Simon Cowell Opens Up About Fatherhood and His Career's Second Act -- 'I Like to Do Things That Make a Lot of Noise'
Simon Cowell is judging America's Got Talent, In the 12th row, stage left, Cowell’s son, Eric, sits with a nanny and the boy’s mother, Lauren Silverman.
Eric is an energetic 2-year-old, with huge coal eyes and plump cheeks. He looks at a TV monitor that shows his dad, then up at a large screen where his dad is about 20 feet tall, then back to the monitor. “He’s so confused,” says Silverman.
Talking to Billboard magazine at his Beverly Hills home a few days later, Simon opens up about the One Direction 'hiatus'.
Is Simon worried?“ Maybe I should be,” he says.
When Simon began hearing rumors that the others wanted a break. “Whenever I was with them, we talked about it, and I couldn’t argue with them. They had achieved so much in a short period of time, and I didn’t want them to get jaded. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to trust people more, particularly artists. They’ll decide when they want to come back together.”
There’s no news, only rumors, about 1D solo albums, but Cowell doesn’t deny that Harry Styles already is making plans. “He’ll work out what kind of record he wants to make because he’s got great taste -- which is always a help. All the writers and producers want to work with him, understandably, but he probably won’t rush into it.”
If pop history is any lesson, 1D’s hiatus is way more likely a softly rolled-out breakup than a limited vacation. “I don’t know if it’s a hiatus or a breakup, to be honest,” says Cowell. “In a weird way, I don’t want to know. I don’t think they’ve had enough time to experience what it’s like not being in the group to really answer that.”
Simon speaking about Idol and Got Talent “There’s obviously way too many reality shows on TV, and a lot of them won’t last. As with anything, if you don’t listen to the viewers, you’re dead.
As soon as our shows go on the air, we’re hit with a barrage of information from social media. You think I’m honest? Christ almighty, are they honest on social media. And I like that. I like to do things that make a lot of noise.”Cowell’s success is more secure for being diversified:
There are 68 different versions of the Got Talent format across the world and 56 X Factors, which gives Syco Entertainment, Cowell’s joint venture with Sony, more than 120 shows in production. America’s Got Talent is still strong, averaging 12.5 million viewers in 2015, according to Nielsen. Syco has several films in development, plus three more music shows.
Cowell is plotting a live Las Vegas show that features America’s Got Talent contestants, and Fifth Harmony, the pop girl group he put together from five X Factor U.S. contestants, has a new album due in May on Syco Entertainment/Epic, with songs produced by Max Martin. And of course there’s the lucrative One Direction catalog, also on Syco through Columbia.
Does Simon watch The Voice? “No. I get irritated if I watch it. It’s like going ’round to someone else’s house and swimming in their pool. I’d rather swim in mine.”As he says this, we’re sitting about 50 feet from the lap pool of his six-bedroom mansion, which Cowell bought years ago for $8 million.
It’s decorated with the calm, modern elegance of an island spa. Everything is cream or beige -- there’s not a pattern or stripe in sight. He has four other houses -- in London, the south of Spain, Dubai and St. Tropez -- as well as a car collection that even the most acquisitive rapper would envy.
Simon is wearing what appear to be silk sweatpants, sitting next to a small bell he uses to ring staff. He’s slightly more gray than years ago, especially in his semi-beard, but he looks almost as young, thanks to a tan and his public fondness for Botox.
His housekeeper Violet brings out a few trays of snacks; Cowell repeatedly offers drinks and food.He’s not just a gracious host, he’s an old-fashioned British gentleman. “His TV persona, the guy who could cut you with his words.
The Simon I know is the exact opposite,” says Epic Records president Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who was a judge on X Factor U.S. and partners with Cowell on Fifth Harmony. “In my career, I’ve never met anyone so charming. He speaks in catchphrases, like a song that’s full of choruses. ‘Speaking in hooks,’ I call it.”
Cowell always has said that he’s a kind and thoughtful person unless he gets bored -- which happens easily. It’s one reason he gave for not wanting to be a father, in addition to being a fussy perfectionist who likes order and quiet. Babies aren’t much different from rock stars -- needy, petulant, unreliable -- which may have eased Cowell into unexpected fatherhood.
“Helloooo!” he bellows. Cowell’s son Eric enters the living room, trailed by Silverman, a dark-haired New Yorker who until a few years back was the wife of Cowell’s close friend, real estate developer Andrew Silverman.
Eric waddles straight to Cowell’s chair, and Simon lifts the kid onto his lap.
Silverman: “Daddy’s working, OK? Come on, baby. I’m going to give you a nice bath upstairs.”
But Eric won’t budge.
Cowell: “Who’s got cute big ears? Who’s got a little tummy? Go on, darling.”
Cowell may not be the villain he plays on TV, but it’s still a shock to hear him doing baby talk.
For six months after Eric was born, “I kept saying to Lauren, ‘I don’t think he likes me,’ ” recalls Cowell. “I wasn’t getting a reaction. Then one day, it clicked.”