When Andy Cohen had Lady Gaga on his late-night talk show (a thrilling achievement, he would tell you), he later discovered the eccentric singer had peed in her dressing room’s trashcan. It seems the only bathroom for the show is shared with the audience, and Gaga wasn’t using that.

dog-nup_163763_0246-andyFirst thought that came to Cohen’s mind? Get the pee. He told his production assistant to put the pee in a container to keep on the show’s whimsical pop-culture set. But after discovering urine turns toxic eventually, the assistant found Internet instructions on how to convert it to perfume. So he did. If you look closely during the show, you will see an old-fashioned perfume bottle complete with a rubber puff to spray – filled with Lady Gaga’s pee-turned-perfume.

That is Andy Cohen’s life.

Story after story of crazy, funny, shocking tidbits from Cohen’s life fill his latest book, “The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year,” released last month. He’ll take to the stage at the Katz JCC on December 11 to talk more about his lively – and unusual – life.

“I want people to laugh and have a great time when they’re reading my book,” Cohen says. “I want them to feel like it was fun and funny and dishy.”

“Dishy” is a great word to describe Cohen. As executive producer of the Real Housewives reality TV franchise (six series in all – The Real Housewives of New Jersey, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Beverly Hills and the first, Orange County), Cohen has been right smack in the middle of some pretty steamy gabfests and cat fights. He’s seen on air moderating the Housewives’ reunions and also as host of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” the only late-night talk show that airs live. In every episode, he and two celebrity guests sip cocktails, gossip and play games. A guest bartender stands behind a bar for the entire show, sometimes saying nothing. Viewers get a glimpse of Cohen’s personality, which is upbeat and positive. That personality comes across loud and clear in his book.

“My resting place has always been a happy place,” says Cohen, 46. “I’m a fun-loving, optimistic guy. I’m very appreciative about life and what’s going on in mine. It’s important to me to have fun, but I’m also mildly irritable and quirky and pop-culture obsessed, and a whole lot of other things.

“I think it goes back to my childhood in St. Louis. I never had much to complain about. I have a great family, and we were happily upper-middle class. We didn’t have to to worry about money or anything like that. I had two parents, an older sister, great relatives, and we lived in the suburbs. Everything was always pretty good.”

Still is.

As you might guess from the title, Cohen’s book is written like a diary, with a year’s worth of daily entries beginning in September 2013. Cohen writes about outings with his celebrity friends (like regulars Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kelly Ripa), his frequent vacations (to the Amalfi Coast, the Hamptons and Brazil), dealings with the Housewives (Ramona from “The Real Housewives of New York City” calls to insist the studio temperature for the reunion taping be set at 65) and random other quirky happenings in his everyday life.

His favorite story? The time he insulted Barbara Walters on national television – on her show, “The View.”

“I hope she doesn’t read it,” says Cohen. “I’m embarrassed, but I had to share it because I was writing my diary.”

Cohen was filling in as a co-host on the daytime talk show when the conversation – between Walters, Cohen and other co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy – turned to the movie “American Hustle.” When Walters said she didn’t understand the plot, Cohen remembered his mother saying the same thing. He turned to Walters and suggested it was a “generational thing.”

“As the words came out of my mouth and I turned to look at Barbara…I knew that this was exactly the most wrong thing to say on live television to Barbara Walters,” Cohen writes. “The conversation moved on and the very second the camera started swooping to the applauding audience and the announcer teased what was coming up later in the show, a furious Barbara Walters turned to me and screamed, “Thank you for INSULTING me on MY OWN SHOW! THANK YOU!”

Cohen is brutally honest throughout the book, even when he’s taking the heat. “I think stories in which I’m the butt of the joke are the best,” he says. “It’s good to poke fun at yourself.”

Despite the crazy antics, Cohen is a successful businessman. In his book, he describes negotiating with cable network Bravo to move from being an executive there to having his own production company, giving Bravo/NBC Universal right of first refusal for his projects. He also talks at length about his managing of the Housewives franchise, including telling some women they won’t be back for another season.

