& # 39; I was exhausted. I almost walked away from all that. He got rid of his phone, banned the news and left 1,000 meetings a year to find happiness at home. with his four-year-old son and his "best friend" Eric
My favorite story of Simon Cowell involves a ventriloquist named Terry Fator. He was a chubby middle-aged boy who won the second series of America's Got Talent by throwing his voice to sing songs through puppets.
I was one of the judges of the program, I supported him from the beginning and predicted that he would continue to be a great star. But Cowell, who, as the creator and executive producer of AGT, had the rights to run Fator's career if he wanted to, he did not think he could make serious money from a 40-year-old boy who was singing Roy Orbison's Crying with his hand on the back of a turtle.
The broad backroom team of Simon Cowell assured Piers before this interview that his boss had never been fitter, healthier, happier, more successful, warmer or more tender
So Cowell let him go.
Disappointed but undeterred, Fator got a residency at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel that turned out to be an incredible and unexpected success. In the back, the legendary Mirage hotel offered Fator a five-year, $ 100 million contract. He renewed it for even more money in 2014, and is now the star with the biggest gains in the Strip. To celebrate, he wrote a book called Who is the doll now?
Well, it's pretty obvious who the fool is, and that's the guy who got fired with a bonus of at least $ 50 million (£ 40m) in commission.
But I do not like that the doll in question constantly reminds you of this fact, which, of course, simply encourages me to take every opportunity to do exactly that. "So, Simon," I said, "with respect to Terry Fator, how does it feel to be the kind of Decca Records who rejected The Beatles because he said the guitar bands were coming out?"
"That is not entirely true," he stammered indignantly.
"It's not completely false, is not it? You did not see what Terry could become …"
Simon Cowell with Lauren Silverman and his son Eric in Malibu this year
& # 39; My life is very different since Eric came. Last week I turned 59 and started taking Eric on a bicycle, with him dressed as an alien, "Simon tells Piers.
Cowell loves being a father, but did he ever get his hands dirty? "Did you ever change Eric's diaper?" "No. All I've done are the fun things with him & # 39;
"No, of course not, nobody did it."
I'm not saying that Cowell thinks much about Terry Fator, but he added: "I'm not kidding, just yesterday I told a group of my people:" Tell me what I would have done then with Terry Fator knowing what we did. To know now? So, what was the process that did not work and what is the process that we must implement to make sure it never happens again? "Of course I'm excited for him, but I'm not so excited that we were not. It's not part of the deal.
That, I suspect, is the underestimation of the millennium. Cowell loves the offers. Live, breathe, walk, talk and dream of dealings. The only thing he loves more than the offers is to win; It is absurdly competitive.
When we worked together on the Got Talent program in Britain, we would have bets on which spider would crawl to the top of a dressing room window, and would sulk for hours if the second one arrived.
I've known him for 30 years, since he was a showbiz journalist and he was an executive at the record company who beat music icons such as Zig & Zag and the Teletubbies. It was fun, and a little surprising, to see him go from unknown supplier of innovative artists to be the most famous television star on the planet. It was even more fun, and a little more surprising, when I pulled myself out of the blazing, scandalized embers of my career on Fleet Street to get myself into America's Got Talent and give myself a new career in prime-time television in the United States. .
Cowell's extensive backroom team assured me before this interview that he has never been fitter, healthier, happier, more successful, warmer or more cuddly.
But then they are paid to say that. And, anyway, who wants a warm and gentle Simon Cowell? "I do not know whether to be pleased with you if all this is true or is disturbed," I said.
"I'm really happy, Piers!" He insisted.
Is the? The last time I interviewed him was in 2005, and for Cowell, given the frenetic pace in which he lives, 13 years is an eternity.
"Then you said that on a happiness scale of one to ten, you felt that you were only a five because you were frustrated because you had not done enough in your life to justify feeling happy." God, right? Well, the level of happiness has definitely gone up … a nine. "
There was a time, about a year ago, when friends were very concerned about Cowell. He was hospitalized after a strange 4am fall down the stairs in his London home after fainting, something doctors attributed to low blood pressure and the stress of his crazy work schedule
"What do you attribute that to?"
