Who’s the Daddy?

AN EX­CLU­SIVE IN­TER­VIEW WITH SI­MON COW­ELL ON THE BABY THAT’S CHANGED EV­ERY­THING

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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