Andy Cohen's Most Talkative Book Party: A Bravo Addict's Wet Dream
PHOTO BY SIMONE PAZ Lisa Vanderpump and her Bravo boss, Andy Cohen, walk the blue carpet into his book party.
Ken Todd, husband of Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump, looks nervous. He's walking around the couple's Beverly Hills restaurant SUR Lounge, making sure everything's in order. He totes their dog, Giggy, who's outfitted in a purple, gemstone-encrusted suit that might weigh more than the pocket dog itself. Giggy appears ready to greet royalty.
And royalty is on the way, in the form of Andy Cohen, on-air personality and Bravo network executive. The Cohen camp (Bravo, his publishers and Giggy's parents) is throwing a party here to celebrate the launch of his new memoir, Most Talkative. The list of "Bravolebrities" scheduled to appear is staggeringly long: Kathy Griffin, Patti Stanger, Jeff Lewis, practically every Real Housewife from Beverly Hills and O.C.
It's a weird setup, when you think about it, since Cohen plays two roles in the life of any Bravo star: a friend, who jokes with them on live TV while knocking back late-night cocktails, and the boss, who could fire their asses. For them, a party like this isn't just about supporting a pal in his moment of glory. It's more akin to Michael Scott's office Christmas party, and you'd look like a jerk if you flaked.
Just ask Gretchen Rossi from Real Housewives of Orange County. Why is she here for Cohen? "Well, first and foremost, he keeps me employed," she says with a laugh.
"You can't get away with anything. He has ears and eyes everywhere," Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger says. "It's like high school and he's the principal."
Cohen agrees. When asked about the "principal" comparison, he says, "Totally! Totally! That's my job. I'm the therapist, I'm the boss, I'm the friend, I'm the principal. All of that."
This is the first time I've met Andy Cohen, though we conversed once via Twitter. He was displeased with a piece I'd written criticizing his handling of Kim Richards, who battled alcoholism on the most recent season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. During her post-rehab interview, when she was just a few days out of treatment, Cohen suggested they watch footage of her drunken shenanigans. She agreed, reluctantly, and appeared sickened at the sight of herself. She asked Cohen to turn it off.
The next day, I tweeted the story accusing him of abusing his friend/boss power. He respectfully disagreed, saying whether to review the footage was entirely up to Richards. Despite all this, somehow, I made it into the party.
The scene is a Bravo addict's wet dream. O.C. Housewives Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino are across the room from each other. Things have been tense with them this season. Could their feud have gotten worse? The famously bossy Stanger pulls Rossi aside for a nose-to-nose, intense conversation at a corner table. Is the matchmaker telling her to dump that loser boyfriend, Slade? The new kids from Shahs of Sunset are smoking cigarettes out back. Million Dollar Listing's Josh Altman is making real estate deals. Some guy is all over fringe-Housewife Brandi Glanville.
Cohen hobnobs with his parents, then bounces over to the bar. "Hey Jax!" he yells grinning, calling the bartender by name. He orders a drink, then thumps the guy next to him on the back and starts chatting, snapping pics with partygoers as they pass. He's perpetually hugging Housewives. Later, he returns to his mother and takes her hand, leading her through the crowd to a comfortable seat.
Cohen's mother plays a prominent role in his book, which reads like a long email from a good friend. A longtime lover of television, celebrity and female drama with a predilection for getting a rise out of people, Cohen seemed destined to end up where he did: in the middle of all that. He followed what he calls "blind confidence" in himself, pursuing, and obtaining, his ultimate dreams: meeting Susan Lucci, throwing out a pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game, go-go dancing with the B-52's, coming out publicly as a gay man, climbing the ranks at CBS This Morning.
What the book does best is demonstrate Cohen's simultaneously deep obsession with and giddy enthusiasm for pop culture, and the lengths he'll go to be near it. Even as a young CBS intern, he'd sneak onto soap opera sets just to glimpse the stars. He was battling Lyme disease that night dancing with the B-52's. He got sassed by Joan Collins, intentionally, and stalked Lucci well into adulthood.
I ask Cohen if, as a TV-obsessed kid, he dreamed of working in front of or behind the camera. "Kind of both," he says. The middle, he says in his book, "is always the best seat in the house."
As the party winds down, Vanderpump powwows with staff members near the bar. She says something funny, apparently, and short-skirted waitresses erupt in giggles. A few snap pictures with her, and cuddle Giggy, before she joins Ken and a few pals on the patio for a nightcap.
Of Cohen, Vanderpump tells me, "He's been an incredible pillar of support. When he knows we're hurting, he's there for us."
"He's gorgeous; he's charismatic; he's just a brilliant man," says Housewife Kyle Richards. "All of us have this ridiculous crush on him, even though he wants nothing to do with any of us."
Maybe the waters are murky, but everyone loves swimming in Andy Cohen's pool.
At the end of Most Talkative, Cohen expresses the shock he felt upon becoming addicted to The Young and the Restless -- a show he once vehemently chastised. "Call it self-contradiction, call it flip-flopping, call it bloviating opinionated gasbaggery without foundation that will soon crumble. I prefer to call it growth," he writes.
I sidle up to Cohen and ask him to sign my book. "Mazel!" he writes, then we snap a photo. His inscription is so big, and so enthusiastic, it's impossible to look at it without smiling.