"Eric [his four-year-old son], number one. My life is very different since it arrived. Last week I turned 59 and started taking Eric on a bicycle, with him dressed as an alien. Then I bought him yogurt, I saw him play on his hamster wheel on the grass, we swam and I taught him how to ride a quad bike. "
That's not how I imagined Cowell would spend his birthday. Feeling my bewilderment, he added hastily, "Lauren was in New York watching her son Adam, so I ended up getting flogged by a friend of mine in Nobu in Malibu." And when I woke up with a hangover the next day, I thought about the wonderful day I had had and how I feel happier than I have been doing for a long time. "
There was a time, about a year ago, when friends were very concerned about Cowell. He was hospitalized after a strange 4am fall down the stairs in his London home after fainting, something doctors attributed to low blood pressure and the stress of his crazy work schedule.
"Sometimes we receive a reminder that we are not invincible, and this was mine," he said at the time. He took it seriously, escaping the Los Angeles rat race in Beverly Hills to buy a house in Malibu overlooking the sea. And he even left his beloved mobile phone, which he blamed for never being able to relax. He explained: "There was one morning about a year ago when I woke up with 25 unread text messages and thought," I'm really not in the mood to read them today. "So I left it a week and left, up to 200 unread messages. .. So I thought, I'm just going to turn off the phone for a month and then I'll answer again, and I never turned on the phone again after that day.
"Then I realized that I was doing more than 1,000 meetings a year, what with the phone was also going crazy." In my 20s we used to have an answering machine at home and there was never any message, and I was happier then. Now, if you lose your phone, it's worse than losing your wallet. I lost one once and I thought: "My God, I've lost my life", but it's just a stupid phone!
Cowell with his mother, Julie, who died in 2015. "I have accepted that my mother is not here, but I talk a lot with her and with my dad in the head," she says.
Cowell also left Twitter (he has not tweeted for 16 months). "I stopped using it because when you're on Twitter you have to be in contact 24 hours a day to comment on anything, so sometimes I do not know what to say and I think," Why do I do this? "
"Did you feel like moving away completely from the business?"
"I was getting closer to that point, there was a lot to deal with and I was exhausted, I would wake up feeling tired, which is the worst feeling in the world."
"Did you see a therapist?"
The river. "No, I did not, I do not believe in all of those things, some people probably really need it, I'm going the opposite way where I say I'm not really a victim here, I just assumed too much, I made a couple of mistakes and you have to deal with that, and I just dealt with that, it's as simple as that.
Our mutual friend Ant McPartlin was not so lucky, he crashed and burned himself in an amazing fall (hopefully temporary) of the national treasury state. "I do not think any of us saw any sign of his laughter," Cowell said. "I knew he was a bit grumpy, but then he's always been a bit grumpy." When I talked to him about it, he did not make any excuses. We live in a time when people get depressed or laugh, and it was harder for him because he was in public. But the word I use probably more than anything else now is "context," because we look at things or ourselves in such a way that it is out of context. When things go wrong now, I always say: "Wait a minute, it's not the end of the world, we can solve this", and sometimes you just have to do that. "Another step that Cowell took to improve his quality of life was to stop watching television news.
"If you get up in the morning and put the news and go to bed with the news, you will not be in a good mood." Especially if you also go to social networks where everything becomes so negative and everyone shouts at each other. So I stopped doing it and started watching The Simpsons or a great movie instead, and I've felt a lot happier. "
What did he do about the two political phenomena that seem to have sent to otherwise completely crazy rational people: Donald Trump and Brexit?
Simon Cowell and his partner Lauren Silverman in 2015. Piers asks: Will Lauren, the mother of her son and a deliciously wrestling and fun lady, become Mrs. Cowell?
"Absolutely zero," he replied. "Maybe that's why I'm happy, I'm not talking about politics or religion anymore: neither at home, nor on television, nor in you, nor in anyone." That is not worth it.
Simon is a curiously impassive man for someone who has created such spectacles of emotionally charged talents. When was the last time you cried properly? "When I went to your stupid Life Stories show [in 2010]. I promised myself that I would not cry, and I did. "
He was talking about his late father, who died the same day that Cowell celebrated his first number 1 hit with Westlife, which sparked him that day. His mother, Julie, the rock of his life, died three years ago. A moment that I know hit him very hard.