“I’m pretty good at having very direct conversations,” he says. “I think that’s one of the keys to being a good manager, in life or in any profession – being able to be very direct. I’ve always been able to do that.”

Andy-w-BookOne of those direct conversations mentioned in the book was with Josh Taekman, husband of a New York City Housewife. Before the latest season aired, Cohen knew the couple would be portrayed having marital difficulties – and Taekman would be seen as the bad guy.

“I pulled him aside and said, ‘I think you’re going to have a rough season,’” Cohen says. “I was trying to prepare him, so his feelings weren’t hurt in three months when the show is airing, and he’s hearing a lot of stuff. I’d rather have the conversation now and give you the tools to make sure you’re OK in three months, than have you go through it alone.”

Cohen has also been closely involved with Teresa and Joe Giudice, who were recently sentenced to federal prison on fraud charges. Teresa is one of the original New Jersey Housewives, and was on the show for six years. Cohen interviewed the couple on air the day after sentencing.

“Teresa is a strong woman who has her own opinions. She’s the definition of what makes a good Housewife, which is having a point of view, being unafraid to open your life up and being unfiltered,” Cohen says.

During the somber interview, Cohen referenced Teresa’s testimony during the trial that her role on “Housewives” was scripted, a charge often denied by reality shows. Not one to step away from controversy, Cohen confronted her about the claim.

“We couldn’t put words into her mouth; it’s hard to tell someone like that what to think and what to say. So I wanted to clarify, because she’s responsible for some of the most iconic moments in the Jersey Housewives. I said, ‘Were you told to flip the table?’ I wanted her to say what she felt was scripted.” (Teresa’s replied that she was referring to the editors and producers who slant the show toward a specific story line.)

As for criticisms that the Housewives franchise represents women poorly, especially in New Jersey, Cohen responds: “It’s not supposed to represent women in New Jersey. It is a representation of these six women who live in New Jersey. These are real housewives in New Jersey, and this is how they live their lives. I think it is representative of a certain group or type of women who live in New Jersey, but I think it would be wrong to say these women are the only representatives of the state.”

Despite the popularity of the Housewives series, Cohen says his greatest success is the nightly talk show. Started in 2009, the show began with B-list celebrity guests (some may say C-list), but quickly rose to feature some heavy hitters, like Mariah Carey, Oprah and, of course, Lady Gaga. Who’s left on his guest bucket list? “Madonna, the First Lady and Beyoncé,” he says.

Cohen is deeply involved in planning each night’s show, which airs at 11:30 pm. “From the moment guests are booked, there are idea meetings, then the ideas are sent to me. I pick my favorites, I add to them, and we come up with a working outline. On the day of the show we do a little run-through, and I kill stuff I don’t think is working. Then we just do it.”

After the show, Cohen takes full advantage of the nightlife in NYC. “I’m usually pretty wired after the show. A lot of times I get to the show, and I say to everybody, ‘I’m so tired, I’m so tired,’ and then after the show I’m looking for somebody to have a drink and hang out with. Sometimes I have plans, and sometimes things just happen. That’s one of the things I like about New York; there’s all these options.”

Cohen’s nights usually end with an at-home massage at around 2 am. “And I usually get up between 8 and 10,” he says. “I’m just tired all the time.”

Other integral parts of the book are Cohen’s purchase of a beagle-foxhound and the love affair that follows. Wacha, who can often be seen on “Watch What Happens,” was named after St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha – Cohen’s a fan. “Getting Wacha was a significant thing happening in my life, so I had to write about it,” he says. “I didn’t have a choice.”

Twitter also has a big role in this version of Cohen’s diary. He tweets several times a day and reads tweets live on his show. “I’m not sitting around all day on Twitter, but I check in a bunch,” he says.

As you would expect, Cohen hopes when people watch his show or read his book, they have a good time. “You get a peek at who I am,” he says. “And I hope that makes them smile.”

December 2014
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