You know him as the outgoing Bravo host who fans the fire at "Real Housewives" reunion shows and presses celebrities with cheeky questions during games of "Plead the Fifth" on "Watch What Happens Live."
But Andy Cohen had a long, winding, and often hilarious, road to his rise as a pop culture guru and celebrity interview extraordinaire. In his new book "Most Talkative," Cohen opens up about dreaming of a life in television while watching "All My Children" as a kid, what it was like to live in fear of AIDS as a young gay man in the '80s and '90s, and working his way up the ladder from a CBS internship in New York City.
You'll laugh aloud as Cohen recalls antics like pranking his parents by telling them he believed he was a Shawnee Indian, and risky career moves that could have gotten him fired, like tricking Oprah into an unauthorized interview. "Most Talkative" will keep you entertained while offering an inside scoop on some of pop culture's biggest names (Hint: The Housewives).
Metro caught up with Cohen as he gears up to tour for the launch of his book.
Metro: It has been a really interesting journey for you, going from wanting to be a local anchorman, to a TV producer, and now in front of the camera. Why decide you decide to share your story in the form of a book?
Cohen: I have all these great stories I’ve been telling friends for years. I’ve just always wanted to tell them and I just felt like now was the time. I just needed a deadline, so I got one and then I went for it.
The book is filled with you personal memories. Have you kept a journal over the years or did you start from scratch when you began writing?
I kept a journal for 11 years that really helped when I was writing about coming out of closet and how I felt, because I felt so alone and scared of coming out. And when I looked back on it writing the book, it seemed overly dramatic but it was so sincere and truly how I felt. There were so, so many details from my time at CBS — what a jackass I was during my internship, my work with Dan Rather and lying to Oprah to get an interview and getting caught, staying in a clothing-optional resort when I went to Palm Springs to interview Tammy Faye Bakker.
You talk a lot about your first interview with Susan Lucci and how it was such a pivotal moment for you. Do you ever get star struck like that these days with any celebrities you interview?
I still get a little star struck by Susan Lucci and it’s usually with the people I have some kind of connection with from my past. If I’m sitting across from Lucci or Joan Rivers, who I used to watch she filled in on 'Late Night,' I have to take a breath and say, 'Wow, you are this kid from St. Louis who used to watch these people, and now they are your show.'
This is probably a tough one, but what has been your most outrageous, memorable moment from an interview?
From an interview, I think the Oprah story about lying to her and lying to the anchor who I was producing for, Paula Zahn. I conned both of them and it worked into getting something on tape that Oprah had said no to. And I got caught. Looking back on it, I probably could have gotten fired but since it worked and she was forgiving, I was okay.
You mention in your book being dared by a friend to take a shot of Maker’s Mark during a commercial break on your show. How much crazy stuff goes down behind the scenes that the audience at home doesn’t get to see?
It all pretty much happens on camera. How much crazier could it get? One of the good things about the show is that it’s not that different from on the air then when we are off the air. It’s pretty much very similar when we are on and off.
Was "Desperate Housewives" the inspiration behind the "Real Housewives"?
'Desperate Housewives' was and wasn’t. It was an inspiration for the title. We had a pitch that had nothing to do with 'Desperate Housewives.' Someone brought us tape of Coto de Caza, in Orange County. He said, 'You have to see what’s going on there.' So, basically we shot with these women and we said, 'Wow this is wild, this is different.' So when we were figuring out the show could be X,Y, and Z, and we said, 'You know what? Let’s call it the real housewives, and so it began.
Can we play a quick, innocent game of "Plead the Fifth"?
I thought you’d never ask.
Which Bravo show is your personal favorite right now?
‘Around the World in 80 Plates.’ It’s new, fresh and exciting.
What has been your most embarrassing moment during an interview?
Profusely sweating because of overheating while interviewing Joan Rivers. It was impossible not to notice.
Which housewife do you think is the most over-the-top?
I plead the fifth.
Meet Andy Cohen at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC for an open-to-the-public book signing at Barnes & Noble (227 West 27th Street) at 5 p.m. on May 9.
Follow Cassandra Garrison on Twitter: @CassieAtMetro