"I have accepted that my mother is not here, but I talk a lot with her and with my father Almost all the decisions we make now, I always have them in mind and I have this kind of conversation: what would they say, what would they think?
While the ratings of America & # 39; s Got Talent (of which he is now judge) and Britain & # 39; s Got Talent are activated, The X Factor has slipped and is now regularly defeated by Strictly Come Dancing. Regardless of his public protests to the contrary, I know he must kill him inside. He hates to lose.
"Once again, the context," he said. "Coronation Street used to get 20 million viewers, now six million is considered a success." Our younger audience, the group of 16 to 34 years old, which X Factor should attract, has grown this year. I do not care much about grades anymore, I have not looked at them in the last three weeks, I swear to God, that's the truth. "
Since the only god that Cowell really believes in is himself, this was not the most convincing statement. The reason he does not look at the ratings at this time is because he is still getting kicked in the back by a program he once boasted he was annihilating. But it is the same fierce competitive spirit that also makes him one of the most successful people in the history of entertainment.
His shows are broadcast all over the world and number 1 in most territories. Cowell does not like to lose because he usually wins. What have been your favorite career moments?
Simon Cowell travels in a private jet during the filming of the US X Factor. Despite his VIP lifestyle, Cowell loves to be considered a normal guy.
"The first would be One Direction, because the decision to put them together was as quick as ten to 15 minutes, everything after that was for them, not for me, but putting them together was a great decision, then, of course, Susan Boyle. I never hated myself more than when I saw that horrible mocking mockery that we looked at each other when we got on the stage and started talking, I knew people would hate our guts and think we were absolutely disgusting, but we had to leave that part or It would not have been authentic, all I remember telling the team was: "Maybe I'll just keep Piers' face a little bit more than mine." Hahahaha.
Now, however, he has found something even more important than making stars or getting great grades: being a father. Is he as tough and demanding with Eric as he is with the contestants?
"I'm strict with him on issues like politeness," he said. "My parents taught me the importance of good manners and treating people with respect, and I passed it on to Eric, but they were not strict with me about things at school, and I will not be.
"I was reading about your Twitter discussion about homework with Gary Lineker [the Match Of The Day presenter is against schoolkids doing work at home, I’m in favour of it] and I have to say that I'm on Gary's side. Statistically, the smartest children in the world are from Finland and do not do homework. "
"Okay, tell me the name of a successful Finnish person," I replied.
"Erm … Mika Häkkinen [the Finnish former F1 world champion]. But you do not need to be famous to be happy or successful. I was never subjected to any pressure to perform excessively in school, and I did not do much homework because I enjoyed playing outside. I worry that children have a lot to do now and are tired and stressed. My choice would be much less homework, enjoy going home, enjoying your time being a child and then going back to school. I think he has too much. "
Cowell loves being a father, but did he ever get his hands dirty? "Did you ever change Eric's diaper?"
No. Everything I've done is fun things with him. We talk a lot, it's like my best friend. "
Therefore, most of the dirty work has fallen on Eric's mother, Lauren Silverman, the woman Cowell wooed politely when she was married to one of her American friends, with whom she has a 12-year-old son, Adam. They made their relationship public in 2013 and Eric was born the following year, when Cowell was 55 years old.
I've known all of Simon's long-term girlfriends over the past three decades, and I've liked them all. But none has it down the hall. Will Lauren, the mother of her son and a delightfully feisty and amusing lady, become Mrs. Cowell?
"Just … maybe we could skip this bit … haha, look, I'm almost not going to tell you in this interview, right?
"You can not run forever, you're almost 60."
"Sixty is the new 40, at least that's what I'm saying to myself," he said.
Cowell in his house in Malibu. Piers writes: "I'm not sure that even Simon really believes that he has become soft and tender." That same victor mentality still prevails in every waking moment. "
"How old are you, Piers?"
"Fifty-three," I replied.
"I was looking at a picture of you the other day," he said. "In fact, I look younger than you …"
"That's because you've spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions, to achieve it," I said.
