By Frank Barron
The Emmy award-winning journalist who has his own self-titled CNN news show, Anderson Cooper 360, is coming to daytime. Cooper will be doing a nationally syndicated talk show this fall titled Anderson. Recently he sat down to talk about the new show (premiering September 12) and his other jobs, plus his interesting background as the son of the international socialite Gloria Vanderbilt.
Cooper, 44, will continue as the anchor of his nighttime CNN show, in addition to taking on the duties of host and executive producer of the Anderson daytime talk show, which he says will be diverse in topics and guests. “I want my new show to have the range and sense of community of Oprah; the spontaneity of Ellen and Regis and Kelly; plus the audience participation of Phil Donahue — while still being authentically mine.”
He feels doing two shows will be no problem “since we are taping in the same building where I work at CNN. I think it’s all very doable. It’s TV, so it’s not like it’s real work,” he jokes.
Cooper says the two shows will be different. “On the evening news, you’re talking to politicians and pundits about the news of the day. The daytime show is not a news program. I’ll be talking to real people about real life situations, or to a celebrity who really has a story to tell.”
Cooper himself has a great story to tell, and wrote a book about his extraordinary life. “My childhood with my mom Gloria Vanderbilt, and my dad, a writer from Mississippi [Wyatt Emory Cooper], was an interesting environment to grown up in.”
He says, “The experiences that really shaped me include the loss of my dad when I was 10, and the suicide of my brother when I was about 21. Both of those things propelled me to be independent, and set me on my own course to try to figure out how to make my way in the world in a way that I thought would lead to a healthy, happy life. When my dad died, I became very self-reliant. I was really interested in being around people who spoke the language of loss. People don’t really talk about that sort of stuff. It makes them very uncomfortable.”
Cooper has tried to keep his private life out of the spotlight, after seeing how it affected his mother, who was thrust into the spotlight at age ten. He explains, “She was taken away from her mother in a historic custody case where her aunt sued for custody, and succeeded. It was called the Trial of the Century. During the Depression it became the soap opera of the day.”
Living in high society was very educational, Cooper says, “Because early on I realized that the people in the spotlight are as miserable — if not more miserable — than just about everybody else. Once you realize that from a young age, it kind of frees you up from wanting to pursue it.”
During his childhood, Cooper recalls the famous people who would come to their home. “I had access to remarkable people. Like a picture of me shaking hands with Charlie Chaplin, before he got his special Oscar.”
He says he got good advice from his mother. “She would tell me that ‘you should never read anything about yourself.’ It’s difficult to do, especially in this culture, where it’s all about anonymous people on the Internet, hurling whatever stuff about you.”
A Yale graduate, he gravitated towards journalism and got a fake press pass and “started going to conflict zones by myself. I did that for about two or three years, and that’s how I became a reporter. ABC hired me after that, because they saw some of the little stories I put together.”
During his time with CNN, and before that, doing stories for other networks, Cooper has covered virtually every type of major new event around the world. He has gone on location to cover breaking news stories, including the revolution in Egypt; the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti; and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Before joining CNN, he was on ABC News and also hosted that network’s reality show The Mole. Plus he is a regular contributor to CBS’s 60 Minutes, and does about six news-makers stories a year for them.
He has been a major voice for wildlife and its preservation. During 2007 and ‘08, he traveled around the world for the Planet in Peril documentary about issues threatening the planet, its inhabitants and its natural resources.
Although very private, Cooper promises that his host chores for Anderson will reveal more sides of his personality. “Still, I don’t think you can plan that out. It will be one of the more interesting parts of this process. I just want to grow along with the viewers and see where it goes.”