More Benny Hill than Bond: Simon Cowell may see himself as a suave 007, but a new book reveals otherwise
08:28 GMT, 2 May 2012
10:36 GMT, 2 May 2012
From the evidence presented in this overlong book, Simon Cowell is both a bit dull and a bit odd, with precious little in between.
His oddity is largely confined to his cosmetic regime. Apparently, he travels everywhere with two large suitcases containing any amount of special face-creams, eyedrops, milk lotions, bath salts and so forth.
He swallows a saucerful of tablets daily, and has vitamins injected into his body once a week. Twice a year, he is injected with Botox. In America, he prefers to take his vitamins on an intravenous drip every Saturday afternoon. His chest is waxed, his teeth capped, his hair dyed.
Craig says Cowell has now embarked on the strenuous and costly business of impressing his fellow billionaires with yachts, Rolls-Royces and daft home-improvement schemes
Nor does the bottom half of his body pass untended. On the last page, he announces he is off for a 40-minute colonic irrigation session. 'It's so cleansing,' he explains. 'And it makes my eyes shine brighter.' Given everything we have learned about Cowell in the preceding 403 pages, 40 minutes would barely scratch the surface.
'Work is my mistress.' 'I only play to win.' 'I make popular dreams come true.' Send for the irrigators! His philosophy of life, if it can be called that, is drawn from the cheaper end of the Christmas cracker market, and should really come with a paper hat and a kazoo.
Until he was 36 years old, Simon Cowell was one of the also-rans and hangers-on with which the record business is stuffed. In X Factor terms, he was one of those talent-free first-round losers whom he nowadays delights in cutting down to size. He had been given countless leg-ups by his father, who was a cigar-toting, E-Type-driving director of EMI records, but young Simon was somehow so incompetent that everything he touched turned to dust.
Simon Cowell with Tom Bower at The Serpentine Gallery for the launch of his unauthorised autobiography
His successes were few and far between and overshadowed by the acts he rejected. He signed up Snap The Wonder-Dog but turned down a new boyband called Take That. Stung by their subsequent success, he held auditions for a rival boy-band, Chaos, but then lost his nerve and abandoned them.
A few months later, they remarketed themselves as Ultimate Kaos and got into the Top 10. Meanwhile, Cowell had backed another boy-band, Worlds Apart, who only managed to scrape their way to number 88 in the charts. And what of Girl Thing, his rivals to The Spice Girls 'I've got a great feeling about this,' Cowell told the press. The climax to a 1.5 million promotional campaign came when 400 executives and journalists were flown to Paris for their record launch at the Eiffel Tower.
But Girl Thing flopped, both in the US and the UK, and, true to form, Cowell abruptly dropped them. In those days, he was blessed with the unpopular touch. 'Never heard of her. You're mad. No one can be successful with a name like that,' he said of Britney Spears.
He claims to have had what he calls 'a
few bonks' with Dannii Minogue. 'She was foxy. She was a real man's
girl. Very feminine,' he says of her on page 236.
But he plugged on, and managed to carve
out a minor niche for himself by turning instantly forgettable TV stars
into instantly forgettable pop stars. Without Simon Cowell, the world
might never have heard songs by Roland Rat, ITV's Gladiators, the
Teletubbies, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Zig And Zag, the cast of
Emmerdale or the barmaid in Heartbeat.
Cowell's big break came when he recorded the TV actors Robson and Jerome singing Unchained Melody, and launched it on Cilla Black's TV show Surprise, Surprise. It sold three million copies, and convinced Cowell that henceforth television would be his route into pop, and vice versa. He became famous when he appeared as a judge on Pop Idol. As a teenager, he had idolised Mickie Most, the caustic judge on New Faces, and now he was the new TV Mr Nasty.
Throughout this book, his biographer, Tom Bower, recounts Cowell's put-downs as if they were aphorisms by Oscar Wilde, but in cold print they are as banal as the acts they were designed to destroy.
