Who’s the Daddy?
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SIMON COWELL ON THE BABY THAT’S CHANGED EVERYTHING
S imon Cowell is in love. Truly, madly, deeply. He cuddles her, squeezing her face. ‘How much do I love you!’ he says over and over. But what’s this? Her brother is attacking his head in what seems to be an attempt to lick his ear off. ‘Aren’t they adorable?’ he says, hugging them both.
He’s talking about Squiddly and Diddly, the five-month-old Yorkies who, along with girlfriend Lauren Silverman, Simon credits with transforming his life. He says he grew up with dogs, usually inherited, but these are the first he has actually had of his own, and he’s clearly besotted. We’re sitting in the Frank Sinatra Room of his Beverly Hills home (pictures of his idol adorn the walls), and he’s relaxed as his housekeeper brings him a bottle of beer and a massive burger specially ordered in from The Ivy, one of his favourite LA restaurants.
He is clearly a very happy man. Syco Entertainment, his TV and music production company, is now a global phenomenon, producing shows for countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Vietnam and Israel. The company’s first feature film, One Direction: This Is Us has grossed more than € 60m worldwide, while the band has clocked up 64 official album and single number ones worldwide. Their latest album, Midnight Memories, is number one across the world as we speak. Not bad for the boy band that finished third in X Factor series seven — or their mentor, who began his working life in a mail room.
And, of course, Lauren is due to give birth to his first child in February. He is, he says, very, very happy, and the baby has totally changed his outlook on life. He seems far removed from the Simon of the early part of this year, when he was sending late-night soul-searching tweets about what he called the ‘bumps in his life’. Today he laughs loudly at the recollection. Friends expressed concern that he spent so much time home alone, watching TV and staying up through the night phoning people on either side of the Atlantic, seemingly desperate for company. So what happened? ‘I was very low and I don’t know why. It’s not that it was a bad year, it was a good one in terms of my work. There was nothing really wrong in my personal life either, but for some reason I wasn’t getting a buzz out of anything, which was unusual. I started to get a bit lethargic; I just wasn’t myself and I couldn’t get out of it. And then the baby happened.’
Ah yes, the baby. The circumstances surrounding his relationship with Lauren were a little unorthodox, to say the least. She was the wife of his good friend, property tycoon Andrew Silverman. The couple have since divorced, and Simon says the situation made him uncomfortable. ‘I let down a friend and I feel bad about that,’ he admits, ‘but the good thing about it is that I’m having a baby and I never thought I would. And it totally changed everything. It was like coming out of a fog; that’s the only way I can describe it. I thought, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself — you’ve got nothing to feel bad about.” It just makes you feel like you’ve got a responsibility. I definitely feel better. I thought I was going to freak out, but I didn’t. It was only the circumstances that were problematic.’
Looking around his LA home, it’s hard to imagine how the inevitable chaos of a child is going to fit in. It’s an exquisite place, and despite rumours he was going to sell it, Simon assures me that’s not the case. There’s a long pool in the garden alongside fire and water features; a proper cinema indoors and, in the Frank Sinatra Room, a TV screen almost as big. In the hallways are fresh cream roses and white tiles, and cream furnishings just crying out for a child’s chocolate-covered fingers. ‘This is probably the most child-unfriendly house in the world,’ he says, ‘but I’m used to mess these days because of the dogs. They’re the best thing I ever did, but so naughty.’
Simon and Lauren are expecting a son, and Simon wishes his own father, former music industry executive Eric who died in 1999, could have been here to see it. ‘I was thinking about him and how he would have loved it. I still miss him — when you just want someone to talk to about stuff, basic advice, when you can’t make up your mind about some- thing. He always gave me amazing advice. e. He didn’t always take my side, but he never r made me feel worried, even when I’d screwed d up. He was always incredibly fair. He was s terrible at discipline — that was Mum’s job. b. But if I really went too far, then I knew I’d d crossed the line.’ He’s keen to pass on what at he learned from his own father to his son. n. ‘I never inherited anything in my life, and d everything I have, I had to earn. But I think k that’s what made me enjoy life more. I want nt my son to feel he’s got to prove his own way y and I’d like to do what my dad did for me.