"What, and you have not tried anything?"
"No, absolutely nothing."
"Come on, Piers …"
– NOTHING! My head is how God wanted it to be. What is yours is not.
"Have you never had Botox?" He asked.
& # 39; NO! Where would you draw the line in terms of vanity? '
"Well, it's possible that I've had some fragments," he admitted, "but not plastic surgery, and I do not think I'll ever end up dying my hair, but look, I remember years ago people laughed at me for having teeth white and straight and now it's normal. "
Cowell loves to be considered a normal guy despite spending his entire life in the golden confines of mansions, Rolls-Royce and private jets (he even has black paper with black monogram).
He has also been a legendary man of ladies. But how many times have you been in love?
"Oh God," he sighed. "I could not answer that question."
"Would it be in a hand or two?"
"Well, let's reduce it to how many times did you break your heart?"
& # 39; One time. But for a day.
Who was? "A girl I thought I saw someone else had kissed me when I was in college and I went home, I had a motorcycle, and called the next day to ask:" Do you want me to bring my bike helmet? " [he laughs loudly]. For 12 hours I was like the male version of Bridget Jones, playing really horrible movies and feeling like fucking shit, and then we ended up a month later because I found someone else. And that was it. & # 39;
& # 39; That was it? Have you had only 12 hours of anguish in your life? "
& # 39; Yes. & # 39;
One of Simon's biggest strengths is loyalty to friends, something that extends to his ex-girlfriends, most of whom still love him. It also treats the people who work for him with warmth and respect, even if it can often be a complete pain as a boss: pedantic, impatient, irritable, contrary and demanding. (Of course, those same features make him a brilliant producer of TV and records).
Perhaps most surprising, given his reputation for rudeness, is one of the most educated people I know, and always does everything possible to be kind and generous with people as drivers or waiters.
"My mother taught me that" manners make man, "and I have a real problem if I see that people are rude to restaurant staff, it's just disgusting."
In August, Cowell was honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only thing that could surpass the star would be a tap on the Queen's shoulder.
Would you like to be Sir Simon? (I know he would).
"There have been many things that have come from people who have tried so hard to become a gentleman, I'm in two minds about it, if someone does not think I should be, I do not care, and if they think I should, great!
"And, by the way, if I ever did, I would not allow anyone to call me Sir Simon, apart from you."
I have always thought that Cowell enjoyed his post-life fame rather than even the great success, riches and feminine adulation he has given him. It was time to put that theory to the test.
"If you could only enjoy one thing for the rest of your life, and you had to give up all the others, would you choose fame, success, wealth or sex with beautiful women?"
"Um … um …" LONG pause.
"I could not, everyone has to stay."
"You can not, choose one, I want to know your key driving factor."
"Good, be happy."
"That was not on the list."
"I know, but it's the most important thing."
"Then it's official: Mr. Nasty is now Mr. Happy."
"Mr. Nasty was never really Mr. Nasty, it was because the unsavory producers put terrible people in front of him".
"Would you like it to be your epitaph?"
"I'm not talking about death! I'm only 59!"
"On the subject of death, do you think there is a life after death?"
"Not knowing is part of the fun, but let's hope so." Yesterday, Eric released a balloon in the garden because it was my birthday and on the balloon he said: "Dear grandmother and grandfather, I miss you and I love you very much." It was his idea write it down and the fact that he thought it made him so happy and his happiness made me happy.
"So sometimes it's better to believe that being cynical." Let's hope for the best. I think you and I will go in different directions at the end: one of us will go up and another will go down, and we know which one will go down. "
"Well, I certainly could not compete with the new Simon Cowell wearing a halo, that's for sure."
There was a pause, then a long laugh.
I'm not sure that even Simon really believes that he has become all soft and tender. That same victor mentality still prevails in every waking moment: if you do not believe me, just ask about Terry Fator.
But he certainly seems as happy as I've known him, and he deserves to be. Because, contrary to popular mythology, and although he will hate me for saying this, Simon is one of the good guys.
"The X factor" is in ITV every Saturday and Sunday night. "America & # 39; s Got Talent" is available on Netflix