With economies in many Eurozone countries teetering on insolvency, violence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East causing fear and uncertainty, and various nuclear powers testing new ways to possibly deliver Armageddon to already bellicose rivals, I thought it proper to address what I consider to be the clearest sign yet of widespread societal collapse: Bravo’s Andy Cohen has published a memoir.
Not since Snooki of Jersey Shore fame authored a college-level physics textbook has the publishing world stooped so low. OK, I lied about the Snooki textbook, but that would make about as much sense as Cohen penning a memoir. What, after all, has this guy done aside from turning an entire cable network into a collection of screeching, narcissistic harpies being fawned over by a furry gay programming gnome with improbably capped teeth?
Snippets of the Cohen book have been slowly released, and to say his is literary thin gruel would be an insult to every self-indulgent autobiographic Hollywood tell-all that came before it.
How did Cohen first get bitten by the bug to incessantly kiss celebrity ass? As part of an assignment in a Boston University news writing class to try and gain an interview with one of a student’s personal idols, Cohen writes that he wanted to choose between journalist/war correspondent (and White House interrogator extraordinaire) Sam Donaldson, and Susan Lucci, who overacted her way into soap opera history by playing the histrionic Erica Kane on All My Children from 1970 until 2011.
Talk about extremes on a continuum. Why not just choose Zsa Zsa Gabor and Stephen Hawking?
Of course, Cohen chose Lucci. He stood outside ABC’s studios on December 11, 1987, waiting for his first famous-person interview with the woman who most exemplifies non-existent talent and a stagnant acting career. Thus an ass kisser and lover of all things self-reverential was born.
Incidentally, Lucci, a registered Republican, also has the distinction of starring in the terrible movie I am most passionate about loving for its sheer awfulness, 1982’s Double Edge, in which she plays two characters — exact look-alikes in the form of a hit woman and the FBI agent who is tracking her down. The look-alike practically run into one another, after which they momentarily stop and stare — and eventually continue on their way as if running into your identical twin coming off an elevator is no big deal. Talk about lacking self-awareness.
But it exactly this lack of self-awareness on which Cohen’s very being seems to gain intellectual sustenance, if one can use the word “intellectual” in the same sentence with anything attached to Cohen’s name.
Says Cohen of Lucci, “I fell in love with Erica Kane the summer before my freshman year of high school. I’d come home [and sit] in front of the TV while obsessively fawning over All My Children and Erica, her clothes, and her narcissistic attitude.”
While the rest of us avoid narcissists unless we have to deal with them for our jobs, Cohen is irresistibly drawn to them. The fact that he chose Lucci as the object of his initial fascination with Hollywood speaks volumes about how and why of the sorts of characters he has created in his programming choices at Bravo as Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development. (A position whereby he immediately gave himself his own talk show so insipid it inexplicably makes the rest of his programming look like Masterpiece Theatre.)
The women who inhabit his Real Housewives franchises are Erica Kanes brought to life. Vapid, vain, self-absorbed, melodramatic, and able to cash in on their public personas to market equally shallow product lines, such as Bettheny Frankel (Real Housewives of New York City) and her “diet” drinks with the brand name which could have been taken straight from a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit, Skinnygirl Cocktails.
Speaking of SNL, they got around to skewering Cohen, and the relentless fatuousness of his talk show, Watch What Happens Live (WWHL). In the April 7 show, comedian Taran Killam as Cohen says to the camera, “As a reminder, the show is live, so anything can happen — but don’t worry, nothing will.”
Cohen, of course, was flattered by all this, no matter how vacuous he was made to look. His only complaint? Killam played him too effeminate. “On a scale of Clint Eastwood to Paul Lynde, I always thought I was a little more on the Clint Eastwood side than the Paul Lynde side,” Cohen said April 7 on the WWHL.
There that lack of self-awareness thing again.
Of course, not all television has to be documentaries and seriousness. The recently deceased Dick Clark was the master of shallow TV and fawning interviews, but in a way that did not play into the worst aspects of human nature.
My problems with Cohen are that he represents many people’s first lasting impressions of gay men; he presents women as superficial drag-like caricatures of conniving bitches only out to score a wealthy husband; and he worships fame and conspicuous consumerism as worthy ends in themselves.
(Jeff Epperly is the former editor of Bay Windows. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jeff.epperly or on Twitter at jefepp.)