‘He taught me the basics. He once said to o me, “You’ve got to realise that everyone e around you has a sign on their forehead that at says Make Me Feel Important.” I’ve always s remembered that. You’ve got to understand that the guy who holds the door open is as important as the producer or the director, because it’s a job. I think that was the best piece of advice I was ever given.’
Simon says his mother, too, is excited about the baby, despite the circumstances. ‘She was actually very cool about it, but it was fairly traumatic when it happened and I had to call her before the story broke in the Press but she was very calm and understanding.’ Invariably surrounded by different women, and certainly classed as a woman’s man, he attributes his relationships with them to his mother’s influence. ‘Also, I can’t bear macho rivalry — it bores me. Although I’m very competitive, I never got caught up in that kind of stuff. I like women, and I listen to them. It’s probably why so many of my exgirlfriends are my closest friends now. I just feel really comfortable with them. Not every one, but a lot. I’ve never really had a bad break-up.’ Isn’t that because when he breaks up with them he gives them a house? He laughs. ‘Not everyone gets a house, darling [he calls everyone darling], or I wouldn’t be living in this one now.’
He also inherited much of his work ethic from his parents. ‘When we were kids, my mum said to me, “We’re going on holiday, which we will pay for, but you’ve got to earn your spending money.” So I washed cars, mowed lawns, did whatever I could — but I absolutely loved it. And that moment when
you’ve got your first £ 5 note, the sky’s the limit. It’s the best feeling in the world. So I always understood the notion that if you want to make money, you’ve got to work for it.’
Simon, who had an aversion to formal education himself, was attacked by Britain’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, recently for seeming to claim in a radio interview that qualifications are not important. ‘The point I was trying to make was, there are thousands of kids who leave school with no qualifications who must think it’s the end of the road. I hated school; I was bored out of my mind. So I was saying that if you’re smart enough to get qualifications, then great, but if you’re not you can do what I did: roll your sleeves up, find a job you love, work hard, get someone to teach you, and you can have a good career. I don’t hire anyone based on their qualifications. I never ask; I couldn’t care less.
‘Because I was academically stupid, it was a complete waste of time for me to take exams. I just wanted to get in the mail room, put the post where it was supposed to be, get a foot on the ladder and work my way up. That was right for me. If you want to be a doctor or accountant, then obviously you’ve got to go an alternative route, but we all have different brains and I didn’t have that kind of brain.’ So on which side of the Atlantic will his son be educated? He says he’d veer towards starting in the UK. ‘I’d probably say, get yourself a skill-set, then take it over to America.’
Despite his American success, he says he enjoys the LA lifestyle in short bursts. ‘After a while, I think I’ve got to come back to the UK and I’ve got to become British again. I actually appreciate Britain more now. We have a different sense of humour and we take the mickey out of each other all the time. I miss that. And I also miss that tabloid love/ hate relationship we have.
‘Yes, we [in Britain] get slaughtered in the Press, but there’s something about it, when you do something wrong and you’ve got to react to it the following day because it’s in every newspaper; I love that. It kind of makes it more exciting. Here, it’s much slower, the Press, much more serious.’
Surely it must drive him mad, though, with the paparazzi following his every move, and when even holding a vegetable in a supermarket makes the news? ‘Sometimes I can look up and I’ll see about eight photographers so I’ll pick up the most ridiculous piece of fruit I can find. I’ve got to know all these guys, and it makes me laugh when I see them, because I always think if I’m holding a couple of melons, what’s the caption going to be? I found the most crazy piece of fruit I’ve ever seen and I made Lauren hold it. You can’t take it seriously. I take it seriously as a
Mr Popular Above: Simon with his pop protégés One Direction. Opposite page: With ex-girlfriend Carmen Electra