'It was really boring and I hate what you're wearing', 'You should be a hooker', 'Not only do you look terrible but you sound terrible'. In days gone by, comments such as these were the province of village loners writing poison-pen letters to members of the parish council. It's strange to think that, 100 years ago, far from being a multi-millionaire, Simon Cowell would have been rewarded with a police caution and a slap across the head.
Revealing: Dannii Minogue, who Simon Cowell described as 'foxy'
Genuine love: Cowell, left, has revealed he fell for Danniii Minogue, centre right, in 2007 when she joined the X Factor judging panel, alongside Cheryl Cole, centre left, and Louis Walsh, right
Bower calls his biography Sweet Revenge,
and peppers it with claims that Cowell's motivation is revenge on those
who once wrote him off as a failure. 'For years, he suffered mockery,
and for the past 11 years he has sought revenge against those sneerers.'
But Bower is a bit of an old drama queen. His text is full of words
such as 'demons', 'war' and 'torment', generally applied to whether
Cowell should pick Miss A or Miss B as a fellow judge.
Ideas of revenge seem overblown.
Cowell emerges as more of a chancer who got lucky, and has now embarked
on the strenuous and costly business of impressing his fellow
billionaires with yachts, Rolls-Royces and daft home-improvement
schemes. Bower, on the other
hand, is a veteran investigative journalist whose previous targets
include Robert Maxwell, Mohamed Al Fayed and Conrad Black. He is a
glorified store detective, dedicated to catching the powerful
red-handed. Next to these old bruisers, Cowell is a flibbertigibbet.
'Cowell likes to think of himself as
James Bond, but on this evidence he is
rather closer to Benny Hill,' says Craig
Until now, Bower has shown scant interest in popular culture. Had he ever watched The X Factor before he decided to write a book about Simon Cowell Sometimes, you feel he is out of his depth, or, rather, like a beached whale, frantically flapping around in the shallows. He seems to have no notion of the difference between good and bad popular culture. 'By any reckoning, he was unrivalled among the world's TV and music producers,' he writes of Cowell. By ANY reckoning How about the reckoning of quality But he is a dogged researcher and, perhaps to compensate for his indifference, he piles detail upon detail, so that after a few chapters even the most extreme Cowell anorak might feel like screaming 'When!'
Thus he treats a matter of such stupefying triviality as Cheryl Cole getting the sack from The X Factor USA last year as if it were a matter of global concern. One whole chapter is called 8 May 2011 and centres on Cheryl's departure in microscopic detail. 'Sipping a constantly refreshed cup of PG Tips with lemon, he ate a turkey sandwich and some carrots,' reads a typical sentence. The chapter is 45 pages long, but could easily be reduced to eight words: 'She was no good, so he fired her.'
Bower's interest in the ever-increasing list of fallen idols – Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward, Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle, etc, etc – is as meagre as Cowell's. None is listed among the interviewees, and all are given short shrift. Everything is seen from the point of view of Cowell and his circle. The warbling victims of his self-promoting schemes are treated by both author and subject as irrelevances or irritations.
What of Cowell's sex life Bower provides a dutiful inventory of the former lap-dancers and topless models Cowell has courted, but most of their time seems to have been taken up with borrowing his make-up. He claims to have had what he calls 'a few bonks' with Dannii Minogue. 'She was foxy. She was a real man's girl. Very feminine,' he says of her on page 236. He repeats this, word for word, on page 383. I would guess it is only the envy of other men that really gets him going: he seems too pernickety for anything more fleshy.
'When he awoke he disliked seeing his girlfriends before they were properly groomed,' writes Bower. Describing Cowell's brief engagement, Bower magically enters into his head. '”She makes me happy,” he thought to himself, especially when she ran around the bedroom in her exquisite lingerie.”' Cowell likes to think of himself as James Bond, but on this evidence he is rather closer to Benny Hill.
Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life Of Simon Cowell by Tom Bower Faber 18.99, 14.99 inc p&p ***
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