping your personal politics off the air?
It’s not an active censoring process. I just don’t believe in wearing my opinion on my sleeve. It’s not my job to take a stand on issues. And as a viewer, I don’t care what some overpaid, over-blow-dried anchor thinks about an issue. What their position is really doesn’t interest me. It’s certainly the wave of cable news these days to get an opinion and yell about it, but I think that wears thin after a while.
I’ve noticed quite a few American Idol references on your show.
I’m obsessed with American Idol. That’s the most brilliantly produced show that there is. The gray-haired guy [Taylor Hicks], I liked for a while. I like when he does the actual Joe Cocker stuff. When he gets into the Wedding Singer stuff, it’s cringeworthy. No one needs to see a gray-haired man dance. And I include myself in that. Paris [Bennett] I thought was great when she did Billie Holliday, but after a while it was like, Who is this person? I don’t understand. The stylists should be lined up and shot. That’s the other thing I love about the show. The best moment of the show is, I think, the second week in Hollywood, when they’ve suddenly been styled. And they emerge and they look completely different. I mean, how did they fix Elliott [Yamin]’s teeth? They’ve done something, so you don’t even notice it! Maybe they’ve, like, ripped the muscles in his lips so he can’t smile, or painted one of his teeth black so you don’t notice it, but I swear he’s had some sort of major work done. They got rid of the Amish beard and put a little Crew Fiber in his hair. Kellie Pickler, I’m glad she’s gone, because I didn’t buy that whole calamari thing. Please. Come on. And then there’s the woman who was on her knees [Katharine McPhee]. She’s incredibly beautiful. She’s got a whole Playboy-bunny thing going on, and totally working the camera. Elliott, I think, has a great voice. He does seem nervous from time to time, though. I think it was in EW, someone was saying, If he doesn’t believe in his own performance, why should we? And that’s a valid point.
What’s it like being Gawker.com’s No. 1 obsession? It’s alarming how often they write about you.
Honestly, I don’t read it. I just find that there’s no point in reading stuff about me. You end up then being worried about what people are saying about you, and you end up thinking about that, and you start to view yourself in some other ways than what it is that you really are and what got you into the business in the first place. It’s not something I pay attention to. Raising my profile is not something I’m looking to do.
You’ve accomplished so much at such a young age. What’s left for you to do?
I don’t feel very young. I never really have. I’ve been doing the same thing for 15 years, and kind of plugging away. I guess more people are noticing now, and I guess that’s nice, but it doesn’t really change what my day-to-day life is like at all. It’s just as boring as ever. I’m hoping for the Ice Capades version of my life. That would complete the entire thing.
For more with Anderson Cooper, check out the June 2, 2006, issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine.